Life of Hope Awards presented to Simone Biles, Torie Bowie, Ndume Olatushani
Casey Family Programs is pleased to announce the recipients of the Casey Excellence for Children Life of Hope Awards, presented to individuals who provide a beacon of hope and illustrate the possibilities and promise of the lives of vulnerable children.
The recipients are Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles and her parents, Ron and Nellie Biles; Olympic gold medal sprinter Tori Bowie and her grandmother, Bobbie Smith; and Ndume Olatushani, an artist, advocate and mentor who was exonerated from death row after a wrongful conviction.
“These individuals have done much to create hope for vulnerable children across America and to demonstrate the promise and potential of youth who started in foster care when they have love and support,” said Dr. William C. Bell, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs. “We are happy to recognize their accomplishments and their commitment to lifting up vulnerable youth.”
Ron and Nellie Biles
Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles has considerably raised the profile of the limitless possibilities for vulnerable youth who have the love and support of family. Raised in kinship care and adopted by her grandparents, Ron and Nellie Biles, Biles won four gold medals and a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and led the American Olympic gymnastics team. The three-time world champion was also named the 2016 female athlete of the year by The Associated Press. She and her family have shared their story about her childhood, increasing awareness about youth who start out in foster care. Biles — who practiced her first flips on the trampoline in her parents’ backyard and went on to train at the gym they founded — honors their close bond in the dedication of her new book, Courage to Soar: “To Mom and Dad: Your love keeps me grounded yet gives me the courage to soar toward my dreams.”
Tori Bowie is an Olympic gold medal sprinter who was raised in kinship care by her grandmother, Bobbie Smith, who taught her the value of hard work and the importance of family support. Bowie and her younger sister were adopted from foster care by their grandmother in Sandhill, Mississippi, and supported by a large extended family. She credits her grandmother, whom she calls mom, with being her role model in life. At the 2016 Olympics, Bowie won gold, silver and bronze medals, making her the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete in Rio. She served as a panelist at the 20th annual National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in September in Washington, D.C. She maintains close relationships with her hometown, where she is an inspiration and role model for youth.
Ndume Olatushani, an artist who was exonerated from death row, works with the Children’s Defense Fund’s Nashville organizing team, fighting to keep children and people of color out of the “cradle to prison pipeline.” A passionate advocate for justice, he combats “zero tolerance” school discipline policies that push children, especially black boys, out of school, and encourages alternatives to the street through art. Olatushani spent 28 years in prison — 20 of them on death row — for a murder he didn’t commit, before being released from prison in June 2012 after numerous appeals. He describes growing up poor in the projects of St. Louis, Missouri, and witnessing violence as a young boy, but says our system must be disrupted to save the next generation of children.
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2017 Casey Excellence for Children Awards
Family, alumni and leaders recognized for improving child welfare in America.