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skittles-skills-help-familySkittles, Skills Help Family Scuttle Obstacles to StabilityCentral Florida
Skittles, Skills Help Family Scuttle Obstacles to Stability
Wednesday, Apr 5, 2017

Savannah and Petr, and their two boys, Wyatt and Ellis, each picked eight Skittles out of the bag. The fruit-flavored candies weren't exactly a treat for the family; it was more like a test.
The color of each piece of candy – red, yellow, orange, green and purple – corresponded to color-coded notecards scrawled with questions for family members to answer. Questions like, "What is the best thing about the person sitting to your right?" and "What is your happiest family memory?" At the end of the Q-and-A session, they all were asked to recall at least one new thing they learned about each of their other family members.  

"It was a bonding exercise aimed at improving their listening skills," explained Boys Town Central Florida Family Consultant Justin Stephens. "I like to play a lot of games and activities with families that teach skills but also help them open up and feel more comfortable."

Being comfortable around Justin wasn't a problem for Savannah, who was already familiar with Boys Town Central Florida. She had previously attended Common Sense Parenting® classes, where she learned about the site's In-Home Family Services. At the time, she and her husband Petr were struggling to keep Wyatt and Ellis from constantly fighting with each other. Savannah hoped Justin's intervention would help bring some much-needed peace and calm to their household.  

Not everyone felt so at ease with having a "stranger" in the home. Petr refused to even talk with Justin during the family's first in-home meeting, fearing his past indiscretions would color the Family Consultant's opinion of him.

Unfortunately, Savannah and Petr were also dealing with a strained relationship. The couple had tried counseling, but it was derailed when Petr accused the therapist of twisting his words. The experience made him angry and suspicious of any outsider's help.  

Getting Petr to open up was Justin's top priority. The games and activities were one strategy Justin used to establish trust and enhance understanding. He also listened but never judged. While it didn't happen overnight, Petr gradually lowered his defenses. 

"Once I connected with Petr, he felt more comfortable. He even started calling me to talk," Justin said.  

The more involved Petr got, the easier it became for the whole family to deal with their underlying issues.

Petr was depressed and anxious about the family's finances. He had a seasonal, low-paying job and a limited education. To address his fragile emotional state, Justin connected him to counseling services and devised a staying-calm plan Petr could use whenever he felt overwhelmed. He also encouraged Petr to enroll in a local community college to improve his job skills.

Justin taught both parents healthy ways to communicate, including how to be more affectionate and patient with their children by praising their good behaviors and effectively correcting their misbehaviors. This combination of skill teaching, counseling and encouragement ultimately helped the family turn a corner and grow closer.

"The family achieved all of their goals," Justin said. "They're not perfect, but now they have the skills they need to be successful." 

Today, Petr continues his studies and has a new, better job. He and Savannah also have returned to couples therapy in order to strengthen their marriage. To the delight of their boys, both are more loving parents, and everyone is committed to creating a healthier, happier home.

central-floridas-candy-cane-5k-celebrates-10th-anniversaryCentral Florida's Candy Cane 5k Celebrates 10th AnniversaryCentral Florida
Candy Cane 5k Run
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​​​Boys Town Central Florida held their 10th annual Candy Cane 5k on Saturday, December 10, 2016 at Central Winds Park in Winter Springs. This year, over 600 runners took off at 8 a.m., on the five kilometer run through the park and raised over $15,000.

Runners brought out their best holiday running outfits in an attempt to take home the title of “Best Costume”. Although impressive, the fake beards, elf costumes, red and white stripped socks and even a Santa costume didn’t beat the best costume winner - Ms. Barbara Opper. Ms. Opper portrayed Mrs. Claus complete with a candy cane tutu. Teams also gathered in order to win the title of largest team competing. This year’s winner, the EEES Roadrunners from English Estate Elementary School, took home the title with an impressive 34-person team all sporting matching Christmas costumes. 

​According to Boys Town Central Florida Executive Director, Greg Zbylut, “This race has grown immensely through our community support and engagement efforts. We are blessed with a caring community that wants to have a role in making a difference for children and families.”

The Candy Cane 5k began in 2006 as a class project of Leadership Seminole and has since grown in number of runners who participate and in the number of sponsors who support the event. This year’s run was sponsored by Holland Pools, Anderson and Ferrin Attorneys at Law, Synergy Mortgage, Ti’Juana Flats, Yang Enterprises INC., The Canovas Photography, Charter Spectrum, Beers and Gordon Civil Trial Attorneys, Citizens Bank of Florida, Fun Spot America Theme Parks, Garganese, Weiss and D’Agresta Attorneys at Law, M Paul General Contractors, The Law Office of Timothy A. Moran, Orlando Health, Oviedo Car Care, Nemours Children’s Hospital, University Behavioral Center, Waste Pro, Your Oviedo Dentist, Krispy Kreme in Winter Park, Moon-Glade Photography, Oviedo Mall, Race Time Sports, City of Winter Springs, Kiwanis, Darlene Brown Team, First 2 Aid, Look Local Magazine, My House Fitness, Paramount Urgent Care in Oviedo, Synergy Mortgage Powered by The Mortgage Firm and Breeze Entertainment.

Throughout the event, there were numerous activities for the whole family to enjoy. In addition to the 5k, there is also a Kids Fun Run for younger children to participate in and a Kids zone complete with crafts and fun activities such as face painting, a bounce house, music and even a meet and greet with Santa. 

All runners receive a medal for participating in the run and the top three from various age groups received a prize in addition to their medal. The top times in the four categories were: Tyson coming in at the top time of 17:40 minutes for the male category, Elayna with 19:47 minutes for the female category, Angelo at 19:04 minutes for the male masters category and Tracey at an even 24 minutes for the female masters category.

Boys Town Central Florida extends a thank you to all the sponsors of the 10th annual Candy Cane 5k and to all the runners who made this year’s event a success! Thank you for supporting the children and families of Boys Town Central Florida!

boys-town-central-florida-helps-family-through-tough-timesBoys Town Central Florida Helps Family through Tough TimesCentral Florida
Da’Kendrik is thriving today thanks to his great-grandmother’s care and the guidance of Boys Town Central Florida.
Monday, Jan 9, 2017

​​Maxine Nelson had always put family first. So she didn't think twice when it came to deciding that she and her husband would become the primary caregivers ​​of their 10-year-old great-grandson, Da'Kendrik.

Da'Kendrik was nearly alone in the world. His mother had passed away when he was 6 and his father was never really involved in his life. The boy's grandparents also were deceased.

Maxine and her husband did the best they could to raise Da'Kendrik. But when her husband passed away, it caused tremendous financial and emotional hardships for the 83-year-old Maxine and her great-grandson. In early 2016, she lost her home of 40 years to foreclosure, and she and Da'Kendrik found themselves without a permanent place to live.

For nearly seven months, Maxine and Da'Kendrik just got by, living in sub-par surroundings. Many of Da'Kendrik's toys and Maxine's remaining home furnishings had to be placed in storage. The situation was most difficult for Da'Kendrik, who struggled in school as he tried to cope with his stress and anger.

The family's plight eventually came to the attention of Boys Town Central Florida, and Family Consultant Janae Moore began working with Maxine and Da'Kendrik.

Janae said it was very frustrating to see what Maxine was going through to keep her and her great-grandson together.

"It was a really difficult living environment and they basically had to live together in the same room," Janae said. "They also faced other tough situations like having to get by with just a mini-fridge. It was really taking a toll on both Maxine and Da'Kendrik."

Fortunately, Maxine got some unexpected help as Janae was starting her work. A neighbor named Chloe Battle met Maxine and Da'Kendrik by chance. When Chloe saw Maxine and the young boy moving in, she helped move a box because it was the neighborly thing to do. From that point on, Chloe was willing to help as much as possible.

Janae's first order ​of business was to contact local organizations that could help Maxine and Da'Kendrik find permanent housing. Once that was accomplished, Janae helped negotiate a reasonable rent. Meanwhile, Chloe contacted friends, families and churches about supporting the family with basic funds so they could get back on their feet. Chloe also recruited people to move and unload the family's belongings that had been in storage.

Besides helping with everyday living necessities, Janae also addressed Da'Kendrik's special needs.

"I helped Da'Kendrik by meeting with him weekly and teaching skills," Janae said. "I modeled positive behaviors like manners, staying calm and keeping my promises."

Janae also used games to teach the skills, which the youngster enjoyed. She took special pride in helping Maxine acquire health insurance for Da'Kendrik, who had never been to the dentist and had begun having toothaches.

As she built trust with Da'Kendrik, Janae could see him begin to show social improvement. She was able to arrange for a counselor to work with him on coping with the loss of loved ones. Janae also suggested enrolling Da'Kendrik in swimming lessons. Chloe signed him up and took him to the local YMCA twice a week.

"Chloe is amazing," Janae said. "She drives the family around, makes calls for Maxine when she needs help, you name it. Plus, she went to school meetings and acted as a tutor for Da'Kendrik twice a week. Chloe has never left them. She has been a key part in keeping them together."

Janae said it is truly satisfying to see the progress Maxine and Da'Kendrik have made.

"When I first met Da'Kendrik, he was struggling in school and was very angry, unmotivated and uncooperative," Janae said. "By the end of his Boys Town services, he was listening more to instructions, brought his grades up and just seemed to be a happier person."

For Janae Moore and Boys Town Central Florida, keeping a family together is a beautiful thing.​

boys-town-a-beacon-of-hope-for-troubled-youthBoys Town: A Beacon of Hope for Troubled YouthCentral Florida
Thursday, Dec 29, 2016

​​​​​​​This story aired on CBS Sunday Morning and was posted on cbsnews.com on December 25, 2016.

"There's no place like home." Rarely is that truer than this time of year. Our Christmas Cover Story is all about a very special home for some very needy children, as reported by Tony Dokoupil:

Right near the midpoint of America, ten miles outside of Omaha, Nebraska, there's a town that sits between childhood and whatever comes after.

"These young people are about to become citizens of the most famous village in the world," said Father Stephen Boes at a swearing-in ceremony.

In this town, almost every kid is at a crossroads -- and the goal of all the grown-ups here is to help kids leave Boys Town behind.

"I do solemnly promise … that I will be a good citizen."

Eighteen-year-old Chase Pruss, from Dodge, Neb., was sworn in here six months ago --  arriving, like a lot of the kids, straight from jail.

"I took the school safe," he said.  "Just for money. For Beer money. And gas money. And buy cigarettes."

Two more break-ins followed, and Pruss ended up arrested in front of his bewildered parents. "My mom was crying, my dad was crying," he said.

He had run through four different schools, stolen and lied.

And he faced 80 years in prison, ​until a judge helped get him into Boys Town. "I ​​had that mindset of, "I never want to ever ​put myself in the position where I could land myself back in an orange jumpsuit," Pruss said. "I never ​wanted my ​jail ID ​number to say ​who I was."

Andre Harris (right) in class at Boys Town. CBS News

Seventeen-year-old Andre Harris came to Boys Town the same way.  Nearly three years ago, back in Amarillo, Texas, he stole a car, and ended up in juvenile detention.

"I didn't feel like I was gonna amount to anything after that," he told Dokoupil.  

Frankly, he didn't think he'd amount to much before jail, either. College seemed out of reach. He can't remember hearing someone say they were proud of him.

Dokoupil said of Boys Town, "More felons per capita here than any town in Nebraska."

"Probably!" Harris laughed. "But we're all doing our best to change."

Almost every week here at Boys Town, new boys (and since 1979, new girls, too) are sent by social workers, judges and desperate parents. Most of the kids have been unable to live anywhere else without getting in trouble.

And Boys Town is their last chance.

"A lot of people would say they're bad kids," Dokoupil said. "Is that how they see themselves when they get here?"

"Some of our kids do," replied Tony Jones, one of Boys Town's "family teachers." "They see themselves as, you know, on the bottom of the totem pole."

And how do they change that mindset? "You show them that this is your decision. This is your life."

Jones and his wife, Simone, run one of 55 homes on campus. Eight Boys Town children live there like a family, alongside the Jones' three biological kids.

"Every single young man that has come through my home has now become a part of my family," Jones said.

This is a large part of what makes Boys Town so powerful; all 360 kids living here have paid Boys Town parents like Tony and Simone.

"It's a professional, full-time Dad, brother, uncle, cousin -- whatever my boys may need me to be at that particular time in their life, that, then, is who I become for them," Jones said.

Tony Jones and his wife, Simone, and three children share their home with eight Boys Town students. CBS News​

He began at Boys Town as a boy himself. He was born to a shattered family in Detroit. "I can recall my brother and I standing at a bus stop, and it was in the dead of winter. And we only had one pair of socks to share between the two us," Jones laughed.

But then a priest gave the Jones brothers a chance to change their lives at Boys Town. "It was a total transformation," he said.

Dokoupil asked, "Where do you think you would be if you had said no to Boys Town?"

"Oh, two places: I would either be incarcerated, or I would be dead."

Father Edward Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. CBS News

The Jones story is typical of a hundred years of stories at Boys Town, which began in 1917 as Father Flanagan's Home for Boys. The most beloved clergyman in America, he created arguably the most famous reform school in the world.

Of his charges, Father Flanagan said, "His bruised and tortured heart and mind must be nursed back to normal health through kindness."

You may remember a 1938-Oscar winning movie about the place starring Spencer Tracy. But what you probably don't know is it's a real town, with a real post office and police department.

At about $65,000 per student per year, Boys Town is comparable to a top private college -- and it's mostly taxpayers footing the bill.

But taxpayers pay for prisons, too -- more than $39 billion a year nationally. Boys Town says it can help keep those prison cells empty, while nearly doubling the chance that these students will graduate from high school.

Dokoupil asked Jones, "How do you avoid coming in and being just another person telling them all the things they're doing wrong?"

"By telling them all the things they're doing right," Jones replied. "That's how you help kids change. It's being able to say, 'Hey, young man, you did a good job this morning getting up.'"

"It almost sounds like a joke."

"Well, you know something? That little praise goes a long way."

That little praise goes all the way back to Father Flanagan's ​founding idea: "There are no bad boys."

And if that all sounds too pat to be successful … well, the results say otherwise.

When asked where he would be without Boys Town, Chase Pruss replied, "I'd be in lockup." As did another.

And if that all sounds too pat to be successful, just listen to the results. Tesharr said, "I've been here for a short amount of time. But since my first day I didn't feel like I was in a place where I couldn't leave. I felt like I was home."

Of course, the Boys Town way does not work for every child who comes here; there are failures. But for Chase's parents, Dan and Trish, it's been nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

Dokoupil asked them, "Who was Chase before Boys Town and who is he today?"

"He was dishonest, disrespectful, a thief," said his mother. "And now he is the Chase that I always wanted him to be."

For Andre Harris, the change has been no less dramatic since stealing that car. "It's not even the same person," he said.

And how is he different? "My actions, the way I speak. I've grown up. I've become a young man."

He's a school leader now … a star on the track team … and he's just found out he's headed to college next year.

But first, he's headed to Amarillo for the holidays … a place he hasn't seen in nearly three years. It's a place that Boys Town has been preparing him for since the very day he made his grand theft exit:

It's home.

"This is my Christmas gift," Robert Harris told Dokoupil. "This is all I wanted!"

Andre Harris is welcomed by neighbors back home in Amarillo, Texas. CBS News
holiday-celebrations-at-boys-town-central-floridaHoliday Celebrations at Boys Town Central FloridaCentral Florida
Santa in a firetruck
Thursday, Dec 29, 2016

​​Boys Town Central Florida hosts two large events in honor of the holidays. Every year, the annual Tree Light Ceremony takes place. Music, community recognition awards, speeches by Family Home youth, tours of homes and the shelter and a guest appearance by Santa to light the tree are some of the activities going on throughout the celebration. The shelter decorates in a different holiday theme every year and this year, the theme was "Whoville", from the Grinch. A local theatre company partnered with Boys Town Central Florida to work with the children weekly on writing assignments on who their Whoville character is.

This year also marked the 10th Anniversary of Boys Town Central Florida's Candy Cane 5k. Boys Town Central Florida holds this run yearly to raise money for their programs while creating a fun event for the whole family. The run brings in over 500 runners every year and includes many fun contests and prizes that runners are eligible to win. A costume contest kicks off the run motivating attendees to dress up in their most festive Christmas gear. There is also a Kid Fun Run for children and a Kids Zone complete with crafts, face painting, bounce house, music and even a visit to Santa. Every runner receives a medal and the top three male and female runners from each age category are given a prize in addition to their medal.​

Boys-Town-Central-Florida-Hosts-30th-Anniversary-PicnicBoys Town Central Florida Hosts 30th Anniversary PicnicCentral Florida
Friday, Oct 14, 2016

​​About 150 past and present Boys Town Central Florida staff, youth and board members gathered on Sunday, August 21, 2016, at a picnic in celebration of the site's 30th anniversary. Throughout the afternoon, guests were able to enjoy a variety of activities, food and live music while appreciating the beautiful Florida weather.  

A BBQ dinner was grilled by the Oviedo-Winter Springs Optimist club for all attendees to enjoy. Staff and youth also participated in an assortment of games and contests. They even had the opportunity to win raffle prizes and battle it out in a trivia contest. Tug-of-war, balloon toss, a pie ​eating contest and even a dessert baking contest were among the activities for guests to participate in. A frozen t-shirt contest was perhaps the most interesting.

"Contestants each received a frozen balled up t-shirt and the first to open and put it on won," explained Jackie Nitti, Community Engagement Coordinator.

While all of these events were fun, the fan favorite was the dunk tank. Greg Zbylut, Executive Director; Troy Dunberger, Director of Program Operations; and Terry Knox, Development Director, were the lucky Boys Town Central Florida employees chosen to participate in the dunk tank.

"The kids and staff had a blast trying to dunk the management team," Nitti said. "Fortunately, it was a hot day, so they didn't mind going under over and over."

Boys Town Central Florida has plans to hold similar employee celebration events in the future to bring staff and youth together.

Thank you to those who volunteered to make the picnic a success and congrats to Boys Town Central Florida on 30 years of helping youth and families in the surrounding community!​

united-states-mint-unveils-designs-for-boys-town-centennial-commemorative-coinsUnited States Mint Unveils Designs for Boys Town Centennial Commemorative CoinsCalifornia, Central Florida
Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016

​​​This press release was published on usmint.gov August 23, 2016.

Designs for coins commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Boys Town were unveiled today during a ceremony at Boys Town Music Hall in Boys Town, Neb.

"Each time a person looks at any one of these unique designs, it will spark an interest in learning about the history of Boys Town, acknowledging the extraordinary efforts made by this organization to give comfort and purpose to children in need, and recognizing the significant contributions of Father Flanagan," said United States Mint Principal Deputy Director Rhett ​Jeppson.

Jeppson was joined by Boys Town​ representatives Cordell Cade and Kymani Bell, mayor and vice mayor, respectively; Dan Daly, Executive Vice President, Director of Youth Care; and Jerry Davis, Vice President of Advocacy.

Public Law 114-30 authorizes the Mint to mint and issue no more than 50,000 $5 gold, 350,000 $1 silver, and 300,000 half dollar clad coins with designs emblematic of the centennial of Boys Town. 

The gold coin obverse (heads) features a portrait of Father Flanagan.  Inscriptions include "BOYS TOWN CENTENNIAL," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "FR. EDWARD FLANAGAN," "LIBERTY," and "2017."  The obverse was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Designer Donna Weaver and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart.

The gold coin reverse (tails) features an outstretched hand holding a young oak tree growing from an acorn.  As ​stated in the idiom "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow," this design represents the potential of each child helped by Boys Town to grow into a productive, complete adult.  Inscriptions include "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "THE WORK WILL CONTINUE," "FIVE DOLLARS," and "E PLURIBUS UNUM."  The reverse was also designed by Weaver and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.

The silver $1 coin obverse features a young girl sitting alone and gazing upward into the branches of an oak tree looking for help.  The empty space around the girl is deliberate and meant to show the child's sense of loneliness, isolation, and helplessness.  Inscriptions include "BOYS TOWN," "When you help a child today...," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "LIBERTY," and "1917-2017."

The obverse was designed by AIP Designer Emily Damstra and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna. 

The coin's reverse features an oak tree offering shelter and a sense of belonging to the family holding hands below it, which includes the girl from the obverse.  Inscriptions include "...you write the history of tomorrow," "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "ONE DOLLAR," and "E PLURIBUS UNUM."  The reverse was also designed by Damstra and sculpted by Menna.

The clad half dollar obverse features an older brother holding the hand of his younger brother in 1917.  They walk toward Father Flanagan's Boys Home and the 1940s pylon representing what would become Boys Town.  Inscriptions include "BOYS TOWN," "1917," "2017," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "LIBERTY," and "Saving Children."  The obverse was designed by AIP Designer Chris Costello and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Renata Gordon.

The coin's reverse features a present-day Boys Town neighborhood of homes where children are schooled and nurtured by caring families.  Out of these homes come young adults who graduate from high school and the Boys Town program.  Inscriptions include "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," "Healing Families," and "HALF DOLLAR."  The reverse was also designed by Costello and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill.

Pricing for the Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coins will include surcharges-$35 for each $5 gold coin, $10 for each $1 silver coin, and $5 for each half dollar clad coin-which are authorized to be paid to Boys Town to carry out its cause of caring for and assisting children and families in underserved communities across America.

The Mint will announce the release date and additional pricing information for the Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coins prior to their release in 2017.

 
boys-town-iowa-in-home-family-services-supervisor-heads-to-central-florida-to-assistBoys Town Iowa In-Home Family Services Supervisor Heads to Central Florida to AssistCentral Florida
Monday, Aug 15, 2016

​​At the end of June, Keely Heitland, Sioux City’s In-Home Family Services Supervisor, traveled to Central Florida to assist the site’s In-Home Family Services (IHFS) program while their supervisor, Erica Vagle, is on maternity leave.

“I was excited to volunteer,” Heitland said. “I was intrigued by the idea to observe another site and how they deliver IHFS using the Boys Town Model."

While in Florida, Heitland has a similar role as she does in Iowa. She is supervising four consultants, providing consultation and support, as well as attending intakes and visits for observations to ensure quality services are provided.

“One of the things we say about using evidence-based practices is that our model should be replicable, which means that whether you are in Iowa or Central Florida, we should be using the same interventions and strategies and our hallmarks and model elements should be clearly consistent across the services we offer,” Bethany Lacey, Director, In-Home Family Services, Boys Town Central Florida, said.

”Having someone like Keely step in temporarily to fill our need has been a huge asset,” Lacey said. “She may not be familiar with all nuances of Central Florida, but she knows the model and she knows families and staff. A family in need is a family in need no matter where they live.” 

It has long been common practice for Boys Town to share staff between Family Home and Intervention and Assessment Centers.

“If one site is low on staff, it often happens that another site will send staff to help out,” Lacey said.

However, it isn’t as common for In-Home Family Services. Lacey’s hope is that what they’ve accomplished can be replicated and that other sites can use the lessons they’ve learned on how to organize such an experience.

Heitland also attends internal and external meetings in Vagle’s place, which “has allowed me to learn about other programs to assist Iowa in developing their site.”

Central Florida has a smaller IHFS program but offers more services within the continuum of care. The biggest difference Heitland has encountered is the “application of [the in-home services]” and how it “takes in consideration the many different consumers, grants and contractors” the site is working with.

“Florida’s programs are more preventative versus reactive,” she said, citing an example of working with families before they are court involved. “Florida also has the ability to provide multiple services within the Boys Town continuum and does well linking them.”

“I have enjoyed further learning about and observing the services within the continuum and hope to bring this knowledge back to Iowa to assist us in further grants and contracts,” she said.

boys-town-central-florida-supports-first-responders-in-wake-of-tragedyBoys Town Central Florida Supports First Responders in Wake of TragedyCentral Florida
Friday, Aug 5, 2016

In light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida, Boys Town Central Florida decided to come together and honor those who were at the center of the disaster. The week following the attack on Orlando’s Pulse Night Club, Central Florida’s management team collaborated to honor and thank first responders for their service to the community in its time of need.

“The Pulse tragedy could have easily divided our Central Florida Community, but instead it brought us closer and made us stronger. Seeing volunteers line up to give blood and donations, the outpouring of support from all over the country, and differences set aside was inspiring.” Boys Town Central Florida Executive Director Gregory Zbylut reflected on the tragedy. “Our staff and youth wanted to play a part and we wanted to teach our youth how to do that.  We also want to recognize our North and South Florida sites that were quick to offer their support in the form of cards for responders and encouragement.”

Large thank you baskets were delivered to nine different police stations, fire stations, ERs and to a local LBGT Support Organization. Kids from both Boys Town Central Florida and Boys Town North Florida programs sent hand written cards thanking the responders and show their appreciation for their service to be included in the baskets filled with snacks, candy, coffee mugs and other small gifts.

Youth from the Central Florida location were then able to help Zbylut, Troy Dunberger, Senior Director, Program Operations, and other ​Boys Town Central Florida staff members deliver the baskets to these different locations across Orlando. 

“The first responders and LGBT Support Organization were very appreciative of the thank you baskets,” said Jackie Nitti, Community Engagement Coordinator at Boys Town Central Florida. When the staff members and youth arrived at the fire station, they were able to spend time with the firefighters, receive tours of the building and the fire trucks and even had the opportunity to shoot the water hose.

“The youth really enjoyed getting to learn more about their community and showing appreciation to the first responders.” said Nitti. “People from so many different communities really came together to show their appreciation.”

central-floridas-orange-county-office-celebrates-its-first-birthdayCentral Florida's Orange County Office Celebrates its First BirthdayCentral Florida
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

April 30, 2016 ​marked the one-year anniversary of Central Florida’s grand opening of its Orange County office. In its first year alone, the office has served more than 500 children and families in the Orlando community, including:

  • 288 parents through 28 Common Sense Parenting classes,
  • 167 youth through In-Home Family Services
  • 48 new families in its Behavioral Health Clinic

“For years we have served children and families from Orange County, but until last year we could never truly say we are part of their community,” said Greg Zbylut, Central Florida Executive Director. “This new office location will continue to provide preventative services to strengthen families and minimize abuse and neglect. We are proud to say we have a foothold in West Orlando.”

In recognition of the work Boys Town does within Central Florida, the City of Orlando and Orange County have proclaimed April 30, 2015 as Boys Town Central Florida Day. Congratulations to the Central Florida staff on an outstanding first year in the Orange County office!

30000-granted-by-disney-to-boys-town-central-florida$30,000 GRANTed by Disney to Boys Town Central Florida Central Florida
Monday, Apr 4, 2016

Boys ​Town Central Florida is excited to announce that it has been chosen once again as a recipient of the Disney Grant. This year’s grants totaling $5.6 million were given to 120 nonprofits throughout Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties, with the specific focus area of strengthening children, families, and communities.

Executive Director Greg Zbylut and Board Chairman Keith Britton were honored to attend the awards breakfast this year and receive the coveted “Mousecar” statue.

“The Disney grant is an excellent example of collaborating to make a difference for the children and families of Central Florida. Our partners are crucial to our mission,” said Zbylut.

“I am excited that we are receiving this grant for a second time,” said Terry Knox, Boys Town Central Florida Development Director. “Disney believes in our mission and the work we do with children and families.”

Boys Town Central Florida will use this generous grant to help fund the In-Home Family Services®program in Seminole and Orange counties, providing trained family consultants to help parents improve their parenting skills and find positive solutions to common family problems.

Boys Town wishes to extend a big “Thank You” to Disney for this grant in recognition of the work we do for children and families in Central Florida.

record-breaking-year-for-candy-cane-5kRecord-Breaking Year for Candy Cane 5KCentral Florida
Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016

Records are​ made to be broken. With 515 runners, Boys Town Central Florida’s Candy Cane 5K was the most successful one to date.

Holiday cheer filled the air on December 12 while costumed runners gathered by the starting line. Decked out in their holiday best, the runners enjoyed warm-up stretches led by Orlando Health and were cheered on by “Kingston” the Orlando City Mascot.

“Twenty-fifteen was the most successful race thus far,” said Jackie Nitti, Community Engagement Coordinator. “It was a beautiful morning, and we had over 30 sponsors participate and show their support.”

Kids enjoyed a free “kids zone” complete with crafts, face painting, balloon animals and snow! Special appearances were made by Elsa, Snow White, Bat Girl, Batman, Spiderman, and Superman. A holiday 5K wouldn’t be complete, however, if Santa wasn’t waiting at the finish line!

Boys Town Central Florida was able to raise more than $10,000 to help with their continuum of services. A big thank you to all of the sponsors and participants who made this year’s Candy Cane 5K such a huge success!

boys-town-central-florida-receives-60000-grantBoys Town Central Florida Receives $60,000 GrantCentral Florida
Wednesday, Sep 30, 2015

Boys Town Central Florida was recently awarded $60,000 through the Orlando Sentinel Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund. The grant will help Boys Town Central Florida advance the work of its Intervention and Assessment Program, Family Home Program and In-Home Family Services Program.

“Boys Town Central Florida is very grateful for the strong partnership with the Sentinel Family Fund,” said Terry Knox, Boys Town Central Florida Development Director. “Their support has helped us reach more youth and families in Central Florida.” Boys Town Central Florida has been able to serve nearly 2,000 at-risk youth and families each year with the support from the Sentinel Family Fund.

“Without support from community organizations like SFF, Boys Town would not be able to do the life-changing work that has helped so many become successful citizens,” said Knox.

central-florida-youth-find-a-unique-way-to-give-backCentral Florida Youth Find a Unique Way to Give BackCentral Florida
Friday, Jul 24, 2015

For Boys Town Central ​Florida Family-Teachers Gregory and Shannon Showalter, finding an activity that their entire household would enjoy was a challenge.

“In our house, we have a very diverse group of young gentleman,” said Gregory. “We tried many projects and discovered that they all liked walking the many trails that Florida has to offer.”

After noticing many bikers on the trail, the family began to discuss ways they could earn money to purchase their own trail bikes. This was during the holiday season, and rather than spend their allowance money on something they wanted, like new bikes, the boys decided to donate their money to “Christmas Bikes for Kids”, a local non-profit that Boys Town Central Florida partners with. The Christmas Bike Program is an organization that has provided over 4,000 bikes to underprivileged children in Central Florida over the past 14 years.

The boys’ generosity didn’t go unnoticed, however, when they awoke Christmas morning to find five brand new mountain bikes in front of the Christmas tree. “Christmas Bikes for Kids” had in-turn donated bikes to the youth.  

“One of our youth commented that he had never had his own bike before,” said Gregory. “He didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.”

Helmets on, the crew started out on their first bike ride. While the ride was fun, the youth couldn’t help but notice all of the trash left along the trail. One youth thought it would be a good idea to volunteer to clean the trail and since the group had been searching for a community service project.

“After researching, we found that we could adopt this trail and clean it every Sunday,” said Gregory.

And that’s exactly what they did. Adopting the trail perfectly combined the boys’ love of the trail with their community service obligation. Now, every Sunday, the Boys Town Central Florida youth in the Showalter home walk the trail, picking up trash and keeping it clean for the other trail walkers and bikers.

boys-town-continues-expanding-into-communitiesBoys Town Continues Expanding Into CommunitiesCentral Florida
Monday, Jun 8, 2015

Keeping in line with Boys ​Town’s Strategic Plan to focus on communities and community engagement, Boys Town Central Florida has expanded and opened an office in Orange County at 2813 S. Hiawassee Rd., Ste. 204, Orlando, FL.

Each year, Boys Town Central Florida serves hundreds of children and families in the Orange County area. The new office will allow the site to serve more than 1,000 children and families in the area within the year, as well as open the door to new community partnerships.

“The new office will allow Boys Town Central Florida to provide support to area children and families through parenting classes, behavioral health services, and trained family consultants. All of these services will be available right in their own backyard,” said Greg Zbylut, Executive Director of Boys Town Central Florida.

To better serve more children and families in such a high-need area, Boys Town Central Florida has partnered with other community organizations, such as:

• Community-based Care of Central Florida

• Ounce of Prevention Fund

• O’Neill Foundation

 

 

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