When Steven Ferrand, 15, of Niles, received his letter from the Tribune Chronicle telling him he had been chosen to be featured for the Giving Thanks section, his foster mother, Cindy Venable, decided to play a trick on him.
''I told him they couldn't use his letter because he only wrote two sentences,'' Venable said. ''He looked a little disappointed, but then I told him they weren't using his sentences because they were sending someone to do a feature story.''
Steven smiled at his soon-to-be mom and said, ''We're always playing tricks on each other.''
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Steven Ferrand, 15, left, is giving thanks this season for his foster mother, Cindy Venable, who will soon be adopting Steven. Sitting on Venable’s lap is her granddaughter, Layla D’Amico, 2.
When Steven saw the Giving Thanks ad in the Tribune Chronicle's Veterans Day edition, he wasn't planning to tell his foster mom that he was writing to the newspaper, but because he is still in the foster system, everything has to be approved through his caseworker, Venable said.
Steven's sentence was simple and to the point: '' I am thankful for my foster Mom who will be adopting me soon. I am thankful for our veterans and my dad whom I love much.''
Originally from Ashtabula County, Steven came to live with Venable 19 months ago when she decided to become a foster parent. Steven was her first foster child. With a large family of five children and 15 grandchildren who all get together for every holiday, Venable wanted to give back to even more children in need of a stable home.
''It's (being a foster parent) very rewarding,'' Venable said. ''You can help a child who doesn't have a regular family life.''
Although he's thankful to be part of Venable's large family, Steven sees his biological father nearly every weekend, Venable said, and often visits his two biological sisters and brother. Even after his adoption is final, Steven has no plans to change his last name.
''I'm the president of two families,'' Steven said.
A sophomore at Niles McKinley High School, Steven said his favorite subjects are history and math. When he graduates, he plans to work in public safety as a firefighter or police officer, although he hasn't ruled out a career in the Navy. His biological father is a firefighter, Steven said, and his grandfather was an MP in World War II.
Steven also is a Boy Scout with Troop 40 out of St. Rose Church in Girard and hopes to be an Eagle Scout someday.
For fun, the family likes to travel to to Civil War reenactments, has vacationed at Disneyland and traveled to Georgia during the summer months. The family also plays laser tag and Steven helps the younger kids, Venable said.
According to Venable, Steven, who was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome, which is a high-functioning form of autism, enjoys doing research, especially genealogy. He also collects war memorabilia, baseball cards, coins and stamps.
''Sometimes we go to the Warren library to the genealogy room,'' Steven said. ''I have ancestry traced back to 1743.''
Venable said she tossed around the idea of adopting Steven for about a year before making the final decision.
''I got him at 14,'' she said, ''and didn't know him for 14 years, but I believe adoption is permanent.''
''She didn't have to take me,'' Steven said. ''She chose to, and that's what I'm grateful for.''