Ripple of Hope Awards
In 2005, The Network established the Ripple of Hope Awards to recognize the most outstanding among us—employees and Mentors whose passion, energy and skill have created a positive impact in the lives of others. Whether they work in direct care, operations or supporting business roles, these outstanding employees and caregivers create a “ripple of hope,” and a legacy of compassion and caring for others to follow.
Everything Happens for a Reason
Bill Springer has a knack for conveying life’s complexities in simple, powerful terms: “Someone has to be for the underdog.” “Whatever bad happened in your past, it happened for a reason.” “Our goal is to make them productive citizens. That’s best for them. That’s best for society.”
His ability to boil things down and communicate ideas with authority has served him well as the father of five boys. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has an extraordinary partner in his wife, Vickie. Together, they have committed themselves to therapeutic foster parenting—while raising three sons of their own.
“You hope you can make a difference in a young child’s life,” says Bill, a self-described optimist. He and Vicki have done just that.
The two boys who entered their home five years ago endured inhumane abuse and neglect. A month before turning two, one child weighed just 12 pounds. His three-year-old brother weighed 18. Having been strapped in car seats for days by themselves, the boys did not know how to sleep or where to sleep. Bill and Vickie took turns staying up for entire nights caring for the boys. It took months before they stopped hoarding food.
“It was almost like taking children from a jungle where they’ve never known anything else,” explains Lea Scott, a clinical coordinator for Alabama MENTOR and Vicki and Bill’s nominator. “But the Springers don’t give up. They won’t give up on the boys.”
Vickie’s days are focused on improving their lives. Doctors and dentists…therapists and home visits. She pursues a variety of behavioral treatments, anything she can find to help the boys grow into strong, well-adjusted young men. It’s a long road. The powerful effects of those cruel early years linger.
Fortunately, these boys have three excellent role models in their older brothers. All accomplished twenty-somethings now, Vicki and Bill’s biological sons continue to pass down the code of respect, good behavior and hard work their parents conveyed to them. They engage the boys in the activities of their own lives, and the boys return the attention with unabashed adoration.
“If I hadn’t had my sons, there is no way I could have done it,” explains Vickie. Their son Wynn has been especially active in the boys’ lives, and he is here with his mother this evening.
Wynn’s presence underscores the Springer family’s total commitment to foster parenting—to these boys especially. The Springers travel as a pack of seven—whether to Disney World or to their beloved Auburn University football games. “These are not foster children,” says Lea. “You’ll hear Vickie or Bill say ‘These are my kids. I have five sons.’”
Now, in Alabama, where school sports rivalries run old and deep, you’re either an Auburn Family or a ‘Bama Family, as in the University of Alabama. The Springers fall on the Auburn side. Their three older sons are Tigers, and if all goes well, their younger ones will be too.
The Springers and Auburn share more than just a love of football, though. The University’s creed speaks to the Springers’ own values, values that are transforming the lives of two young boys: “I believe in the human touch,” reads the creed, “which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men, and mutual helpfulness, and brings happiness for all.”
Vicki and Bill Springer were one of The MENTOR Network’s Ripple of Hope Award Winners in 2008. Click here to watch a video of the 2008 Ripple of Hope Awards ceremony.