POSTED: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 6:00am
UPDATED: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 6:04am
Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — If you look at Elijah Evans, you would have no idea the challenges he has faced in his life. His mission is to make that true for all adopted and foster children.
Evans, 16, was one of three honorees during the Department of Children and Family Services'  annual adoption celebration Thursday at the Governor's Mansion. He was given the Individual Advocate honor for creating an organization called No Use for Abuse.
"It's great to see someone who personally was involved in the system turn around and give back, and give so much hope to others, as well," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier.
As an infant, Evans did not have that same hope.
"When I was two years old, my biological mother burned me from the waist down," he recalled. "I have, 43 percent of my body has third-degree burns on it."
Because of the abuse from his mother and neglect from both his mother and grandmother, he moved in with a foster family, who treated him well. he was then adopted at the age of four.
"I was pretty excited, because it was my nurse who was taking care of me, and I knew her so well," he said, "so I was really excited for her to be my permanent mother."
Now in a loving adoptive home, Evans decided to put the emotional and physical pain from his early years to good use.
"A couple years later, I decided that I wanted to do a Christmas party for kids in foster care, and actually get them what they really wanted," he said. But he felt he was not ready for so large a project, so he waited until he was 13 to start No Use for Abuse.
"I was able to help 75 foster children and raise over $5,000," he stated, "and I've been doing that for the last two years."
In addition to the Christmas parties, Evans, who attends Comeaux High School, also planned a back-to-school party this year, and speaks out against abuse and neglect. Aside from this state honor, he recently flew to Washington DC for a national recognition.
"Our young people do amazing things," Sonnier said. "And it is exciting to see someone like Elijah in an opportunity like this. It's great to be able to recognize that."
"I never really wanted to get an award from it," he stated. "I just do it because it's something in my heart, and God wanted me to do it, so I'll go ahead and do it."
Evans is raising money right now for this year's Christmas present giveaway. Anyone wishing to donate may contact him through his Facebook page . He said he is working on making No Use for Abuse a statewide program,
and has dreams of taking it around the world.
DCFS also honored Healing Place Church of Baton Rouge and KTVE of Monroe for their efforts in helping foster children find adoptive families.
Sonnier announced Thursday that the number of foster children who were adopted last year set a new record for the fourth consecutive year. More than 500 families adopted more than 700 children. Included in that total were 43 families that adopted three children, six families that adopted four, and six more families that adopted five children during the year.
Governor Bobby Jindal declared November to be Adoption Awareness Month in Louisiana.