About Utah: The man that mattered most — girl's foster dad

Published: Thursday, June 14 2012 10:10 p.m. MDT

PROVO— Her biological father wasn't around to raise her; she had a succession of stepdads who were disinterested at best, abusive at worst.

So why, again, is Keira Scholz so excited about Father's Day this weekend?

Because she gets to shine a spotlight on the dad who stepped in when she was sure it was too late.

Her foster dad.

Keira's story is both heartwrenching and heartwarming. The oldest of six brothers and sisters, all born to the same mom but different fathers, she grew up in a home made dysfunctional by her mother's drug addiction and the men who came and went like relief pitchers. Before she could walk she'd lost track of her birth father, and he of her, through numerous name changes, address changes and indifference.

By the time she hit her teens she was repeatedly running away from home, although she never achieved anything close to success until the authorities stepped in when she was 15 and authorized her move to a foster home.

Which is when she came under the care of Sam and Tessa Partridge.

Sam and Tessa had three children of their own, all under the age of 10. Keira was their first teenager, sprung on them in an instant. On paper it shouldn't have worked. In reality, it worked like a fairy tale.

It was as if Keira had moved to Jupiter. Suddenly, she had stability, discipline, rules and consequences in her life – and the biggest change of all was this man in the house who took an interest in her.

When she didn't get her math assignment, he was there.

When she needed someone to talk to, he was there.

When she wanted someone to get a late-night milkshake with, he was there.

When she did something she wasn't supposed to, he was there, too.

And when her mother wanted her back to try again, he was also there, encouraging her to return home.

In all, Keira was in Sam and Tessa's home for 10 months – 10 months that changed her existence.

Life didn't suddenly become happily-ever-after after that. Back home, Mom was still battling addictions and old indulgent habits. As soon as she legally could, Keira fled again, but this time with an image of what life could be like without the addictions and the indulgences.

She again turned to the Partridges for support. They encouraged her to go to college, to apply for a scholarship (which she got), to set up a sturdy foundation for her own life. They offered her room and board at their house, which she took them up on for a year as she got started at university.

When she met Nick and got married, the Partridges stepped in and paid for her half of the wedding. They were there, appropriately beaming, when she said, "I do." Two years ago, when she had her son, Lucas, they brought a hamburger and fries to her in the hospital to celebrate.

She included all of the above, and plenty more, in the letter she sent to the Utah Foster Care Foundation nominating Sam Partridge for the organization's annual Foster Dad of the Year awards.

"What is better than a man who never stops being a dad, even after the 'job' is done? Who loves above and beyond the call?" she wrote. "His time with me was less than a year, but he offered an example, guidance, and encouragement. Before I had him, I had no father. I could not believe I went so far in my life without that support. Anyone who says that fathers do not make much of a difference in a child's life have not witnessed Sam Partridge at work!"

Sam won, by the way. He'll pick up his award tomorrow at The Gateway.

"He'll be so embarrassed," says Keira.

Spoken like a true daughter.

Lee benson's About Utah column runs monday and friday. EMAIL: lbenson@desnews.com

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