It all began as a fundraiser for her own children – five bucks a head for a spaghetti dinner in the high school gym of a private Christian school. Thirty years and over seventy million dollars later, her drive to help children in need ranks her among the top fundraising executives.
Growing up in Crowley, Louisiana with eight siblings taught Laura the value of sharing, nurturing her giving spirit. After graduating from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science degree, Laura began volunteering while raising her three children. One of her first major volunteer efforts was establishing Houston’s first Limb Bank for children, the only facility of its kind in Texas. For three years she served as Development Board Chairman for the Arbor School, a school for handicapped children. Continuing on the Arbor Board for nine years, she also served on the school’s Six Million Dollar Capital Campaign Committee.
Laura has contributed her time and expertise to innumerable charitable events while working with various philanthropic organizations in the city. She has chaired events for numerous non-profits and has worked on well over 100 auctions for groups such as the Annual Galas for Variety Club of Houston, Arbor School, The Furniture Bank, and Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach Foundation’s “Inaugural Health Champions Gala.” She has also chaired the first “Sunshine Kids Golf / Tennis Classic,” Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation “Cabana Caper,” the first “Chuck Norris Kick Drugs Out of America Dinner,” James Beard Foundation Annual Scholarship Dinner, and “Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia.”
For three years, Laura served as Underwriter Party Chair for Texaco / Havoline’s “Mayor’s Grand Prix” event. She has also served as The Houston Police Foundation’s Event Chair for the “Annual Police Week Awards Luncheon” and Dinner Chair for the “True Blue Gala” for multiple years each. Both Laura and her husband, Dave Ward, were Honorary Chairpersons for the 2015 Capital Campaign for the Crime Stoppers of Houston Dave Ward Building which serves as the first Crime Stoppers Headquarters in the nation.
Laura served as the Executive Director of Houston Children’s Charity since its inception in 1996 and was elected President & CEO of the organization in 2016. She has been instrumental in implementing the “Chariots for Children” and “A Better Night’s Sleep” programs which provide thousands of children with much-needed assistance every year. Laura also assisted in the founding of the “HCC Closet” program, which provides clothing for families in need at absolutely no cost, and the “Back 2 School” program which has provided more than 30,000 children with a backpack and school supplies since 2005.
Laura has been honored with The Cancer League’s “Pacesetter of the Year Award,” The Furniture Bank “Volunteer of the Year Award,” The Wellsprings “Precious Time Award,” Baylor College of Medicine – Foundation for Teen Health “Visionary Award” and Be An Angel “2009 Angel Award.” She has also been the Honoree at the Arbor School Gala, the Assistance League of Houston Gala, Devereux Annual Gala, and the Mission of Yahweh Gala. In 2010, Laura was chosen as the AFP Outstanding Fundraising Professional at National Philanthropy Day and was honored as a Forward Mover for Cancer Forward in its inaugural year. She was also honored as a 2011 CCFA Women of Distinction and at the 2012 Renee Moawad Foundation Gala. Laura is a member of Biltmore’s Who’s Who and Heritage Among Who’s Who Executive and Professionals. In 2015 Laura was inducted into the Greater Houston Women’s Hall of Fame and recognized by Houston Woman Magazine’s “Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women of 2015.” She has served as the Event Advisor for Baylor College of Medicine – The Partnership “Magic of Motown.” In 2016 she was honored with the 2016 Leiv Platou Crime Stoppers Award and recognized by Houston Business Journal’s 2016 “Women Who Mean Business” and 2018 “Most Admired CEO’s.” Most recently she was featured in The Houston Chronicle’s “Inspiring People” article and in March 2019, Laura was honored at the 20th annual Hats Off to Mothers luncheon.
Passionately devoted to her mission, Laura believes that “need never takes a vacation.” Known for her perseverance, Laura’s unwavering effort to provide for children in need makes her a champion of the cause. Her spirit and enthusiasm are contagious, winning Laura an ever-expanding circle of loyal supporters – many of who participated in that long-ago spaghetti dinner, providing proof of Laura’s inspiring leadership.