Family of grad who died aims to keep his memory alive, while bringing a message of hope to others in similar circumstances
When Josh Way died on Aug. 2, his family vowed to give back to the organization that gave so much to them – their son. With their efforts, they raised more than $2,000 for Gorodnya Orphanage in Ukraine, where Josh lived before adoption more than five years ago. That money will go toward orphanage needs for children living at the facility. There will even be a plaque made in Way’s memory.
“My husband and I had never talked about adoption, but we hosted through this program we worked with, and a friend in charge of the program sent us a video (of one of the boys) and we felt like this is what we were meant to do,” said Tammy Way, Josh’s adoptive mother, who’s a longtime library clerk at schools within Bellefonte Area School District.
They first met Kolya, and then met Josh shortly later – and adopted the two who came home with the Way family together. The boys were not related, but became brothers in many senses of the word.
“I was helping to place these kids with families for the summer and some of them were talking with me,” Way said. “Josh was one of the kids and I really liked his first impression. He was right to the point and said, ‘I’m just going to ask you a question. Do I have a family or not?’ What you see is what you get with him, and we started talking and I said to my husband, ‘I cannot just let this kid stay there’.”
The Ways brought in both boys in 2015. At the time, Josh had just turned 16 and was heading into his sophomore year at Bellefonte Area High School, having just learned English a few months prior. He graduated in 2018, also having studied at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology in the automotive technology program with instructor Mike Sipe.
“He was a super great kid, with a kind heart,” Way said. “He was so full of life, and brought this kind of vibe and joy when he was around. I wouldn’t trade those five years for anything. I still feel so blessed. He has forever changed me as a person.”
While Way said the transition to life without Josh is a difficult one, she’s still able to find hope – something she hopes others going though similar circumstances will find, too. One thing she said that helps her is to look back at a Snapchat video Josh sent to her with a message that said, “You got this mama. You can do anything you put your mind to.”
“I normally don’t save them, but I saved this one, and I look back on it and think that life might be hard, but you have the strength to do it,” Way said. “You get to a point where you know it will be OK.”
At first, she couldn’t even look at photos of Josh without breaking down in tears. Now, she said she finds herself smiling when she talks about him.
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD