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​​How One Man’s Vision Still Guides Boys Town 100 Years Later

Born in Ireland, Father Edward J. Flanagan arrived in the United States in 1904. Eight years later, he was ordained a priest and assigned to the Diocese of Omaha. Father Flanagan became a social reformer and a true visionary for changing how America cared for its children and families, passionately speaking out and taking action on social issues that few dared to address. He believed that children had the right to be valued, to have the basic necessities of life and to be protected. He sought to close reformatories and other juvenile facilities where children were abused and literally held as prisoners. In 1917, after years of working with Omaha’s homeless men, he opened Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home, which later became Boys Town, and championed the causes of children across the country.

Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home accepted all boys, regardless of their race, creed or cultural background. The priest offered every child a new start in life, and he went to great lengths to seek out and bring in the neediest and most helpless — even boys who were in prison for serious crimes. Father Flanagan died in 1948, but his successors have faithfully carried on his legacy and the mission he started at Boys Town. Today, at 100 years strong, Boys Town still follows many of the same principles and practices that originated with Father Flanagan’s vision.

To honor our founder, the Father Flanagan Award for Service to Youth​ is given to individuals who have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of children. Honorees are chosen based on their significant contributions to the youth of our nation and the influence they continue to have on young people through an ​exemplary public and private life.​

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