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Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Poverty
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
North America
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Appalachia, Ohio, USA, Children, Family
A short summary for this story that will go on the stories page (1-2 sentences):
The story of the impoverished Hedges family in Ohio's Appalachia, and how the family lives a rich, full, happy life in spite of their situation. It shows that the poverty they cannot escape from does not run their lives.
Ryan Henriksen

2010 — student award of excellence

What I have been working on is a story in Appalachia that is trying to show something other than the poverty that is everywhere in this area. I want to produce a story that shows how the people here live, not just what they live with. My goal is to not just show poverty, but to show how people can live rich, full, happy lives in spite of their situations - how they can live above their situation and that the poverty they cannot escape from does not have to run their lives.

Inseparable Ties is a documentary about one mixed family's resiliency, imagination, and ties stronger than blood. The Hedges family resides in New Straitsville, a small town in rural southeast Ohio, and is comprised of Wayne and Lorena Hedges and their 11 children. Seven of the children are from Wayne's previous marriage and 4 are from Lorena's previous marriage. In spite of the poverty and poor living conditions, which surround their daily lives, their love for life and their love for each other continue to carry them over and beyond most of these obstacles. The children are (from oldest to youngest) Jeremiah, Lamanda, Zanyle, Chandra, Earl, Alisa, Shantelle, Shyanne, Cierra, Jacob and Reanna.

Lorena is the primary breadwinner for the family and spends most of her time working at a local bar in downtown New Straitsville. Lorena's income is supplemented by Wayne’s, who scraps metal from old cars and works construction with his brother when he can. While their parents are away from home and working long hours, the children who range in age from 6 to 17 are on their own with the oldest ones in charge. Although they are not blood related, the children refer to one another as "brother" and "sister."
The oldest girls have learned how to make enough dinner for all 11 children and how to do all of the laundry. The oldest boys help out with enforcing the rules and making sure everyone has their homework done and clothes laid out for the next school day.

This project is focusing on the relationships between the children and the independence they have gained at such young ages. They are growing up in an area where teenagers are pressured to use drugs and where many teenage girls become pregnant before their 18th birthday. These children have learned how they need to act at school and with their friends in order to maintain the stability they have at home.

I feel strongly that this story is important and needs to be told because it is about how relationships, love and maybe a little spirit of adventure can fill our lives and take us back to what matters most and what we can all connect with.

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Wayne Hedges plays with his kids, (from left) Shantelle & Chandra Hedges and his stepdaughter Reanna Davis in the front of their home in New Straitsville, Ohio. The family, consisting of eleven children, Wayne and his wife, Lorena, doesn't have extra money to go out so they entertain themselves with what they have at home. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation
From left, Reanna Davis, Zanyle Hedges, Jacob Hedges, Shyanne Hedges, Shantelle Hedges, Earl Davis, and Jeremiah Hedges watch a movie together in their living room. The children in the family range in age from 6 to 17-years-old and spend most of their time indoors together in this room. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation
Jeremiah Hedges and his younger sister Chandra Hedges hold two of their neighbor's children while babysitting them as they get ready to head home from the park downtown New Straitsville. They've had to grow up quicker than other kids their age and take on responsibilities their friends haven't. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation
Right to left:  Shyanne Hedges spins on a merry-go-round with her younger sister Cierra Hedges in New Straitsville, Ohio on Friday, March 6, 2009. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation
Jacob gets pulled by one leg by his older brother Jeremiah while playing keep-a-way in their backyard with his sisters Shyanne, left, and Cierra, right. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation
Jacob, and Cierra play with a dead animal that they found next to their garage. They suspected their dog, Sumu, killed the animal and left it there earlier that day. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation
Right to left: Zanyle, Jeremiah and Chandra's boyfriend race each other up the hill to their house after getting told to come back home from the park. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation
Jeremiah holds hands with his girlfriend as they walk across one of the main streets of downtown New Straitsville on their way to his mom's house for the weekend. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation
Mandi kissers her little sister, Reanna, before sending her off to bed. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation
The four boys in the family, Jeremiah, Jacob, Zanyle and Earl play in the front of the house.  The family lives in the same four-bedroom house that Lorena grew up in. With all of the kids, dogs and cats coming in and out so often, the house and yard get cluttered quickly but everyone does their job to try and keep it under control. Ryan Henriksen/Alexia Foundation