In honor of Father’s Day, we’d like to highlight a remarkable father named James and his six-year-old daughter, Madison. To understand what makes their story so powerful, we must go back in time…

James did not have an easy start in life. He was dropped off by his parents at Columbia Presbyterian hospital as an infant and was raised in an orphanage in Hell’s Kitchen. At 13 years-old, he ran away and lived on the streets for years, stealing to survive. Eventually he was caught and served time at Rikers Island. After being released, he relocated to Newark, where he met a woman and went back to a tenuous existence.

That all changed when his daughter Madison was born. Her mom did not want her—she wanted to leave the baby at the hospital. James was filled with immense love for his daughter and was determined not to let history repeat itself, so he took Maddie home from the hospital alone and it has been just the two of them ever since. That day and that decision changed everything for James. He often says, “Maddie saved my life.” No more crime, no more drugs/alcohol, no more cutting corners. For the past six years, James has provided a stable home and a loving family for Madison—and it hasn’t been easy.

James has said that there was no way he could have done this without the support of Franciscan Charities—he was helped with an apartment, helped with furniture, helped with food and clothing. James managed to get Madison enrolled in one of the best charter schools in Newark. He now works full time as a school janitor, which took incredible determination and perseverance to get hired with a criminal record. At first, no one would employ him so he started working at Madison’s school for free—fixing things and cleaning up. He made himself so indispensable to them, they hired him and he has been there ever since.Through the Franciscan Charities Direct Giving Program, Madison is able to attend an after school program through the Boys and Girls Club of Newark while her father works a second shift at his job.

James is an astounding father who spends so much time teaching Maddie to value her education, to speak properly, to be a gracious winner, to be a good loser, and an all around good citizen. He does everything in order to give Madison a different life than his own. He has certainly accomplished that goal and continues to strive for better opportunities for his daughter.

James is an extraordinary father who completely changed his life for the love of his daughter.

Happy Father’s Day to James—and to all of the wonderful fathers out there!