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Called to help children

The Harding family
“I have learned so much from both my kids.”

Elijah Evans is making life better for kids in Louisiana’s foster care system–and this 17-year-old is just getting started. He’s the founder of No Use for Abuse, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and improving the lives of children.

Honored nationally and internationally, Elijah is clear about where the thanks should go: “I wouldn’t be who I am today without my adoptive mom.”

When Lynore Harding met her future son, she was working as a nurse and providing care to children with special medical needs in a foster home. Four-year-old Elijah had been abused by his biological mother at the age of two, and was recovering from third degree burns on the lower half of his body.

As Lynore cared for Elijah, the two immediately bonded. “It was almost like we had known each other forever,” Lynore remembers. Although she and her husband had just begun to see a fertility specialist, she knew right away that she wanted to adopt Elijah. “All my plans regarding fertility treatments went out the window.”

Within three months, the couple began to pursue training as foster parents, with Elijah joining their home for a year. His adoption was finalized at age five.

The new family faced challenges, including the end of the marriage between Lynore and her husband, and many years of medical care for Elijah. Yet, within a few years, Lynore felt called to adopt again. While working in the same foster home in 2003, she met Allora, a 4-month-old baby girl, and adopted her two years later. Allora had experienced traumatic brain injuries. Although she has developmental delays, she is now a happy, active 11-year-old who likes basketball, singing and dancing—including rocking every move to every song on the Disney Channel, Lynore says.

“I adopted Allora when I was single, and that’s something that I share with others who may be considering adoption,” Lynore says.  “While I encourage people to be thoughtful and to pray about it, I want to let them know that it’s possible—they can do it.”

Lynore now works as a school nurse at Allora’s school, an environment she enjoys. Their faith community at church supports and sustains the family, as does the care they give other children through No Use for Abuse, an organization that began with an early dream of Elijah’s.

As a third-grader, Elijah wanted to host a Christmas party for kids in foster care. In middle school, his advisor with Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, Dawn Gary, encouraged Elijah to move forward with his goal and begin raising funds, which he and his family have continued. No Use for Abuse is now a 501(c)(3) organization, with about 220 kids attending the group’s 2014 Christmas party.

The organization’s annual Ohana Bash gets the young guests ready to return to school, with gifts of backpacks and school supplies, plus a day of fun outdoors.

A junior in high school, Elijah is involved with the robotics team, plays golf, and aspires to attend Howard University or Duke. His work on behalf of No Use for Abuse has led him to be honored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and to receive a Prudential Community Spirit Award. He is one of Louisiana Life’s Louisianans of the Year, and has been named a 2015 Global Teen Leader by the international organization Three Dot Dash.

“Despite everything Elijah has been through, he gets up with a smile on his face and goes to bed the same way,” Lynore says.  “I have learned so much from both my kids.”