When a fatal boating accident took 19-year-old Boonville resident Garrett Ward's life on June 22, 2014, his family, friends and the entire Boonville community were devastated.
As the three-year anniversary of his death approaches, his mother, Tina Howton is in the middle of preparing for the fourth annual Smokin' for Garrett BBQ Competition and Scholarship Fundraiser, all while making trips to several Warrick County high schools to change students' lives in honor of her son.
Howton used the money raised from last year's Smokin' for Garrett competition to donate welding supplies to the Advanced Welding Class at Castle High School on May 4. And she's gearing up to provide not just one but two scholarships to deserving seniors in the upcoming week. Howtown donated helmets, aprons, paint brushes, tool sets and more to the class.
Howtown said she wanted to donate the supplies to the welding class because that was Garrett's main passion in life.
"When he was a junior, he went to S&S Machine Shop and asked them for a job," she said. "They told him he had to get a high school diploma first. So he got his diploma, and then he got his dream job."
Howton said her son died right before he got a promotion from being a general laborer to a welder at the Boonville business, but she is happy he left for heaven knowing that he was going to live out his dreams.
Howtown said giving back to these students is therapeutic, as Garrett himself graduated within the Warrick County School corporation from Boonville High School.
"It helps all of us," she said. "I just want to honor him in the best way possible in the years to come."
Howton said when she and her family first came up with the idea of the barbecue competition, they had no idea it would become the success it is today, or that they would even be able to give back to the community.
"We didn't even know if we'd break even," she said.
In the past, Howton presented one $1,000 scholarship to a deserving senior. This year, she just couldn't choose one winner and is handing out two $1,000 scholarships.
"I try to pick people people that remind me of Garrett and his interests," she said. "It is just a feeling I get when I read (the essays)."
Howton will present the Smokin' for Garrett senior scholarship to the Boonville recipient at 6 p.m. Monday and the Tecumseh recipient at 1 p.m. May 18.
The annual Smokin' for Garrett BBQ Competition will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 3 at the Warrick County Fairgrounds, where more than 40 teams from across the nation are set to compete. There will also be live music, a silent auction and fair rides.