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Smart Start awards provide $20,000 in savings funds
Treasurer Perdue presents Ryan and Kelly Franklin and son Evan their Smart Start award. The Franklins are from Washington.
Treasurer Perdue presents Ryan and Kelly Franklin and son Evan their Smart Start award. The Franklins are from Washington.

State Treasurer John Perdue presented seven families who have adopted children from West Virginia’s foster care system a total of $20,400 Friday at the Clay Center in Charleston, as part of the fourth annual SMART529 Smart Start Adoption Awards.

In the last four years, proceeds of an annual race and sponsor contributions have provided $57,600 in Smart Start awards to 48 children. Several families have claimed more than one award winner, which is again the case this year.

“It always gives me great delight and a heartfelt feeling of gratitude to do this every year,” Treasurer Perdue said. “I know what great odds children adopted from foster care face because my wife was adopted. I’m aware of the tangible and emotional obstacles they face. Less than 10 percent of children who are adopted from foster care finish college.”

Smart Start is an effort to provide college savings to West Virginia children through the State Treasurer’s Office SMART529 college savings plans. Mission West Virginia and its Frameworks program, which finds families for children waiting in the foster care system, is the primary partner for the event. Several other child welfare organizations in the state joined the effort this year, including Braley & Thompson, Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, KVC, NECCO and Pressley Ridge. The Hartford administers SMART529 funds and is also a key player in the Smart Start effort.

Families enjoyed a sumptuous spread of lunch food.
Families enjoyed a sumptuous spread of lunch food.

Each May, Treasurer Perdue’s office and the partnering organizations hold the SMART5.29K run/walk, a 5.29-mile jaunt from Appalachian Power Park to the State Capitol and back. Proceeds from the event fund the awards which are selected by Mission West Virginia through a formal application process.

The annual awards ceremony takes place at the Clay Center in Charleston. During Friday’s ceremony, families received their awards, enjoyed lunch and ice cream, spent time in the children’s activity center, and participated in a Build-a-Bear session.

Families and children honored Friday were:

  • The Roberts Family of Red House, Shane and Lindsey parents. Children are Thomas and Eleighna.
  • The Franklin Family of Washington, Ryan and Kelly parents. Child is Evan.
  • The Sharps Family of Fairmont, Christopher and Jessica parents. Children are Braeden, Koda and Tyler.
  • The Todd Family of Charleston, Alex and Beth parents. Children are Nichole, Audrey and Laken.
  • The Riner Family of Hurricane, Amber and Sean parents. Children are Brentley and Axel.
  • The Wright Family of Princeton, Matthew and Rebecca parents. Children are Everly, Marcus, Isabella, Phoenix and Grayson.
  • The Bennett/Ashling Family of Berkeley Springs, Richard Bennett and Jared Ashling parents. Child is Andrew.

SMART529 operates three plans as the state’s officially sanctioned savings vehicle. gives SMART529 WVDirect a five-cap rating, its highest possible. For a full description of all three plans, go to You may also call 1-866-574-3542.

The Treasury does not collect state taxes. Visit the The West Virginia State Tax Department for assistance.

West Virginia State Treasurer's Office
1900 Kanawha Boulevard
Capitol Complex Building #1, Room E-145
Charleston, West Virginia 25305
304-558-5000 Toll Free: 800-422-7498
Hours: 8am-5pm (ET)

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