Madison Hardin

Madison Hardin, recent St.Peter's High School graduate, will receive the 2020 McGowan Courage Award. The award honors local high school students who have faced life experiences of adversity and hardship with extraordinary courage, tenacity and fortitude. 

This is part seven of an eight part series that profiles all students who are recipients of the 2020 McGowan Courage Award, presented by the Mansfield Rotary Club. One story will be released each day for the next eight days.

Graduating high school still remains one of the biggest achievements of a teenagers life, although the work leading up to it can be quite strenuous. For Madison Hardin, recent graduate from St. Peter's High School, that tremendous success came even harder. 

Hardin lost both of her parents in high school, their deaths coming just two years apart from one another. First at only the age of 14 with her mother due to stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and then at 16 when her father died from alcohol induced sickness. 

“It was really hard. I still struggle most days,” she said.  

After suffering from those traumatic losses, it would’ve been understandable for Hardin to only do the minimum of what she was capable of. Instead, however, she went on to show how through great tragedy she could still persevere and do more than anyone would’ve expected. 

Hardin’s perseverance is what makes her a recipient of the 2020 McGowan Courage Award. 

“It has been extremely difficult to grow up without parents, if not one of the hardest things I will have ever had to go through,” Hardin wrote in her narrative essay to be considered for the award. “No child should have to grow up without parents when there is still so much more they need to be taught.” 

When she thinks about her parents, Hardin can only sing their praises.

“She (her mom) was really hard working; she had the biggest heart. She would help anyone out that needed help, she was funny, smart,” she shared in wonderment. “He (her father) was a good dad. He was always there for me and supported me in everything that I was doing.” 

Losing her parents so abruptly and at a young age caused Hardin’s grades and life to plummet as she sunk into a heavy depression. Those questions of where her parents were and what happened to them being a constant reminder of her despair. 

After her father’s death, Hardin went to stay with her aunt, Janet Hestermann, who couldn’t be prouder of her niece that she’s been very close to for the past 18 years of her life. 

Talking through her struggles with a counselor also helped Hardin get through difficult times. 

“Counseling really helped me, and then I would just do things that would keep me distracted, like hanging out with friends and not letting myself get too down, so that’s how I really got through it,” Hardin said.  

Like any person who’s shared her unfortunate circumstances, Hardin’s grades did not start off strong, but with the help of her aunt, grandmother and friends, she accomplished many things in her four years of high school, including: joining the softball and cheerleading team for four years and raising her GPA from where it had fallen. 

Hardin’s biggest goal in life is to make sure her parents are proud of her. She will be attending Bluffton University in Lima, playing softball and pursuing a degree in the medical field. 

“I want to go into the medical field because of everything my parents went through, and I would love to just help people and be a part of them getting better,” Hardin said.  

Although those great losses will stick with her forever, Hardin will continue to move forward and embark on the journey her parents would’ve wanted her to go on with courage.

“I’m very thankful for this award, and it means a lot to me that I received this award,” Hardin said. 

The 2020 McGowan Courage Awards are sponsored by: OhioHealth (premier sponsor), Mechanics Bank (gold sponsor), OSU Mansfield (silver sponsor), Richland Bank, North Central State College, The Mansfield Art Center and The Renaissance Theatre.

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Thrive Reporter

Tierra Thomas is the Thrive Reporter. She was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from Kent State University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. When she's not writing news, she's writing fiction or taking photos.