It would be 1904 when Father Edward J. Flanagan would arrive to the United States from Ireland. He began his mission in Omaha, Nebraska working with homeless men and he would soon realize that society was doing a great disservice to the children.
Being all about social reform, he was driven by the belief that we needed – as a society – to change the way we cared for our children.
He believed in the need to protect children and was very much against reform schools and juvenile facilities like detention centers.
In 1917, Father Flanagan opened his first Boys Home in Omaha. This was just the beginning of what would become now known as Boys Town.
He accepted all boys, regardless of race and background. Believing that children were born good – and it was the adults in their lives who screwed them up – he wanted to help foster a new generation of care, love and growth by caring and loving the younger generation.
“When parents fail to do their job, when they allow their children to run the streets and keep bad company, when they fail to provide them with good examples in the home, then the parents, and not the children, are delinquent.” – Father Flanagan
“There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.”– Father Flanagan
This place – this story – was such a big deal that two very well known actors – Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney – were in a film about him.
Spencer Tracy would win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in this film.
I’ve seen (and held) said award. It’s kinda’ cool. But I digress…
While Father Flanagan left our planet in 1948, Boys Town has kept trucking along for 100 years. Father’s work has now become an entire network. Not just the home campus in Omaha, but satellite campuses, too. They have a family hotline for parents to get advice. They teach, guide, coach thousands of kids. They have their own fire department, post office, high school – it’s really quite impressive.
I was a teenager when I arrived in the late 80’s. A system kid, I would end up in a group home of similar girls with a wonderful couple at the helm. I wasn’t there as long as others (I graduated from Boys Town High School in 1991), but the time that I did live there was unbelievably impactful in ways that one blog post won’t be able to adequately touch.
As the anniversary of Father Flanagan’s death recently passed, I was feeling a bit nostalgic for what they did for me – and countless others like me. I know that, because of what I felt and experienced there (Hi Ric & Trish!), I had a foundation to build from allowing me to be who I am, today.
If you haven’t heard of this place, CHECK IT OUT on their website.
I think I’m going to go rent the movie on Amazon and watch it again.
Be good to each other.