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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​​

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."​

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.​

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.​

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.​

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.​

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

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."​​

Grandmother-Raising-Five-Grandchildren-Gets-Help-Gives-Help-with-Assist-from-Boys-Town-TexasGrandmother Raising Five Grandchildren Gets Help, Gives Help with Assist from Boys Town TexasTexas
Mercedes and her five grandchildren (left to right): Valentina, 12; Augustine, 11; Leeleeya, 14; Marina, 8; and Paul, 5
Friday, Oct 14, 2016

​Mercedes Bristol admits she felt lost and overwhelmed.

Already experiencing major challenges with raising one grandson, the single grandmother faced the prospect of taking in four more grandchildren.

But that's what Mercedes did. And thanks to some timely help from Boys Town Texas, she and her family are doing fine.

Mercedes' household first grew by one when her son's son, Paul, came to live with her after being removed from his home by Child Protective Services (CPS). Paul had health issues but the young boy and his grandmother began to bond and she soon felt somewhat comfortable with the idea of caring for him.

Then things changed dramatically.

Paul's four siblings from another mother – Marina, Augustine, Valentina and Leeleeya – had nowhere to go when they too were removed from their home by CPS. Mercedes was the only family member who could take them in.

"I was absolutely lost when I got all the rest of the kids," Mercedes said. "Paul had a difficult time sharing me with the other four grandchildren. The oldest was 9 and the youngest was 3 at the time. I was totally overwhelmed."

Mercedes said other people who learned of her situation offered to help.

"Everyone tells you, 'Ms. Bristol, just tell us what you need.' But I had no idea what I needed," Mercedes said. "I didn't know where to start. It was a very trying time. The only thing to ask for was someone to come and help me care for the children in order for me to have some respite. No one offered that."

"I went through several sources. I asked the question, 'Why don't schools have a resource list for parents or guardians who need help?'"

That question led Mercedes to take an important step. She decided to start a support group for grandparents who were raising their grandchildren. It would provide grandparents with helpful resources and information, or just a caring ear to listen to their stories.

Mercedes said the best advice she received was to contact Boys Town Texas.

Mercedes found out the site in San Antonio offered a Common Sense Parenting® class led by Maria Benavidez, a Boys Town Texas In-Home Family Services supervisor. Mercedes said she attended the class with the hope that Maria could help recruit other grandparents for her support group.

"I completed the entire six weeks in Common Sense Parenting," Mercedes said proudly. "And after that, I had In-Home Family Services come into my home. Andres Guzman was my case manager. I really implemented the Boys Town suggestions. Most kids hate chores, but with Andres' coaching, I implemented a 'Job Jar' and a 'Joy Jar.' The children wrote down what their jobs and their joys were going to be and placed them in jars. When they did not do what they were expected to do, the kids would go to the Job Jar where they took a piece of paper and that was their chore until completion. They liked it, and even accepted the responsibility."

Mercedes said she doesn't know what she would have done without Boys Town's help.

"Structure works for me," she said. "Boys Town really helped me by having the children write schedules in order to establish everyday patterns. Andres gave me ideas. And he gave me personal support in finding dental assistance since I retired without medical benefits. More than anything, Maria and Andres helped me be positive and believe I could do it. There was always someone there for me."

Mercedes even started her own Facebook page to help other grandparents. It's called "Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group." She also is an advocate for grandparents who are in her situation, going to public officials to seek policy changes that will benefit those caregivers.

"I don't have all the answers," Mercedes said. "But the group can share experiences, both good and bad, and maybe it will help ​someone out when they need somewhere to turn. I also share the things I have learned from Boys Town with other grandparents and invite them to contact Boys Town to get the same help that I received."​​

9th-Annual-Golf-and-Tennis-Classic-Raises-Record-Breaking-Amount9th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic Raises Record Breaking AmountNew York
Friday, Oct 14, 2016

​Boys Town New York held their 9th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic on Monday, September 12, 2016 at Knollwood Country Club in Elmsford, New York. Headed by committee chairs Guy Cleveland and Alan Kensek, the event sold out for the second year in a row and was the most profitable event Boys Town New York has ever hosted. The total amount raised netted over $135,000 and will go to support Boys Town New York's programs and services throughout the community.

A large turnout of around 130 guests enjoyed the Golf and Tennis Classic's festivities. A total of 29 groups of four competed in the golf scramble while eight tennis players battled it out in the tennis tournament.

"We couldn't have asked for better weather and a better group of supporters!" Morgan Gorospe, Tennis Tournament Committee Representative said.

Guests were able to relax at the Knollwood Country Club house following the golf and tennis tournaments. Dinner was provided by the Country Club while the auction portion of the event was lead by retired NFL JETS Player, Ray Lucas. He auctioned off items ranging from tickets to a Broadway performance, to sports memorabilia and golf club packages for the country club, including other smaller prizes for golf and tennis enthusiasts.

Following the auction, a few Boys Town New York youth presented their personal stories to the audience. The boys explained their backgrounds and shared how coming to Boys Town has affected their lives in such a positive way and helped them learn to believe in themselves.

"We couldn't be more proud of our presenting youth," said Jessica Wiley, Boys Town New York Development Coordinator. "They shared a common path of misguidance directed from their peers who lead them down a road of crime and violence. Their determination in our Intervention and Assessments program and their willingness to accept that negative behaviors have consequences allowed them to mature as young men."

Boys Town New York is already planning and looking forward to their 10th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic in the fall of 2017.

Boys Town extends a thank you to this year's supporters:

  • Platinum Maintenance Services Corp Empire Sponsor $15,000​
  • Litespeed Electric, Inc. Empire Sponsor $15,000​
  • Premier Metal & Marble Empire Sponsor $15,000​
  • Modworxx Caddy Sponsor $5,000​
  • Gensler Caddy Sponsor $5,000​
  • Sound Air Conditioning Caddy Sponsor $5,000​
  • ARI Access Floors Caddy Sponsor $5,000​
  • Firecom, Inc. Dinner Sponsor $4,500​
  • Syska Hennesy Group, Inc. Dinner Sponsor $4,500​
  • Jonathan Metal & Glass Dinner Sponsor $4,500​
  • EuroTech Construction Dinner Sponsor $4,500​
  • Theodore Williams Construction Company, LLC Supporting ​Sponsor $4,000​
  • Enterprise Rebirth Advisory Jet Blue Challenge Sponsor $4,000​
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. ​

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!​

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!​

USTA-Florida-Section-Foundation-Grant-Leads-to-Summer-Tennis-for-Foster-ChildrenUSTA Florida Section Foundation Grant Leads to Summer Tennis for Foster ChildrenNorth Florida
Wednesday, Oct 5, 2016

This blog post was posted on by Kelly Tucker.

Boys Town North Florida finished up its summer tennis program in early September with approximately 15-20 foster children who ​live in one of the group homes located on the organization's campus in Tallahassee.

Boys Town North Florida has been serving abused, neglected, and/or abandoned children and ​​families since 1983 by partnering with local area agencies and businesses to enhance the quality and variety of care provided in the community.

Boys Town received a grant from the USTA Florida Section Foundation last year and is now working with volunteers from the Tallahassee Tennis Association and Tallahassee Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Affairs to provide kids an opportunity to ​play tennis once a week at the LeVerne F. Payne Community Center's tennis courts off Fourth Avenue.

The program will begin its fall season in early October.

A-Search-Well-EndedA Search Well EndedCalifornia
Azahel’s journey to success started when he found a home at Boys Town California.
Thursday, Sep 29, 2016

Growing up in Santa Ana, California, Azahel  just wanted a safe place to call home.

The problem was, that place didn't exist where he lived. Gangs ruled the streets of his neighborhood and people were dying in shootings. For years, Azahel had suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of his mom.  And things didn't get much better when he was removed from his home and started to bounce from one foster placement to another.

He was 15 before he eventually found that safe place. It was Boys Town California.

"When I got to Boys Town on the first day, I definitely felt more free," Azahel said. "I had slept through the night well knowing that I wasn't at a shelter. I was in more of a home environment."

Boys Town California not only provided a home with rules and structure, a first for Azahel, but also gave him hope.  His Family-Teachers®, Candice and Roussell White, made sure he got caught up at school and attended all of his required counseling sessions. Most importantly, they taught him the basic life skills that so many kids in foster care lack – how to make good decisions, how to apply for college, how to find a place to live, how to manage money and many others.

Today, Azahel has a new family of his own with a couple that adopted him. He's graduated from high school, where he played on the football team, and is active in his church. His plans include attending college and pursuing a career in law enforcement, maybe even becoming a police officer so he can go back to his old neighborhood in Santa Ana and make a positive difference in the lives of other young people.

All because he found that safe place to call home.

"Without Boys Town I wouldn't be as healed as I am now," Azahel said. "I wouldn't have big dreams, motivation, goals. Boys Town gave me a heart."​

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 wow​ 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.​

Teen-Puts-Heart-and-Mind-into-Achieving-Her-DreamsTeen Puts Heart and Mind into Achieving Her DreamsNebraska
Cheerleading was one of the many activities that helped Jenni gain self-confidence and grow as a person at Boys Town.
Monday, Sep 19, 2016

Slight in stature but strong in character, Jenni Ruiz is a ​survivor.

A 2016 graduate of Boys Town High School, Jenni spent a year and a half as a resident of the Family Home ProgramSM in the Village of Boys Town, Nebraska.

The experience proved to be both healing and inspiring.  

"I really enjoyed Boys Town," Jenni said. "I enjoyed the support I received, the help from teachers and just the motivation people gave me. They inspired me to try my hardest to be someone in this world."

Jenni's appreciation for Boys Town today is a complete reversal from when the South Omaha native first arrived on campus.  

It was a midafternoon when Jenni's mother picked her up from school, presumably, Jenni thought, to take her to a medical appointment. But when the drive ended, Jenni wasn't at the clinic. She was standing outside the Boys Town Admissions Office.

"I wasn't expecting it to happen," Jenni remembered. "I was mad; furious really. I didn't even get to say goodbye to my younger brother and sister."

The trip to Boys Town was the result of months of Jenni sneaking around and skipping school and a souring attitude that had broken the mother-daughter relationship. Jenni and her mother rarely spoke, and it was a tumultuous time.

Not only had Jenni made many bad choices, she also had been robbed of her optimism and innocence: a family acquaintance had sexually assaulted her, further deepening her feelings of isolation and aimlessness.  

While Jenni's shock at suddenly becoming a "Boys Town kid" slowly subsided, her first month on campus wasn't easy.

"I didn't know anyone, and it was awkward to sit in the classroom trying to get caught up on all the assignments the other kids had already done," Jenni recalled.

But continued support and guidance from Family-Teachers® Joey and Heather Butler eventually helped Jenni shed her insecurities.

"We really pushed Jenni to go beyond what she thought she could do," explained Heather. "Building her self-confidence helped Jenni open up and start trusting again." 

With encouragement from the Butlers and the other girls who lived in her Family Home, Jenni got active in campus life. She joined the soccer team and cheer squad, and ran cross country. She buckled down in the classroom, garnering academic awards and becoming a member of the National Honor Society. Her positive attitude and work ethic also earned Jenni Boys Town's "Competing with Character" award, given annually to a student-athlete who exemplifies good character both on and off the playing field.  

Jenni credits her success to all the positive adults and peers who pushed her to try her best and never give up. She says the lessons learned at Boys Town helped her emotionally rebuild her family relationships, too.  

"Now my sister and brother look up to me. I talk to them about staying in school and away from bad influences," she said.

No longer burdened or haunted by the past, Jenni's excited for the future. She was awarded a full-ride, two-year scholarship to a community college, and plans to pursue a criminal justice degree with hopes of joining the FBI.  

"It feels great to know that if you put your heart and mind into something, it can be achieved," Jenni said.​​

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