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south-floridas-25th-annual-basket-brigade-serves-hundredsSouth Florida’s 25th Annual Basket Brigade Serves HundredsSouth Florida
South Florida Basket Brigade
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​​​​​​Thousands of people in need have been provided with holiday meals every Thanksgiving for the past 25 years due to the generosity of many caring volunteers at Boys Town South Florida’s Basket Brigade.

This year, more than 100 volunteers gathered on Saturday, November 19, 2016 at Boys Town South Florida’s campus in preparation for the 25th annual Basket Brigade. More than 20,000 pounds of food was packed into baskets throughout the duration of the event.

The Basket Brigade is an annual food drive held by Boys Town South Florida to support families in need within the community. Every year, thousands of families in Palm Beach and Broward Counties are not able to afford the ingredients needed in order to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Boys Town believes that by helping children and healing families, memories created during the holidays are also created in the kitchen where children and parents come together to prepare the Thanksgiving meal.

This event provides individuals with a basket containing a full holiday meal to enjoy with their family. The contents of the basket include: a large turkey, five pounds of potatoes, dinner rolls for the whole family, two cans of vegetables, a box of stuffing, and one can of cranberry sauce, one box of Jell-O and dessert.

Boys Town South Florida’s annual Basket Brigade is funded by both corporate sponsors and by volunteers who raise money. Volunteers are broken up into teams of 10, but all volunteers raise money individually through donations to add to the fund to purchase food for the families.

Every penny is used to help provide families in need with a Thanksgiving meal. Thanks to the help of the numerous volunteers who spent their Saturday filling baskets for people within their community, Boys Town South Florida was able to serve 310 families, an increase from the 250 families served last year.

Boys Town South Florida extends a thank you to sponsors and volunteers who helped make the 25th annual Basket Brigade a success!

boys-town-a-beacon-of-hope-for-troubled-youthBoys Town: A Beacon of Hope for Troubled YouthSouth 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-south-floridaHoliday Celebrations at Boys Town South FloridaSouth Florida
Gingerbread houses
Thursday, Dec 29, 2016

​​​Holiday season at Boys Town South Florida is filled with a few employee celebrations and a large gift drive. A holiday luncheon is held yearly for all employees. Employees come decked out in ugly Christmas sweaters and fun costumes to get into the holiday spirit. Different activities such as ginger bread house making, music and games are available for staff to participate in and enjoy themselves. The event is centered on employee appreciation and honoring their hard work throughout the year.

The large Hope for the Holidays gift drive is about providing youth in the programs with Christmas presents. Donors are given the option of either buying gifts from a wish list or providing money to purchase the gifts for the children on their behalf. This provides many children with their dream presents every year.​

South-Florida-Hosts-Boys-Town-Movie-and-Oscar-EventSouth Florida Hosts Boys Town Movie and Oscar EventSouth Florida
Saturday, Nov 12, 2016

​​Boys Town South Florida recently partnered with iPic Theater in Boca Raton to hold their Boys Town Movie and Oscar Event in honor of their 25th Anniversary. The purpose of this event was to screen the Boys Town movie and celebrate the history and success of Boys Town South Florida over their 25 years of service. The Boys Town movie was released in 1938 and depicts Father Flanagan's work and mission, starring Spencer Tracy.

"Many weren't aware of the history and legacy that continues in our daily work," said Amy Simpson, Executive Director of Boys Town South Florida.

Guests attended the private showing at the luxury theatre and enjoyed dinner, cocktails and desserts provided by the theatre from the comfort of their seats. Before the showing, Tom Lynch, National Director of Community Programs at the Hall of History, provided attendees with a history lesson of the films background.

According to Simpson, guests were really touched by the movie itself. Attendees were also happy to take a break from preparing for the approaching hurricane and enjoy a relaxing, educational movie night.

Following the showing, Lynch brought out the original Oscar won by Spencer Tracy for best actor in his depiction of Father Flanagan. Guests were given the opportunity to hold the Oscar that originally brought awareness to Father Flanagan's mission in its early days.

"Everyone loved having the opportunity to see the Oscar in person," Simpson said. "Everyone who held it remarked: Wow this IS heavy."

Boys Town South Florida hopes to hold a similar event in the future and extends a thank you to Tom Lynch for his presentation on the history of Boys Town and for managing to get an Oscar through TSA.

Congratulations to Boys Town South Florida on their 25th Anniversary of serving children and families! ​

parents-find-healing-for-preschool-daughter-at-Boys-Town-South-Florida-clinicParents Find Healing for Preschool Daughter at Boys Town South Florida ClinicSouth Florida
Thursday, Oct 20, 2016

​​​Four-year-old Renee had serious problems, problems her parents, Jeff and Rebecca, knew they couldn't fix by themselves.

When Renee's pediatrician referred the family to Boys Town South Florida's Behavioral Health Clinic, Jeff and Rebecca were both relieved and apprehensive. They'd finally found a place where Renee could get the help she needed but there was no guarantee that their family nightmare would be over.

Renee threw intense tantrums that sometimes lasted two hours or more. She had difficulty telling her parents what she wanted, she refused to eat most of the food they served her and she suffered both nighttime and daytime wetting. These symptoms had worsened over the past year, making it difficult for Renee to go to preschool and make friends with other kids.

The tantrums were the biggest stumbling block. Renee threw objects, screamed, hit herself and bit her own hand. When Renee was on a rampage, the entire household was thrown into chaos and it was all Jeff and Rebecca could do to keep Renee from seriously injuring herself, let alone try to stop the violent behaviors.

During her initial interview with staff at the Boys Town Clinic, Renee was almost entirely nonverbal and wet herself without alerting her parents. Staff members also learned that a number of previous service providers had considered a possible diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Over a five-month period with the Clinic's professionals, Renee underwent intense treatment for her tantrums and Jeff and Rebecca learned skills and strategies that focused on improving their daughter's ability to follow their instructions. The couple also learned how to address Renee's communication issues, her refusal to eat and her wetting habits. In later treatment sessions, Renee joined her parents so they could observe, learn and receive feedback on their responses from staff.

It was a difficult journey for the family, but over time, Renee got better. In the month after treatment ended, she had only one temper tantrum and did not bite her hand at all. She had not wet her bed and had only one daytime accident. Most importantly, she is communicating at an age-appropriate level and is much more affectionate with her parents. In follow-up Clinic visits, Rebecca and Jeff noted that much of Renee's progress stems from their improved patience, clear instructions and having more positive interactions than negative interactions in their home. This has helped the couple feel more confident in their ability to maintain progress moving forward.

Thanks to Boys Town South Florida, a family that was on the brink is now on solid ground again!

The stories provided about the children and families in our care are real. In some cases, names may be changed and details altered to ​protect their privacy and therapeutic interests.​

family-weathers-storm-of-turmoil-to-grow-closer-strongerFamily Weathers Storm of Turmoil to Grow Closer, Stronger South Florida
Thursday, Oct 20, 2016

​​Christine and Jake Fox weren't surprised the day an investigator from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) knocked on their door.

Their family was spinning out of control.  The couple couldn't control the behavior of their 15-year-old daughter, Mariah. Danny, their 11-year-old son, had lots of special needs.  After the family moved to Florida so Jake could start a better job, the company he worked for suddenly closed, leaving the family without a steady income and stranded far from its support system.

DCF visited the Foxes' home after receiving a report that Mariah was using drugs, skipping school and engaging in risky sexual behavior.  Danny had been diagnosed with multiple developmental, physical and behavioral issues.  He would often throw tantrums and physically fight with Mariah.  Christine and Jake had to call the police almost weekly to stop the kids from hurting each other. 

With all this turmoil and instability, Christine and Jake were frustrated and feeling hopeless. So when the DCF investigator mentioned Boys Town South Florida's In-Home Family Services® as a possible source of assistance, the couple begged him to refer the family for an intervention.

When a Boys Town Family Consultant first met with Jake and Christine, they felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted off their shoulders.  Finally, they had someone who was willing to listen to and understand their problems.  Together, the Family Consultant and the Foxes began to develop a plan to heal the family.

First, they worked on parenting.  Christine and Jake had resorted to yelling, grounding, screaming and hitting when it came to trying to discipline Mariah and Danny. When none of those worked, they just gave up.  The Family Consultant taught them a better, more positive approach that involved giving praise for good behavior and consequences for negative behavior, communicating more clearly and using daily chore charts. Christine and Jake also learned to use the "ABCs" (antecedent-behavior-consequence) to identify their children's behavioral patterns.

But just telling someone how to do something really doesn't produce lasting changes. The Family Consultant also observed the couple's interactions with their children and provided support and coaching in how best to use the new skills.  As Christine and Jake began to set clear expectations for behavior and followed through with consequences, Mariah's demeanor and behaviors gradually began to improve. The door-slamming, curfew-breaking, screaming teenager who had brought such chaos to the family's home started to become their daughter again. With positive reinforcement of his appropriate behavior, Danny also improved and his daily tantrums stopped completely.

Next, they worked on budgeting.  By this time, Jake had found a new job. But his pay was much lower and any unexpected expense created a real catastrophe for the family.  And because they were so far from relatives and friends, they really had nowhere to turn for help. With the Consultant's guidance, Christine and Jake developed a budget sheet that detailed all their bills and gave them a clear picture for how to manage their income and what they owed. They also created a "family allowance," which enabled them to put any money that was left over after all the bills were paid into a savings account for emergencies.  The allowance gave the family a plan for making special purchases they could afford, and prevented them from stressing out or fighting over money.  

The final piece to the puzzle was connecting the Fox family more closely to the community in order to develop a strong local support system. Together, they found a church nearby that had free summer activities for both kids, as well as a parenting group.  Christine and Jake were initially hesitant to join. But when they attended their first meeting with the parenting group, they were surprised to meet another couple from their hometown.  Both couples had mutual acquaintances from back home and their kids were about the same age. The couples bonded and their relationship led Christine and Jake to start friendships with other church members.

The Foxes know that every day will still bring challenges. But with Boys Town South Florida's help and a deep desire to be a stronger, caring family, they are prepared for whatever comes their way.

The stories provided about the children and families in our care are real. In some cases, names may be changed and details altered to protect their privacy and therapeutic interests.​

lessons-learned-through-Boys-Town-program-lift-up-mom-daughter-and-familyLessons Learned through Boys Town Program Lift Up Mom, Daughter and FamilySouth Florida
Thursday, Oct 20, 2016

​​Sometimes, a Boys Town program that's designed to help a child turns out to be a blessing for the whole family.

That was the case when Margot and her 3-year-old daughter Delilah started the Boys Town South Florida Parent-Child Home Program.

In the program, Home Visitors work with parents of 2- and 3-year-olds, focusing on language and pre-literacy skills, and positive parent-child interactions. Using specially selected books and educational toys and activities, Home Visitors help parents understand that they are their children's first and most important teacher, and show them how to generate enthusiasm for learning in their children. Home Visitors also role model for parents how to appropriately use the program materials with children to promote verbal interactions, parent-child bonding and school readiness. Each program year has 23 weeks of home visits and 46 total visits. Research has shown that families benefit the most by spending at least 18 months in the program, which is free to parents.

When Margot and Delilah started seeing their Home Visitor, Margo often would share her personal problems. Although it was great that Margot felt comfortable confiding in someone, the Home Visitor had to work to maintain boundaries; Home Visitors are not therapists and have a set purpose for every visit. So the Home Visitor set aside time at the end of every visit to listen to Margot and encouraged her to seek professional help.  This strategy was successful in that it helped a mom maintain her sanity during a difficult time in her life and also encouraged her to spend quality time with her daughter. 

By the end of the first program year, Delilah and her mother had developed a very special bond and the toddler had learned all of the basic concepts taught by the Home Visitor.

Unfortunately, Margot's personal problems were overwhelming and she fell into depression. During the home visits, she spent most of the time crying, making it necessary for other family members to sit in for her. This affected Delilah, who also became sad and wasn't able to concentrate on the Home Visitor's teaching. The Home Visitor finally confronted Margot about how her actions were negatively affecting Delilah. Margot realized then that she needed to deal with her personal issues through professional help and be a strong, positive parent for her children.

From that point forward, Margot made a conscious effort to stay in good spirits in front of Delilah and her other children. By the end of the second program year, the family had found a great support system and Margot was successfully dealing with her issues through therapy.

Delilah recently graduated from the program and continues to thrive both academically and in her relationship with her mom. And Margot sees the support she received from the Home Visitor as a blessing to her whole​ family and a constant reminder of the importance of spending quality time with her children.

The Parent-Child Home Program is supported by the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County and Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County, a special district created by Palm Beach County voters that provides leadership, funding and research on behalf of the county's children so they grow up healthy, safe and strong.

The stories provided about the children and families in our care are real. In some cases, names may be changed and details altered to protect their privacy and therapeutic interests.​

a-child-saved-a-life-recoveredA Child Saved, A Life RecoveredSouth Florida
Thursday, Oct 20, 2016

​​It would have been easy for David to fall through the cracks.

After all, life seemed to be stacked against him right from the beginning.

Born to drug-addicted parents, David was just a baby when he first entered the foster care system. Sadly, his father died of an overdose and his mother was killed in a car accident when David was 12, and he became a ward of the state. The goal then was to find a permanent, loving adoptive home for the boy. But all of the uncertainty and instability in David's life had taken a terrible toll; to cope, he developed aggressive behaviors that pushed people away and threatened to undermine any attempts to secure a forever family.

David was in a local group home when Boys Town South Florida connected with him. He was receiving therapy and medication management, but staff members at the group home needed help getting David back on track. To complicate matters, the youngster was on probation in the juvenile justice system and was performing at only a second-grade level academically. 

A Consultant from Boys Town's Care Coordination Services® began meeting with David and started to build a relationship. The Consultant talked with him about his goals and pointed out his strengths. In addition to ensuring David was making progress in his therapy sessions, she connected the youngster with a tutor, arranged for him to join a local soccer club and drove him to an animal shelter where he could complete the community service hours required by his probation. The tutor discovered David's struggles were primarily with reading, and that he tended to lash out when frustrated. An assessment revealed David had dyslexia; that diagnosis was a major breakthrough and led to the use of appropriate educational tools that helped David finally experience progress in his studies.

It was a first step toward a full-fledged turnaround. 

As the Boys Town Consultant continued to help David learn better coping skills, he began to understand it was okay to be frustrated as long as he asked for help instead of acting out. They also practiced appropriate responses David could use in different conflict scenarios. One day, another youth was teasing David. Everyone, including David, was surprised when he was able to calmly walk away. For the first time, David felt in control of himself, his emotions and his future.

Today, David is working at his grade level in school, has completed his probation and is becoming the star of his soccer team. His behavior has improved tremendously, and he hasn't displayed any aggressive behaviors for several months.

Most importantly, David has been adopted by a family that understands what he has been through, what he's overcome and what he still needs to do in order to move forward.  It's a brand new home and a brand new life, and David finally can see his brand new future.

The stories provided about the children and families in our care are real. In some cases, names may be changed and details altered to protect their privacy and therapeutic interests.​

south-florida-employees-complete-nonprofits-first-rising-leader-programSouth Florida Employees Complete Nonprofits First Rising Leader ProgramSouth Florida
Monday, Jul 25, 2016

​​On June 17, LaToya Davenport, Director of Boys Town South Florida Program Support Services, and Lucia Stanfield, Director of Boys Town South Florida In-Home Family Services, graduated from the Nonprofits First’s Rising Leader Program. The Boys Town employees were 2 of 22 nonprofit workers to complete the training.

The program, launched in 2005, was developed to teach participants effective strategies when handling major leadership or organizational challenges in order to help them advance to the next level of personal and professional growth.

The Rising Leader Program spans six months, beginning in January with two consecutive days of training. February through May, the participants attend one day of training each month, with an evening networking event in February. In June, the program hosts an overnight retreat at a South Florida conference center, followed by the program graduation ceremony and celebration later that month.

The curriculum spans a variety of topics, including leadership and communication, negotiation, overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team, and leading change.

“I wanted to make sure that I seize every opportunity to develop as a leader so I can have as many tools in my tool belt, in order to serve my site and my team with the utmost quality and level of excellence that they deserve,” Stanfield said.

Stanfield walked away from the Rising Leader Program with ”a better understanding of the core function of other leadership styles, and how my leadership style can complement their, and vice versa.” This awareness will help her be more productive with her peers at Boys Town.

The program also includes service-learning, where participants spend 10-15 additional hours working on a service project with other members of the program. Davenport’s service-learning group “created a Board Orientation and Volunteer Manual (to include agency strategic plan, CQI plan, updated policies and procedures, and marketing/development plan) for Grandma’s Place, a local emergency placement shelter for children who are victims of abuse and/or neglect.”

Davenport frequently works with Boys Town South Florida’s Board Orientation and Volunteer Manual, so the development of the manuals for Grandma’s Place was something she was familiar with.

“It was quite simple, but just a tad bit different since they are an emergency shelter placement,” she said. “There were different law and contract requirements for both, but my past experience working with foster homes prior to coming to Boys Town was a tremendous plus and made the process go a lot smoother for me and my team.”

The service-learning project taught Davenport a lot about residential treatment facilities from an administration standpoint and how it coincides with Florida law, but she also learned a lot about herself as a leader.

“It taught me a certain level of patience in dealing with difficult situations and people and problem-solving skills I never knew I had,” she said.

Davenport also learned “how to work better in a team setting with different personality types.”

In Stanfield’s service-learning project, she worked with Diabetes Coalition, helping them host a Diabetes Symposium for Medical and Mental Health Professions.

“This experience taught me how to let go of control, and allow other leaders, professionals, and competent individuals do their part in the process,” Stanfield said.

The service-learning project allowed her to recognize individual strengths and learning styles of group members.

“It was very liberating,” she said.

For Davenport, the program gave her an opportunity to step back and look at the daily pressures of her job and look at the bigger picture. She was also able to learn new skills and enhance her preexisting ones.

“Paying attention to your own leadership development will not only make you a better leader but will also make your organization a better organization as well,” she said.

After graduating from the program, Davenport feels that she what she has learned “will help me to become more comfortable in my current role as Director of Program Support Services and with working within any part of the Boys Town organization.”

Stanfield believes that she will be able to “help my team develop into leaders by helping them embrace their individual strengths and leadership styles, so they, too, can grow into future leaders at Boys Town.”

boys-town-south-florida-helps-siblings-family-find-answersBoys Town South Florida Helps Siblings, Family Find AnswersSouth Florida
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Oftentimes, parents don’t know where to turn when their children are suffering from behavioral or emotional problems.

Michael and Jodie Shechtman are grateful the turn they eventually took led them to Dr. Chris McGinnis and his staff at the Boys Town South Florida Behavioral Health Clinic.

“Dr. Chris (McGinnis) and Boys Town are 100 percent directly responsible for changing my daughter’s life, my son’s life and our family life,” Michael said. “Thank God we found Boys Town!”

The Shechtmans began their relationship with Boys Town South Florida several years ago when son Holden was experiencing some behavior and immaturity issues.
Jodie grew extremely concerned, especially when Holden would get upset and tell her, “I wish I was dead.”

Thanks to a referral from a family friend, the Shechtmans contacted Dr. McGinnis, who quickly scheduled an initial appointment with Michael and Jodie at the Boys Town clinic. He also met briefly with Holden alone to assess the situation.

Quickly, things changed.

Two nights later, Jodie and Michael asked each other if they’d heard Holden say anything about hurting himself.

He hadn’t.

Michael credits that 10-minute meeting with Dr. McGinnis for putting his son on the road to recovery. Several sessions later, Holden was more confident and dramatically better behaved.

“He became a LOT more mature,” Michael said. “Jodie joked around that Dr. Chris must walk on water because she cannot understand how he could have impacted our son’s life and our family’s life so dramatically. And literally overnight.”

A year and a half later, 10-year-old Holden was doing well and hadn’t made any more self-harm statements.

After the success Dr. McGinnis had with Holden, the Shechtmans decided to ask him for help with their older daughter, Delaney.

Since she was a first-grader, Delaney had shown signs of anxiety. Seeing a classmate become sick during class triggered her first severe stretch of anxiety attacks. These attacks continued as she got older, and usually were set off by the same occurrence -- seeing someone get physically sick.

During these bouts, Delaney didn’t want to go to school or eat. Michael and Jodie had their daughter see several therapists, but any improvement in Delaney’s condition was only temporary.

Then, after Delaney had an attack in band class at school and was unable to return to the class for two months, Michael and Jodie contacted Dr. McGinnis.

“I sat in the initial meeting with Dr. Chris and Delaney,” Michael said. “She was very shy and guarded, as she normally is. He read her like a book, though. As guarded and quiet as she was, when she walked out of the first session, you could see the tension just lifting off her shoulders.

“Two days later, she sat in her band class for the first time in two months! After the second session, she hasn't missed a band class once. The guidance counselor at school was amazed. She said she had never seen a turnaround with a student like that in her 30 years. Dr. Chris had gotten through to her like no other therapist ever had. Something clicked and she was able to understand and learn to deal with her anxiety head on.”

In the six months following her Boys Town sessions, Delaney showed remarkable progress. She was promoted to an advanced band class by her teacher and received an award for excellence in band. She also starting playing on a softball team and decided to learn how to pitch, a position that requires her to take on more responsibility and pressure.

Now 13, Delaney walks with an extra skip in her step and is much more confident.

The Shechtmans give all the credit to Boys Town South Florida and Dr. McGinnis.

“I don't want to say Dr. Chris has ‘cured’ Delaney, because I don't think anxiety is something that will ever go away for her completely,” Michael said. “It's just who she is. But she now openly talks about it. She now controls her anxiety. Delaney is now aware of the triggers. It is truly remarkable, the night and day difference.”

To learn more, call our Behavioral Health Clinic today at 561-612-6056.

This is a solicited testimonial from a family whose work with Dr. McGinnis and the Behavioral Health Clinic had concluded. The family provided their full consent to use their story and actual names.
 

spotlight-on-boys-town-south-floridaSpotlight on Boys Town South FloridaSouth Florida
Monday, May 2, 2016

​​​​​Boys Town ​South Florida was recently featured on the CBS12 News program Spotlight on Business. Watch the video below to see Boys Town South Florida Executive Director Amy Simpson discuss Boys Town programs and services.​

See the original article on cbs12.com.

​​
primary-project-helps-struggling-student-play-his-way-to-improvementPrimary Project Helps Struggling Student Play His Way to ImprovementSouth Florida
Monday, Mar 7, 2016

His name was Emmanuel; he spoke more Creole than English.

Shy yet spunky, and a bit short-tempered, the kindergartener was one of several dozen students in his Palm Beach County elementary school who needed assistance.

Emmanuel’s adjustment to kindergarten was difficult. He didn’t engage in activities or connect with his classmates. His bashful personality and limited language skills accounted for some of his detachment. But not all.

According to his teacher, Emmanuel also struggled to connect with classmates who spoke Creole. On the playground, he usually played by himself. On the few occasions when he did participate in group play, it often ended badly.

Emmanuel didn’t make it easy for others to be his friend. When he was frustrated or mad, he lashed out physically – hitting, biting and kicking. Oftentimes, those on the receiving end of his anger were left shaken and surprised. Most didn’t realize how upset he was; he never verbalized his feelings before going off.

Fortunately for Emmanuel, his school offered Primary Project, an early intervention and prevention effort for students who struggle to adjust to school, feel insecure or have limited social skills. Developed by the Children’s Institute and provided through Boys Town South Florida, this innovative program uses play to build a child’s self-confidence and improve social and learning skills. Nationally, the program is in over 2,100 schools.

Boys Town Child Associate Katherine Ryan, who facilitates the program at Emmanuel’s school, said students qualify for Primary Project based on observations that measure areas like behavior control, peer social skills, and others.

For three months, Emmanuel met with Katherine once a week for 40 minutes in the school’s playroom, which was filled with toys, arts and crafts, dress-up clothes, cars, trucks, blocks and a kitchen center.

“Our program is unique because it’s based on child-led play,” explained Katherine. “We only respond to what the student says or does. Emmanuel was able to come in and make his own decisions about what he did in the playroom.”

During their playtime, Katherine reinforced and built on Emmanuel’s existing strengths. Research shows child-led play programs produce a range of positive results for young children, including improved relationships and greater focus in the classroom and at home.

Those benefits didn’t escape Emmanuel. After just a few sessions, his teacher reported an immediate change in Emmanuel’s behaviors. The hitting stopped, and he exuded confidence. Emmanuel also found his voice.

Instead of impulsively lashing out, Emmanuel verbalized his feelings – appropriately. He engaged in classroom activities, confidently raising his hand and happily sharing his thoughts and ideas. His reading skills went from below grade level to above, and his English proficiency improved, too. Outside the classroom, he even organized games on the playground. His newfound confidence and friendlier behavior led to new friendships.

It was a dramatic transformation for the young boy, who went from distant and detached to joyful and fully engaged, both socially and academically.

According to Melissa Campos, Boys Town’s Primary Project supervisor, the collaborative relationship between the school district and Boys Town makes this type of successful intervention possible. “Having Primary Project in the schools is an incredible tool for supporting student learning,” she said.

Boys Town South Florida currently offers the Primary Project program in a dozen elementary schools in Palm Beach County, all of which are nationally certified by the Children’s Institute.

The stories provided about the children and families in our care are real. In some cases, names may be changed and details altered to protect their privacy and therapeutic interests.

boys-town-south-florida-volunteer-receives-champion-of-service-award-from-governor-rickBoys Town South Florida Volunteer Receives Champion of Service Award from Governor Rick Scott South Florida
Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

Patrick Hopkins, a dedicated teen volunteer for Boys Town South ​Florida, was recognized by Florida Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman with one of two Champion of Service Awards on Thursday, January 21st. Boys Town South Florida nominated Hopkins for the award.The second award was given to Eddie Mae Bennett.

Governor Scott said, “I am honored to recognize Patrick Hopkins and Eddie Mae Bennett for their commitment to helping their fellow Floridians. It is exciting to present them with the Champion of Service Award today for their inspiring service and support of those who need it most in our state.”
 
Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman said, “Eddie Mae Bennett and Patrick Hopkins illustrate the diverse service opportunities that exist in Florida’s communities. From a high school student serving food to needy families in South Florida to a longtime volunteer who served North Florida students for over 25 years, Eddie Mae and Patrick are inspirational service leaders.”

Read more about the winners community service below:
 
Patrick Hopkins, West Palm Beach – Patrick Hopkins is a junior at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach. This past year, Patrick served as Chair of the Boys Town South Florida’s “Thanksgiving Basket Brigade,” an annual event that distributes Thanksgiving food baskets to more than 300 Florida families. Patrick first volunteered in his community as an elementary school student by filling baskets with food and delivering them to families in need. Patrick is also an active member of the Palm Beach League of Cities youth delegation and volunteers for the Literacy Coalition Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee. Read his story.
 
Eddie Mae Bennett, Leon County – Ms. Eddie Mae Bennett started volunteering at John G. Riley Elementary School in Leon County in 1977. She served as a teacher’s aide for ten years before supporting students involved in jazz, symphonic, and marching bands at Belle Vue Middle School and Godby High School in Leon County. Ms. Bennett also served as a Foster Grandparent at Sealey Elementary for 25 years, retiring in 2015. She has also regularly volunteered at her church, including helping with maintenance and administrative duties.
 

friendly-competition-helps-feed-hungry-this-thanksgivingFriendly Competition Helps Feed Hungry This ThanksgivingSouth Florida
Monday, Jan 4, 2016

Sometimes, competition really can be friendly.

That was the case in South Florida recently, when Boys Town South Florida was the beneficiary for a tennis event that doubled as a fundraiser. On Saturday, November 15, local community members of all ages joined together for an afternoon of games and entertainment at the Pro World Tennis Academy.

Many Boys Town families were present, as were some tennis pros, including the current world record holder for fastest serve. Fortunately for guests, however, the playing was all for fun, as kids and adults alike enjoyed complimentary classes offered by ChaCha Tennis as well as music, drinks, and a silent auction.

Amy Simpson, Executive Director of Boys Town South Florida, says Boys Town was grateful to be involved with the event, which was put on with the help of multiple organizations. “It was a wonderful event. We want to thank the team at Compete 2 Give, as well as Cha Cha Tennis, Fit Food Fun, and Pro World Tennis Academy for putting it on. The money will go to good use.”

And what better way to spend the proceeds than to help feed the hungry? Boys Town used all money raised to support the 24th Annual Thanksgiving Basket Brigade, a Boys Town tradition of fighting poverty and hunger over the holidays. With the help of volunteers and community members, the Boys Town South Florida team was able to ensure that those who needed it most had all the ingredients for a full thanksgiving meal.

Again, Boys Town wishes to express its gratitude and holiday cheer to all those involved with the event. Thanks to their help, the tradition of feeding the hungry for the holidays was a success once again, and the Boys Town mission is alive and well in South Florida.

every-basket-we-prepare-every-delivery-we-make-gives-hope-to-a-family"Every Basket We Prepare, Every Delivery We Make Gives Hope to a Family"South Florida
Hopkins with his mentor and Boys Town South Florida Development Director, Dr. Noemi Coltea.
Friday, Sep 11, 2015

Teen Volunteer ​Leads with Heart, Drive to Do More

Cardinal Newman High School junior Patrick Hopkins knows that to make an impact in the community, you have to get involved. This year, the 16 year old is Chair of Boys Town South Florida Thanksgiving Basket Brigade, an annual event that gives Thanksgiving food baskets to more than 300 underprivileged families.

Hopkins has seen first-hand the impact this event has on families in need in the West Palm Beach community. “I first became involved when I was in elementary school and we helped fill the baskets with food and delivered them to the homes of families in need,” explains Hopkins. “When I delivered the baskets, I could not believe how grateful families were to receive a meal and how that one meal made a difference in their lives. That was when I realized that I wanted to get involved in helping my community.”

As Hopkins has grown, so has his service to the community. He is an active member in the Palm Beach League of Cities youth delegation and he does volunteer work for the Literacy Coalition Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee. Even as he’s added activities to his already packed schedule, he never forgot about the joy he gave and felt when delivering Thanksgiving baskets.

“Every basket we prepare, every delivery we make gives hope to a family,” says Hopkins, whose goal is to increase the number of baskets delivered to families by 10 percent this year. Hopkins himself has been saving money from odd jobs he’s done throughout the year to ensure enough money is raised to reach this goal. “When I stop and think of all of the people in the world that need help, I feel overwhelmed. However, when I think that I was a small part of helping 300 families in my community, I feel blessed and am inspired to continue my involvement.”

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