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Boys Town Logo

“He ain’t heavy, Father… he’s m’ brother.”

Those iconic words have symbolized the spirit of Boys Town for decades. But many people don’t know how it originated.

Back in 1918, a boy named Howard Loomis was abandoned by his mother at Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys, which had opened just a year earlier. Howard had polio and wore heavy leg braces. Walking was difficult for him, especially when he had to go up or down steps.

Soon, several of the Home’s older boys were carrying Howard up and down the stairs.

One day, Father Flanagan asked Reuben Granger, one of those older boys, if carrying Howard was hard.

Reuben replied, “He ain’t heavy, Father… he’s m’ brother.”

But the story doesn’t end there.

In 1943, Father Flanagan was paging through a copy of Ideal magazine when he saw an image of an older boy carrying a younger boy on his back. The caption read, “He ain’t heavy, mister… he’s my brother.”

Immediately, the priest was reminded of a photo of Reuben carrying Howard at a Boys Town picnic many years before. Father Flanagan wrote to the magazine and requested permission to use the image and quote. The magazine agreed, and Boys Town adopted them both to define its new brand.

Nearly 75 years later, the motto is still the best description of what our boys and girls at Boys Town learn about the importance of caring for each other and having someone care about them.

“He ain’t heavy” is relevant beyond Boys Town, though. At some point in our lives, most of us have needed to be carried by someone, metaphorically speaking. And, at some point, we probably carried somebody else. We’re human. We stumble. And we look to each other for help when we do.

Let us know by sharing a video or photo on social media telling us who carried you when you needed it most. Then tag that person in your post using #HeAintHeavy.

Get to Know Father Flanagan

Father Flanagan was a true visionary of his time. His dream and our founding principles are alive today, and are as relevant and applicable as they were when Boys Town first opened its doors more than a century ago. Get to know more about the man who founded Boys Town in this 5-day email series featuring photos and messages of insight and inspiration.

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