Wards presented with Keeping the Faith – True Grit Award | TSLN.com

Wards presented with Keeping the Faith – True Grit Award

The Drury family honored Vern and Laurie Ward, from Fruitdale, South Dakota, for their annual award in memory of Shane Drury. On Jan. 27, 2023 at Rodeo Rapid City they presented the 17th Annual Shane Drury “Keeping the Faith/True Grit Award” to the Wards.

The Drurys gave the Wards a bronze of Shane’s arena-record setting ride on River Dance at the PRCA rodeo in Reno, Nevada. The bronze is sponsored by the sculptor, Jim Maher, Jesse Drury of Road Runner, Inc. and the Use’ta Could Rodeo Association. Jim Maher and Shane’s brother, Jesse Drury presented the award.

Shane graduated from Central High School, just across the street from Rodeo Rapid City. His legacy in the rodeo arena started as a bull rider. He was a college rodeo champion and qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2000. When he was diagnosed with cancer, the grit and determination he showed in the arena became weapons in his battle. He initially won the battle and returned to competition with Gortex patches in his chest to replace ribs that had been removed. Then he was diagnosed again. Although he couldn’t compete, his love of rodeo kept him in the arena as a judge. Sadly, that career ended when cancer took Shane from us in 2006. His faith, attitude, determination, and perseverance continue to inspire people to this day.

Vern Ward is a local cowboy that experienced a traumatic brain injury in February of 2017. Vern was working in their barn when he was found unconscious with a horse halter in his hand. He does not remember the exact cause of the injury, and no one was there to see it. After 4 months in the hospital, Vern is a walking miracle to be alive, let alone able to enjoy once again the ranching and riding lifestyle. His miraculous recovery required a strong faith to stand on and the support of his friends and family, especially his wife, Laurie.

While Vern doesn’t remember much of what happened during the first few weeks following his accident, Laurie experienced all the unknowns firsthand. Laurie is a rock to her family and husband and this experience truly put her faith to the test. She didn’t back down and she never wavered. When Vern was riding in the ambulance having seizures and passing in and out of consciousness, Laurie was in the front seat. She heard the paramedics begging the driver to go faster and heard the driver say that was all the speed they had.

When Vern was transported to Rapid City, they didn’t know if he would make it. Laurie was the one that stayed up all night praying, waiting to hear how his surgery went and what the doctor’s hopes were.

A few days after the accident, Vern’s blood pressure was rising too much. They speculated that the reason was the breathing tube, but they didn’t know if he could breathe without it. Laurie said her goodbyes just in case and prayed while the doctors did what they called the “cowboy excavation” or “pull and pray.” On the fourth day, Vern was lifted out of his induced coma, so they could “see how much of Vern was left in there.”

Laurie slept in the ICU waiting room for the full week, unwilling to leave her husband’s side. When he woke up, a bed miraculously opened at Craig Hospital, where he could receive the best Traumatic Brain Injury Therapy in the nation. The two dropped everything in their life and packed their bags. They were told to prepare to stay at Craig for at least six months.

For a ranching family in early spring, this isn’t what you want to hear, but family, friends, and the community stepped in to show their love and bless the family. Vern put in extra hours at therapy to get back home as quickly as possible to his four daughters. He recovered so quickly and well, that even his neurologist admitted it was due in part to divine intervention.

Vern and Laurie made it back just in time for Vern to give a speech at the BHSU Hall of Fame induction. That speech became the first of many public talks that the two have since given. Their main message is to have your faith in place, so it is there to catch you when you need it.

Vern and Laurie do more than be grateful for their own miracle, but also took their trial and turned it into a testimony for the Kingdom. Vern and Laurie Ward’s story is an excellent example that with true grit and God’s grace, there is no trial that you can’t ride.

–Drury family

Jim Maher, (sculptor) Laurie Ward, Vern Ward, Jesse Drury (Shane’s brother)