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food-football-and-fun-boys-town-teacher-tony-jones-hosts-regular-tailgates-for-hundredsFood, Football and Fun: Boys Town Teacher Tony Jones Hosts Regular Tailgates for Hundreds Nebraska
Joey Butler, left, and Tony Jones grill burgers to serve to students and fans before the game. MEGAN FARMER/THE WORLD-HERALD
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016

​​​​This article is written by Jon Nyatawa, World-Herald staff writer. It was posted on Omaha.com on November 25, 2016.

Tony Jones stood behind the grill and peered out at a green space that would soon be full of familiar faces bustling about as they filled their plates before a Boys Town playoff football game.

There were bins packed with burgers and brats. A table loaded with cookies. A tub of ice-chilled bottles of water. And plenty of Boys Town staffers ready to serve and direct traffic.

"Um-hum. All right," Jones said as he nodded his head on a gorgeous late-October Friday. "We're ahead of the game." He checked over the scene once more. "Yeah, we're ahead of the game."

Jones has confidently claimed this before. Almost every week, actually. His buddy and right-hand man, Joey Butler, confirms this.

But the moment they start relaxing, then suddenly the line is backing up and the picnic tables are filling up. Somewhere between 200 and 300 people tend to show up — Boys Town students, teachers and their families, graduates, friends, police officers, opposing fans, and essentially anyone else whose nose could recognize that classic barbecue aroma.

But Jones won't ever complain. This tailgate idea was something he and some colleagues came up with a couple of decades ago.

They're Boys Town Family-Teachers — living on-site with their own families while they provide a stable home environment for six to eight students per family. They're always looking for ways to create new experiences for the kids, who may not have been consistently exposed to a community setting before stepping foot on the Boys Town campus.

What's better than food, football and fun?

"It gives us the opportunity to meet and greet, an opportunity to get together, meet new people and have a good time," Jones said.

This has been the routine for every Boys Town home game Butler can remember for 20 years. Rain or shine. Pleasant or frigid.

Jones and Butler started setting up the grill around 2 p.m. on this particular afternoon, a little bit earlier than usual. They were mostly done cooking by the time folks started arriving three hours later. Even then, they were always on the ready, quick to offer a bottle of water to a thirsty kid while they closely monitored their stash of meat.

Meanwhile, the place was coming alive.

Music emanating from the football field's PA system echoed off the nearby buildings. The hip-hop beat at one point inspired a couple of girls to start a quick dance-off. A half-dozen footballs were punted and tossed about. A couple of kids dribbled a soccer ball through traffic. The basketball court hosted a shooting contest, a dribbling battle, a two-on-two bout, and then a four-on-four game. Some families sat picnic-style underneath trees. Others simply crowded onto a picnic table and started sharing stories.

"We've got kids and families from all walks of life here," said Jeff Peterson, Boys Town home campus director. "It's a tremendous organization to work for. We try to make events out of everything. We believe that's part of the healing (nature) of this place."

They've grilled out for a couple of volleyball games this fall. Dinner on Thanksgiving Day will be a momentous gathering in all of the Boys Town households. Christmas is just as big.

Jones is glad this tailgate is part of that.

He remembers it starting as a backyard party, right next to the football field. About six Weber grills were lined up side by side, with kids and parents bringing their own items to be cooked. But it's grown every year since.

And on Oct. 28, a picture-perfect evening before a Class C-1 playoff game between Boys Town and Fairbury, Jones was having a blast. He was stationed behind his grill, cherishing every moment.

"That's why I'm standing here, right by the grill, because you can see everything," he said. "And I ​like to see all the smiles on the kids' faces. This is fun."​

new-era-of-behavioral-health-research-at-boys-town-national-research-hospitalNew Era of Behavioral Health Research at Boys Town National Research HospitalNebraska
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016

​​This article was posted on wowt.com​ on November 22, 2016.

As Boys Town prepares to celebrate 100 years of service to children and our community, state of the art technology will help researchers better understand troubled young people.

A new era of childhood behavioral health is underway at Boys Town National Research Hospital. This impressive machine is part of the effort. Using magnetic resonance imaging a research team led by Dr. James Blair is looking for unusual activity in the brains of troubled children.

"Understanding what brain systems are necessary for performing particular functions and if those brain systems aren't working so well what types of behavioral problems we might see in the child and therefore understand some of the reasons for those behavioral problems and then potentially augment interventions to help those children better in the future," said James Blair Ph.D.

Subjects play video games while the machine tracks activity in the brain.

"These computer games are organized around making specific brain circuits work and so we can then see those brain circuits on the machine behind us and see the extent to which those systems are working well," Blair explained.

He's excited about what the team is seeing so far and what their work will do.

"Change the way that America cares for kids change the way that we adapt the interventions we have based around this increased knowledge of the strengths and difficulties that children have at the level of the brain," Blair said.

Blair doesn't expect this work will benefit every child who comes to Boys Town National Research Hospital but he thinks it will help some and that's an important step.

"About 20 percent of children who come to Boys Town who don't do as well as we would like to believe they ​should really help that 20 percent do even better in the future," he said.

Blair expects to see some of this research start to impact treatment as early as next year. ​

boys-town-receives-15000-grant-from-first-national-bank-of-omahaBoys Town Receives $15,000 Grant from First National Bank of OmahaNebraska
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016

​​​​​​​​​​​Boys Town Among 51 Organizations to be Awarded Community Development Grant

November 30, 2016

Boys Town has ​been awarded a $15,000 grant from First National Bank of Omaha, which also operates as First National Bank Fremont and First National Bank North Platte. The grant will be used to fund the Ways to Work Program that operates out of the North Omaha Boys Town office.

"We are so grateful for this grant from First National Bank of Omaha," said Virginia Ayers, Boys Town Ways to Work Program Coordinator. "A reliable automobile makes a huge difference in the lives of these families."

In total, First National Bank of Omaha has awarded more than $1.1 million in community development grants to 51 organizations in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas. The grants, which support Affordable Housing, Educated Workforce and Economic Development programs, mark the bank's final disbursement of grant funding for the year. First National Bank awarded a total of $1,840,000 in community development grants in 2016 to organizations across its seven-state service area. 

The Boys Town Ways to Work program provides small, short-term, low-interest loans to low-income families on a yearly basis as well as financial education, one-on-one credit and financial coaching and case management throughout the life of the loan. The loans will finance the purchase of an automobile to be used primarily for transportation to work, school, and childcare facilities and will enable individuals with challenging credit histories to remain in or move forward in their jobs and become banked by traditional financial institutions.

To view First National Bank's 2015 "First in the Community Impact Report" and learn more about the full extent of its community contributions, please visit: https://www.firstnational.com/site/about-us/in-the-community/index.fhtml

About Boys Town

For 100 years, Boys Town has been a beacon of hope for America's children and families through its life-changing youth care and health care programs. In 2015, almost 500,000 children and families across the United States were impacted by Boys Town programs. This includes those who received services from Boys Town's residential programs as well as those served by the many varied programs that comprise the Boys Town Integrated Continuum of Child and Family Services, including In-Home Family Services, health care services provided by Boys Town National Research Hospital and the Boys Town National Hotline. You can find more information about Boys Town online at www.Boystown.org.

About First National Bank of Omaha

First National Bank of Omaha is a subsidiary ​of First National of Nebraska. First National of Nebraska is the largest privately owned ​banking company in the United States.  First National of Nebraska and its affiliates have ​​​​more tha​n ​$21 ​billion in assets and 5,000 employee associates. Primary banking offices are located in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, ​Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.

###

Media Contacts:

Lauren Laferla
Lauren.Laferla@Boystown.org
w: 402.498.1273 m: 402.980.4403

Kara Neuverth
Kara.Neuverth@Boystown.org
402.498.1305

boys-town-alumna-returnsBoys Town Alumna ReturnsNebraska
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016

​​​This article was posted on wowt.com on November 29, 2016.

A former student, whose life was saved by Boys Town, returned to help run the school and share the positive effects she felt.

Jennifer Lawrence was one of the many students that attended Boys Town High School. She was 15 when she enrolled but it wasn't just an education she received.

"Honestly that's not something I like to think about but I think if I hadn't come here I probably would have ended up killing myself" said Lawrence.

Lawrence says she was in a dark place when she arrived. Her home life was a mess. She felt lost and angry. After High School Lawrence spent 10 years in the Navy but she found herself wanting to return to Omaha and to Boys Town. Lawrence said Boys Town taught her some of the most important lessons of her life.

"Boys Town made the biggest difference they showed me how I could love myself and accept my flaws and move forward those things that happened in the past aren't, they don't have to be there forever," she said. "I feel like I'm back home here because this is my home." ​

jacobs-story-helping-parents-steer-teens-away-from-suicideJacob's Story | Helping Parents Steer Teens Away from SuicideNebraska
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016

​​​This story was posted on wowt.com on November 29, 2016.

Depressed, sad and lonely, Jacob handed his mother a letter in 8th grade telling her that he wanted to kill himself.

"I hated going to school, hated being at home, just hated everything," said Jacob. "I dealt with bullying a lot. Most of the time, the bullying was verbal. They'd just call me names or make up stories about me that weren't true just to make everyone laugh at me."

After several years of sending her son to counselors and psychiatrists, Jacob's mother found hope for Jacob at Boys Town. Almost immediately there was a no ticeable change in his demeanor. He was engaged and confident for the first time in years.

"If Jacob hadn't gone to Boys Town, I don't think he would have graduated high school," his mother said. "And if he hadn't gone to Boys Town, I don't think he would be going to college to be a teacher. All of that happened because of Boys Town, so I'm very thankful."​

hotline-wine-event-raises-over-45000Hotline Wine Event Raises Over $45,000Nebraska
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016

​​​Southwest Omaha Rotary Night Club recently held their 8th annual Fine Wine and Hors d'oeuvres tasting and silent auction to benefit Boys Town National Hotline on Thursday October 20, 2016. Held at A View on State, over $45,000 was raised through the generous donations of over 50 corporate sponsors including CenturyLink and through the generosity of  the more than 500 guests who participated in the event and silent auction.

Top auction items ranged from a University of Nebraska Husker Football Ticket package for four, to a three night stay in any Hyatt Hotel including airfare, concert tickets to Eric Church, a variety of signed sports memorabilia, family passes to a variety of different attractions and museums and many other gift cards to popular restaurants, baskets containing a variety of prizes and many more spectacular items.

Special volunteer, Aleah Peters, Miss Nebraska 2016, assisted with the event. Her platform on cyber bullying awareness aligns with the mission and goals of the services provided by the Boys Town National Hotline, including its Your Life, Your Voice website.

The amount raised will be used to help fund the cost of the texting and online chat services available through the Boys Town National Hotline. In addition, materials such as pencils, water bottles, posters and wallet cards containing the Hotline's contact information will be purchased and distributed to thousands of students within the Omaha community to provide those at risk with the necessary services to potentially save their lives.

"Thanks to our donors, we have been able to expand the hours of operation for our texting services," said Ginny Gohr, Director of the Boys Town National Hotline. "Since the inception of the service in 2014, the Hotline has handled over 500,000 messages."

The Boys Town National Hotline is a free service open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and is staffed with professionally trained Boys Town counselors. Counselors can be reached by telephone, email, chat or text message. In 2015 alone, the Hotline answered over 146,000 calls and over 37,000 emails, chats and texts. The majority of callers that reach out and use these services are struggling with mental health related issues, suicidal thoughts or relationship problems.

Thank you to all the generous donors and sponsors for making this year's Hotline Wine Fundraiser a success!​

state-farm-cheers-on-cowboys-donates-to-drivers-ed-programState Farm Cheers on Cowboys; Donates to Driver's Ed ProgramNebraska
Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

​​From Left to ​Right: Paul Blomenkamp, Boys Town Associate Principal and Athletic Director; Rudy Partid, State Farm Employee; sons of Rudy Partid; Jeff Peterson, Senior Director, Boys Town Nebraska/Iowa Campus Operations; and Bob Reznicek, Boys Town Superintendent.

​The Boys Town Cowboys played their annual homecoming game against Concordia on Friday, October 7, 2016. The two teams battled it out while a large crowd cheered the Cowboys to a 21 to 14 victory.

​While the Cowboys' performance kept the crowd engaged, an even bigger highlight came during halftime. Rudy Partid, a State Farm employee, who was accompanied by his two sons and wife, presented Boys Town with a State Farm donation check totaling $20,000 in support of Boys Town's Drivers Education program.

"We are very grateful for this grant from State Farm. Learning to drive safely is an important life skill for Boys Town students and all high school students," said Father Steven Boes, Boys Town President and National Executive Director.

The Drivers Education program at Boys Town is taught by Cornhusker Driving School and focuses not only on the rules of the road and how to drive, but also on safety. Approximately 50-75 Boys Town juniors and seniors take driver's education every year. Of the students that completed the course, 100 percent obtained certificates of successful completion.

"State Farm is honored to be affiliated with safety efforts and quality organizations like Boys Town," said Kelly Pargett, State Farm Public Affairs Specialist. "Automobile crashes continue to be the No. 1 killer of teenagers, and it's our hope that programs like this will help lower the number of accidents on our roadways." 

State Farm has been a supporter of Boys Town's Drivers Education program since 2015. This partnership has helped fund the program and provided many youth with the opportunity to obtain their driver's license. Thanks again to State Farm for their generous donation and for helping Boys Town youth learn how to drive and remain safe while on the road.​

Boys-Town-Reaches-Omaha-Youth-Through-Speaker-SeriesBoys Town Reaches Omaha Youth Through Speaker SeriesNebraska
Sunday, Nov 13, 2016

​​On September 28, Boys Town employees spent a couple of hours talking to youth in the North Omaha community about healthy friendships at a "Friend Me" workshop.

Held at Mt. Calvary Church near the Boys Town North Omaha office, Alesia Montgomery, Boys Town Senior National Training Consultant and Laura Buddenberg, Director, Boys Town Pastoral Affairs, spent the evening discussing topics found in the book they co-authored titled Friend Me! 10 Awesome Tips to Fun and Friendship.

"The goal was to have youth walk away with a ​better understanding of how good friendships are created and to learn what social skills are necessary to maintain those friendships," said Alesia Montgomery.

"We were looking into things we can offer in the community," said Laura Buddenberg. "The beginning of the school year was a good time to have this workshop because kids and parents are interested in making and maintaining good friendships."

During the workshop, Buddenberg and Montgomery touched on friendship skills, such as getting along with others, being sensitive to others' feelings, being honest with your friend, knowing if you can trust somebody, and many more.

The workshop was a first for the Boys Town office in North Omaha, but both Montgomery and Buddenberg said there will be more to come. Both women are working with Nick Juliano, Senior Director of Community Impact for Boys Town, and North Omaha office employees to plan more workshops and events.

"We want to work with the North Omaha community to host more of these for parents and kids alike," added Montgomery.

In fact, Montgomery said they had a lot of help from the community to get the first speaker series event off the ground. A donation from SAC Federal Credit Union provided food and beverages for attendees and Mt. Calvary Church graciously served as the meeting spot.

"This was a great way to collaborate with other people in the community, and it took the entire community to make this event a success," she said.

Both parents and kids were happy to learn more about Boys Town and to learn more about creating healthy friendships. Each youth that attended the event received a signed copy of Buddenberg and Montgomery's book.

"The Sunday after we had the event, I had one mom come up to me and tell me how much her daughters really enjoyed the workshop," said Montgomery.

In addition to working with kids, Donna Stewart, Staff Psychologist, Boys Town East Behavioral Health Clinic, was on-hand to pass out brochures and talk with both parents and youth about the other programs and services Boys Town has to offer.

The next workshop will be for parents with a focus on mental health and will be held by Donna Stewart. ​

Many-Incredible-Children-Need-HomesMany 'Incredible Children' Need HomesNebraska
Friday, Nov 11, 2016

​​​This blog post is written by Matt Priest of Boys Town Foster Family Services. It was published on Omaha.com November 3, 2016.

The hustle of the holidays was full speed ahead. It was December 23, and I was ​working at a child welfare agency in Omaha. I was meeting with three children at a shelter who needed a foster care placement.

Entering children's shelters always brought mixed emotions for me. While it was great to interact with the children, the reality of their situation leading to a shelter stay was always at the forefront of my mind. And with it being two days before Christmas, I was determined more than ever to move these children to a safe, stable foster home.

As I checked in with staff at the facility, a young child crawled over to me and pulled on the bottom of my coat. David was temporarily staying there with his older sisters.

The children successfully transitioned to a foster home and blossomed. The foster parents worked to stabilize the children in their home while supporting the court's efforts to identify a permanent living arrangement. This typically means returning to a parent's home.

Days led to months. Months led to years. David and his sisters learned social skills, were involved in activities and improved in the classroom. And while the children flourished, their mom continued to struggle and the likelihood of these children returning home grew smaller.

Two years later, the court decided David and his sisters should be placed for adoption. The foster family had fallen in love with these children and wanted to adopt them. Paperwork was finalized and a date was set.

The children would get the same permanency other children their ages had. A chance to be kids. A chance to be "normal". As we finalized the paperwork and headed to court, the foster mom pulled me aside.

"Did you hear we decided on a new middle name for David? His middle name will be Matthew, after the worker who brought him into our lives. You ... He's named after you."

We shared a hug and wiped a few tears and proceeded into the courtroom to make the adoption official.

We work with a range of foster parents at Boys Town. Some desire to work with one child, others prefer siblings. Some have expertise with medical issues. Others are bi-lingual. And while many prefer fostering, some have the ability support a lifetime commitment to a child.

Regardless of your situation, we will guide you along the way and offer endless support. You are never alone in the process or the experience.

November is National Adoption Month. It is a time we recognize and educate others of the incredible children in the system needing an adoptive home. You don't need to be a perfect family to be a perfect place for a child. A number of children have a special holiday wish, to find a family they can call their own. You can get more information about becoming a foster parent here

* * * * *

Matt Priest is married and has two children. He has worked in several capacities at Boys Town and currently is the director of Boys Town Foster Family Services. For the past 16 years, Matt has worked in foster care and adoption in the Omaha area.​

Father-Flanagan-the-man-from-Boys-TownFather Flanagan, the man from Boys TownNebraska
Tuesday, Nov 8, 2016

​​This article is written by Walt Sehnert. It was published on mccookgazette.com on October 31, 2016.

Each year, when I get my reminder for my contribution to Boys Town, I am reminded of that time, so long ago, when Hollywood came to Nebraska. In the summer of 1938, during the Great Depression, and a very hot dry growing season, the entire state of Nebraska was in a tizzie. MGM was shooting a major movie on location in Omaha. (At that time shooting a movie on location, away from Hollywood, was something of a rarity.) The movie, Boys Town, starred Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney, two of the brightest stars in Hollywood, and it seemed that the entire state embraced the project. Each day the World- Herald had multiple stories about the movie and its stars. Curious fans climbed trees and trampled flower beds in order to see what the film crew was shooting that day at the Boys Town campus, several miles west of Omaha on Highway #275. The film crew and its stars stayed at the Fontenelle Hotel, at the time the premier hostelry in downtown Omaha, and folks lined the street to see Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy come and go. It was all a huge event and Nebraskans wanted to be a part of it.

Father Flanagan, whose dream is portrayed in the film, came from ​Ireland. His first parish was in O'Neill, Nebraska, before coming to Omaha to be the assistant pastor at St. Patrick's Church. Flanagan had a dream of establishing a home for homeless boys. In 1917, in spite of misgivings from his Bishop, he started the first home in somewhat dilapidated quarters in downtown Omaha. Those facilities were always inadequate, and by 1921 the movement had gained enough that they were able to begin to build a facility on a farm some 10 miles west of the city. Boys Town gradually grew to be quite a large community, with its own Boy Mayor, schools, chapel, post office, gymnasium and other facilities, where boys between the ages of 10 and 16 would be safe and could get an education, raise a good bit of their own food, and learn a trade. Father Flanagan did not believe in the reform school model for troubled youth, which was very much the norm in the 1920s, and was steadfast in his belief, "There is no such thing as a bad boy."

Several years ago, Ray Search, McCook historian and the longtime manager of both the Fox and Temple Theaters, recalled the first time that he met the kindly priest and some of the residents of Boys Town.

Sometime during the 20's a Catholic priest from Omaha, Father Flanagan, made contact with Joe Tuller, who at the time was the manager of the Temple Theater. He was bringing a choir of boys to McCook and requested that the Temple Theater provide a stage for them to perform on a Sunday afternoon. Mr. Tuller was receptive to the idea but chose not to get involved himself. Instead, he turned over the entire project to his assistant, Ray.

Early on the morning of the concert, Father Flanagan came to the theater to work out the details of setting up the stage for the concert. Afterward, while they waited for the boys to arrive to rehearse, Father Flanagan and Ray visited in the office. Father Flanagan shared some of his hopes and dreams for a Home for Boys. He did not think small. His idea was to provide a home for boys who were orphaned, or from dysfunctional homes. He would bring boys from all over the country, to a place where they would be safe, and loved. They would have an opportunity to get an education and learn a trade. He could envision the time when there would be many boys, and that place of refuge would have its own school and church, and the boys would learn about government, and responsibility, and what it takes to become a good citizen. The boys would learn by doing things for themselves.

At the moment, he admitted, things were not going too well, and the boys were living in a large old house near downtown Omaha. Money was always scarce, and now they were on a tour of the state, providing choral concerts and passing the hat, to raise enough money to keep the venture afloat. He was sure that his idea was sound. With God's help they would succeed.

Father Flanagan was a very congenial man. Ray liked him immediately. His determination was apparent. Ray was sure that he would be successful in his dream.

Finally, the boys, ranging in age from not more than seven or so to high school age, and their choir leader arrived for the rehearsal. From the moment they arrived, Ray began to have doubts about the success of any venture involving "these" boys. It was like releasing a sack full of gerbils into the theater. They scattered in all directions, to the restrooms, to the balconies, to the stage, whooping and hollering. It was bedlam. The poor choir director and Father Flanagan and some of the older boys did their best to get the boys together on the stage to run through their numbers. It was not an easy task. But at last, they seemed to be getting them in place, when from high above they heard a terrifying scream.

One of the smaller boys had scaled a ladder on stage, which led to the electrical platform, filled with dangerous open switches. It certainly was no place for a small boy. But from that platform, the boy had gone up another ladder leading to some of the stage scenery. And from there he had climbed yet another ladder leading to a catwalk some 55 feet above the theater stage. At that point, he must have looked down and panicked. He was clutching the protective railing of the catwalk, frozen with fear, alternately screaming and sobbing. Suddenly, all the shouting and roughhousing ceased. The theater was absolutely quiet, the only sounds coming from the boy, whimpering high overhead.

Since Ray was the one who was in charge of the theater, he started the climb to the catwalk, proceeding cautiously, all the time calling softly to the boy to sit where he was and hang on. Everything would be all right.

Ray had to force the boy's hands from the railing, then instructed him to wrap his arms around Ray's neck, and in this manner, the two made their way down from the catwalk, down the ladder to the electrical platform, and finally to the stage. Once the pair reached the floor safely, Father Flanagan rushed the little boy into his arms and held him tight, for long moments, both of them sobbing with relief, while the rest of the choir cheered.

The concert was a huge success. The boys sang beautifully, and the McCook audience was very appreciative of their efforts. Father Flanagan was pleased that the concert had raised over $250 for their new home, which would become the site of the present Boys Town.

Several times over the years after that event Father Flanagan had occasion to be in McCook, either working with the local Catholic Church or on the way to a speaking engagement on behalf of the Boys Town project. He always made it a point to look up Ray for a little visit. In later years, when the screams had faded a bit from their minds, the two finally came to the point where they could laugh over the rescue of the little boy from the Temple Theater catwalk. But that trip to McCook was something neither of the two ever forgot.

Source: from "Ray Search Remembers McCook", by Walt Sehnert​

Boys-Town-forward-Teddy-Allen-commits-to-West-VirginiaBoys Town forward Teddy Allen commits to West VirginiaNebraska
Thursday, Oct 20, 2016

​​This article is written by Stu Pospisil, World-Herald staff writer. It was posted October 18, 2016 on omah​a.com​

Teddy Allen went to West Virginia this past weekend looking for a natural fit and says he found it with coach Bob Huggins' Mountaineers.

"It was hard to find something I didn't like,'' the Boys Town senior said Monday. "The school, the guys, the coach. The guys would do anything for Coach.

"It was a situation where there was love all around and it was like a real family, which is when I play my best."

Allen, who came to Boys Town from the Phoenix area, chose the offer from last season's Big 12 tournament runner-up (26-9 overall) over those from the rest of his final five — UNO, DePaul, Cincinnati and Iowa State.

The 6-foot-5 wing took official visits only to DePaul and West Virginia.

"It's obviously going to be a challenge. It's one of the best programs, but it's a challenge I'm ready for and to embrace,'' Allen said. "As a player, I always want to be challenged, and West Virginia is second to not very many. It's a great opportunity and one I couldn't pass up."

Allen enrolled a year ago at Boys Town and became eligible for the second semester, immediately becoming one of the state's top prospects. He made the All-Nebraska second team and Class C-1 first team after averaging 26.6 points and 12.3 rebounds.

He became a highly sought prospect during the summer AAU season.

Could he have envisioned a year ago being in the fold of a power team in a power conference?

"Man, I thought I'd be somewhere but not playing for a future Hall of Famer,'' Allen said. "I believed I knew where I was headed. I didn't know the pathway, but I'm happier than ever it's West Virginia."

Allen said while he wanted to see certain things during a college visit, "I was hoping that it was more natural, that things would stand out in my heart and my mother's heart."

He said he worked out with the Mountaineers in a couple conditioning sessions, went to the movies and went to Huggins' house.

"I felt I knew these guys for years," Allen said.

Younger brother Timmy, who lives in Mesa, Arizona, also is a highly touted prospect in the junior class. His offers include Arizona State, USC, San Diego State, UCLA, Tulane, Fresno State, New Mexico State, Nebraska, Creighton and DePaul.

West Virginia isn't on that list. Yet.

"I'm going to try hard to make it happen,'' Teddy said. "He's good enough, and it would be cool to play with him one day."

Allen said he decided to pledge once he knew the Mountaineers were for him.

"The schools recruiting are people, too. It was a consideration thing,'' he said. "I wanted to end this as soon as possible and be respectful of the other schools. DePaul and UNO were great to me."​

YMCA-CFO-sees-life-change-after-stay-at-Boys-TownYMCA CFO sees life change after stay at Boys TownNebraska
Wednesday, Oct 19, 2016

​​​This story is written by Zach Spadt of the Star Herald. It was posted on October 18, 2016 at starherald.com.

Gerald Berry, the chief financial officer at YMCA of Scottsbluff, enjoys his job and it's not hard to understand why. He said he views being able to give back to the community and make a difference in the lives of youths and their families as a privilege.

"When I see kids, I ask how to get them in the YMCA and keep them active and their minds invigorated," Berry said.

Circumstances could have been much different for Berry, however. And that's where Boys Town, a non-profit that works to get troubled youths' lives back in order,' steps in. In 1991, Berry joined the program at the age of 14 after getting in trouble.

"I was running with the wrong crowd. There was peer pressure and bullying," Berry said.

Berry was caught stealing the hood ornament from a sports car as a youth. While Berry was involved with the legal system, a counselor recommended Boys Town to him.

When he arrived at Boys Town in Omaha late at night, Berry had a mane of hair. That quickly changed.

"They said, 'First thing tomorrow, you're getting a haircut,'" Berry recalled. "It's been short ever since."

Berry's parents split up when he was young, which led to him having little structure as a youth.

"I was playing both sides and bouncing around," Berry said.

But structure was what he got when he began living in a group home at Boys Town. Days started at 6 a.m. with chores, then it was off to school at 8 a.m.

On living in a home with eight other residents, Berry said, "You're brothers."

While at Boys Town, Berry was a star athlete, serving as the lightest lineman on his football team at 6' 3", 190 pounds, and he would go on to win the Lineman of the Year Award.

Berry's work ethic also got an early start at Boys Town. Being a farm kid from Scottsbluff, he found work on a dairy farm working for $1.10 per hour vaccinating, milking and feeding cows.

But Berry's work didn't stop there. Every Sunday he and his fellow Boys Town residents would participate in Honey Sunday where they would go door-to-door and sell honey. They also volunteered their time to help with community service projects. That's where he learned to contribute and give back to the community.

Every day when he goes to work at the YMCA, Berry still carries with him the skills and values he picked up at Boys Town. He will always remember the sense of family.

"I'm definitely happy for the opportunity to be in a place where it didn't matter why (people were there.) You are part of a bigger family," Berry said.

As a high school senior at Boys Town, Berry lost his mother and father within two weeks of each other. Boys Town offered him the option to leave and graduate early after the tragedy.

But Berry turned the offer down. He had family at Boys Town.

"I told them, no. I want to stay with my brothers and sisters," Berry said.

After graduating from Boys Town, Berry attended classes at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, but, at the time, school wasn't for him. He worked a number of odd jobs in the panhandle before attending classes at Western Nebraska Community College. He would eventually go on to earn a bachelor's degree in accounting.

Berry felt obligated to give back to his community.

"Some people are able to give back with possessions, some with money," Berry said. "I wanted to give back with my actions."

Today, Berry sees himself in the youth who walk through the doors at the YMCA. He also remembers the dedication of his instructors and mentors at Boys Town.

YMCA Executive Director Dean Behling said Berry is passionate about giving back to his community through the YMCA. He agreed that Berry sees himself in the youth who visit the YMCA.

"He came across as very sincere. I gave him a shot," Behling said of hiring Berry. "He's a very caring guy. He's not afraid to talk about the Y."

Whenever a young person who can't afford a YMCA membership walks through the doors, Berry finds a ​way to get him or her a scholarship. It keeps them engaged. It gives them something to do. It keeps them from making poor decisions.

It keeps them out of trouble.

"At Boys Town, there were a lot of years that you just want to keep going in life," Berry said. "I don't want to stop that momentum."​​

Boys-Town-Helps-Celebrate-National-Hispanic-Heritage-MonthBoys Town Helps Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage MonthNebraska
Friday, Oct 14, 2016

​​National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 – October 15. During this month, the nation comes together to "recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate their heritage and culture." To help kick-off the month, Boys Town Nebraska's South Omaha office participated in the annual "El Grito de Independencia" celebration on Saturday, September 17, 2016. El Grito is the Mexican Independence Day, which takes place each year on September 16.

"It is important for Boys Town to have a presence in the community," said Regina Costello, Manager, South Omaha Programs. "El Grito is an important celebration in the South Omaha community and we were able to reach out to so many people about our programs."

Hosted by the Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, this annual event draws more than 22,000 people each year. ​More than 30 Boys Town employees showed their pride in the mission by participating in the parade and working the information booth.

The information booth in particular served as a great outlet to educate community members about the programs and services offered at Boys Town's South Omaha office. Through participation in this celebration, Boys Town is able to form networks and further develop support for families.   

"I would say the majority of the people know Boys Town but still learning what we do," added Costello. ​

Kinzle-Family-Home-Inspired-by-The-USA-Olympic-Swim-TrialsKinzle Family Home Inspired by The USA Olympic Swim TrialsNebraska
Thursday, Oct 13, 2016

​​​​Every year, thousands of people travel to Omaha, Nebraska from across the country to attend the USA Olympic Swim Trials. Tickets can be pricey so many families opt to instead watch swimmers battle for a spot on the USA Olympic Swim Team on TV from the comfort of their homes. For Family-Teachers Tyson and Stacey Kinzle and the children in their care, being able to attend their first Olympic event was an inspiring experience to say the least.

Tickets to the July 3, 2016, closing ceremony of the USA Olympic Swim Trials were graciously donated to the Kinzle family home by Kristi Andersen at MECA. Tyson and Stacey, along with five girls in their home, Kaleigh, Ashley, Saniah, Stella and Evelyn got to experience the Swim Trials first hand and watch the Olympians making history before their eyes. "It was awesome!" they all agreed in unison.

Ashley described the spectacular water cannons that shot out fire and the confetti cannons that filled the air with red, white and blue confetti as the newly named Olympians received their spots on the USA Olympic Swim Team. The ropes were later removed from the pool and synchronized swimmers performed routines for the audience. "The synchronized swimmers were my favorite part," Stella recalls.

Preceding the show, fireworks shot out outside over the parking lot. Shells rained down on the group due to their close distance from where they were being shot off. "It was a really cool experience," said Tyson Kinzle.

Attending the trials was about more than just the water cannons and special effects for Kaleigh, she found motivation. "Being a member of the swim team, I found it inspirational that they've worked so hard to get to that level and maybe if I work hard enough, I can one day be that good too."

Saniah found similar inspiration in the form of the female swimmers. "I loved the women swimmers. Especially the African American women, they are so strong and represent strong women."

The opportunity to attend the USA Olympic Swim Trials meant a lot to the Kinzle home. Stacey reflects that "this was ​very inspirational for the girls." Being in the presence of history being made by Olympians put the swimmers on a "superhero level" according to Ashley.

Boys Town extends a thank you to Kristi Andersen at MECA and encourages the girls to keep chasing their dreams!​

Making-Family-Dinner-More-Than-a-MealMaking Family Dinner More Than a MealNebraska
Thursday, Sep 22, 2016

​​​​This article is written by Jenna Jaynes. It was posted on wowt.com on September 19, 2016.

A new study out shows only 57 percent of families eat dinner together regularly, while 71 percent say they wish they had the time.

According to Boys Town licensed psychologist Amanda McLean, family dinner can be far more than just a meal. It's a time for families to come together and develop some positive interactions.

But with busy schedules, it can be difficult.

She suggests starting by just adding a few meal times a week by ​setting a time and a place to meet. If everyone is eating meals in different rooms, it doesn't help with that togetherness.

Plus, she said there needs to be some expectations, like no electronics or distractions.

By limiting distractions, kids can learn some big life lessons like manners, eating right and contributing to a family.

"I think it's important for kids to know that they're part of the family and have to contribute to the family and so they do this through chores, meeting daily expectations and that can be incorporated in the meal time," McLean said.

She suggests having older kids help with the cooking so they can learn how to prepare a meal. Then have the younger ones help with setting and clearing the table and doing the dishes.

However, McLean stressed the importance of positive interactions. It's easy to scold your child when they don't do the chores, but we often forget to praise them for their work.

McLean said we need at least five positive interactions for every one negative one. The dinner table is a great place for that.

In fact, studies show that children who eat dinner with their families are far less likely to be depressed, consider suicide or have an eating disorder.

They're also far less likely abuse drugs or alcohol. Not to mention, they're more likely to do better in school.

Plus, there's a big health benefit. Eating together means parents can decide the meal, which means kids will eat more fruits and vegetables. They're also more likely to eat the right portion and try new foods.

"Those children have better outcomes in their decision making skills and in terms of their eating habits and in terms of their academic progress as well," McLean said.

And if there's absolutely no time in your schedule for family dinner time, then you need to look elsewhere in your day to have those quality moments.

"If that scheduled time isn't an option because of busy schedules then they can provide that throughout the day with their child," McLean said. "So that comes through praise, showing affection, catching your child being good and just having positive interactions throughout the day."

If you're having concerns with your child, you can contact Boys Town's Behavioral Health Services for help at 402-498-6540.​

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