Laura Ward

What began with a tried-and-true, $5-per-plate spaghetti supper benefiting her children’s private Christian school blossomed into nothing short of a meaningful career for Laura Ward. Thirty-five years and over 120 million dollars later, the President and CEO of Houston Children’s Charity ranks among the city’s top fundraising executives.

Growing up in rural Crowley, La., Ward and her eight siblings didn’t have to look far to spot the devastating effects of poverty, especially on their fellow youth. After graduating from LSU, she returned to the rural community to serve a brief stint as a librarian, during which time her sack lunch would disappear from her desk drawer on a daily basis. “It was then that I realized we had kids who were so hungry, they would steal to eat,” Ward says. “It was horrific for me, and I knew when I was able, I would work for the children who didn’t have what they needed.”

An integral part of Houston Children’s Charity since its inception in 1996, Ward has visited hundreds of homes to perform due diligence and assess true need. Her staggering observations – from infants snuggled in dresser drawers to trios of toddlers sleeping side-by-side on a single twin-size mattress to grade schoolers huddled into refrigerator boxes turned makeshift cots – directly impacted the development of its much-needed programs, which include “A Better Night’s Sleep,” “Chariots for Children,” “Back2School,” “HCC Closet” and “Christmas Toy Distribution.” Since the beginning, Ward has touched the lives of over 3.0 million children in the Houston area.

“My favorite part of the job is when all of our efforts culminate on a distribution day,” Ward says. “The kids come with their parents, and they are simply thrilled to get their own bed or receive a new wheelchair accessible van. They are as excited as most kids are when taken to a candy store!”

An inspiring leader, Ward has contributed her time and expertise to numerous charitable events over the years, while working with various local philanthropic organizations, such as the Arbor School, the Houston Furniture Bank, and Crime Stoppers of Houston. She led the capital campaign for the Dave Ward Building at Crime Stoppers of Houston where $10 million was raised and has chaired the Houston Police Foundation’s gala for sixteen years, raising over $11 million to support Houston’s police officers. Among Ward’s countless accolades, she has been inducted into the Greater Houston Women’s Hall of Fame, named one of the city’s 50 most influential women by Houston Woman Magazine, designated a “Most Admired CEO” by the Houston Business Journal, honored at the Easter Seals Greater Houston’s 20th annual “Hats Off to Mothers” luncheon, awarded “The Nikki Richnow Freedom To Fly Award” by Arrow’s Freedom Place, and had the Child Life Room at Texas Children’s Hematology Center named after her. Laura was among the honorees at the 2022 Tickled Pink Luncheon in support of the American Cancer Society. She received the Legacy Award from Smart Financial Credit Union and was featured in City Book’s 2022 Philanthropy Report to close out the year. Dr. Laura Murillo and the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce deemed her a Houston Legend honoree in the fall of 2023. Most recently, Laura was named one of only nine honorees in the “Inspiring Women of Houston” spotlight series for Porsche River Oaks and Porsche West Houston.

Recognizing that “need never takes a vacation,” Ward’s unwavering dedication to improving the well-being of Houston’s underserved youth has made her a true champion of this lifelong cause. With contagious enthusiasm and passionate perseverance, she has built an impeccable reputation among an ever-widening circle of loyal advocates and friends – many of whom even savored that long-ago spaghetti dinner.