BOSTON (CBS) – One of the most rewarding aspects of being a journalist is seeing a positive change result from a story.
For Jack Williams, that’s been happening for 34 years. In 1981, he created the “Wednesday’s Child” segment as a way to help special needs children find adoptive homes.
More than 700 children have been placed with families as a result of this weekly report.
Now as Jack retires from WBZ-TV, he can look back on a legacy that has transformed hundreds of young lives.
They are children like Izzy Ramirez. He found a family when he was 17, after being profiled twice.
“It just puts the word out there that there are a lot of kids within the system in need of placement, and unfortunately, some children take longer to be placed with families,” Izzy said.
Revered Liz Walker was Jack’s co-anchor when the segment premiered.
“He took this idea, this concept, and he took it another step. So it wasn’t just to show child who had special needs or needed homes. He got engaged with the children, and personally involved with the young people. They became his children, they really did!,” Walker recalls.
“It saved a lot of kids,” said Lisa Funaro, executive director of the Mass. Adoption Resource Exchange, the social service agency that collaborates on Wednesday’s Child. “It’s the foundation we all really on: family. It comes first.”
The program’s legacy stretched far beyond the children and families that were united. Attitudes about adoption changed.
Funaro believes that had a huge impact. “There were myths out there, that the only children there for adoption were babies, and it was expensive, or you had to go to China. And that just wasn’t true.”
At the core of the program’s success was Jack’s commitment, and compassion.
“Jack spent the time to get know the child, to ask questions outside of the taping, to shoot hoops, or go down the slide, or whatever the activity was, to make the child feel more comfortable,” Funaro explained.
Izzy felt Jack’s genuine warmth.
“It was amazing. He really knows how to keep the conversation going, and makes you feel welcome to tell him whatever you want to tell him,” Izzy said.
Now that Izzy is preparing to start college in the fall, he feels indebted to Jack.
“I know I can speak for other children within the system that are extremely appreciative of Jack Williams and his work . . . he definitely does it from the heart,” he said.
The segment featuring Izzy from last May won a national award from an adoption advocacy group.