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Worlds longest bologna from Oscar Meyer

Unique Gifts of the Past Laid Foundation for Today’s Support of Boys Town Mission

November 20, 2019     By Thomas Lynch, Director of Boys Town Community Programs and the Hall of History

Boys Town History, Family Home Program, Father Flanagan, Village of Boys Town

It's difficult to imagine sauerkraut as the hero of a Christmas miracle.

But that's exactly what happened when the German cabbage dish turned what would have been a dismal holiday into a joyous Yuletide celebration for the first residents of Father Edward Flanagan's Home for Boys.

The year was 1917, and Christmas came just 13 days after the priest had opened his Home (later to be known as Boys Town) for wayward kids who were running the streets of Omaha. Sadly, there was little money for even the most basic necessities, much less a holiday feast.

But an unexpected gift of a barrel of sauerkraut, donated by a local merchant, provided food for a Christmas dinner and, more importantly, let the boys and Father Flanagan know that someone cared.

It was the first of many unique gifts Boys Town would receive in its early years, when supplies were scarce and times were tough. Every gift was a sincere expression of compassion by the early supporters of Boys Town, meeting the daily needs of the kids as Father Flanagan worked to establish his Home.

Someone donated a cow so the boys would have fresh milk. People gave movie tickets so the youngsters could enjoy a fun Saturday matinee. There were gifts of musical instruments that allowed the boys to showcase their artistic talents. And handmade quilts and school supplies and food and clothing.

When the Home moved to its present-day location west of Omaha and officially became the Village of Boys Town, donations grew. They included a tractor for farming the fields, uniforms for the baseball team from the comedy duo of Abbott and Costello and a squad car for the early Village police department.

Singer Bing Crosby donated radios for the boys' dormitories. Other generous donors funded versions of the "Two Brothers" statues that became Boys Town's iconic symbol. Babe Ruth even sent the Home dozens of autographed baseballs that could be sold to raise money.

In 1941, Dowd Chapel, the Village's Catholic church, was completed, a gift from Mary Dowd, a New York woman who shared Father Flanagan's vision for helping children.

In those early years, Boys Town also received farms and land located in other states. The properties, which were often included in the wills of supporters, usually were sold and the proceeds were used to fund capital improvements in the Village or meet the day-to-day needs of the boys.

Perhaps one of the most unique gifts Boys Town ever received was a world-record, 200-foot-long, 1,450-pound bologna from food giant Oscar Mayer. When the company delivered the enormous cold cut to Boys Town in 1987, it took 120 kids to carry it across campus to the dining hall. There, it was sliced and distributed to every Family Home, keeping the girls and boys supplied with bologna sandwiches for months.

Over the years, Boys Town's fundraising efforts became more focused and organized, promoting monetary gifts that could be used to help the boys and girls in our care in a greater variety of ways.

And just as in the early days, when unique gifts helped lift up Father Flanagan's dream and move it toward reality, every gift Boys Town receives today, large or small, is still greatly appreciated. We thank our dedicated supporters for helping us carry on Father Flanagan's dream every day!

They say that with any gift, it's the thought that counts. Throughout Boys Town's 100-plus-year history of serving children and families, the fantastic generosity of others – in many unique forms – has proven that adage to be true a thousand times over.

Please Consider Supporting the Boys Town Mission This Holiday Season.

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