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Boys Town California to Celebrate 25th Anniversary in November

​​Irish Priest's Mission Serving Children and Families Lives On

This article is written by Cathi Douglas. It was published August 21, 2016 in OC Catholic Weekly.

Father Edward J. Flanagan, who built Boys Town on a 75-acre farm west of Omaha, Nebraska in 1921, once said: "There's no such thing as a bad boy."

Today Father Flanagan's insightful sentiment is carried on decades later on the original property and at 11 affiliate locations across the U.S. including Boys Town California, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall.

Since opening in 1991, Boys Town California has grown to touch the lives of 48,000 people each year. It operates several family homes in Trabuco Canyon and Tustin, as well as offering In-Home Family ServicesSM and Community Support Services.​

"All our programs emphasize healing and faith," explains Boys Town California Executive Director Lawren Ramos. "We give desperate kids hope, keep families together, and help parents succeed. Our mission is to change the way America cares for children, families and communities."

Family struggles do not discriminate, Ramos notes, and Boys Town California works with families in crisis throughout Orange County – from wealthy Coto de Caza to the west side of Sana Ana to affluent Huntington Beach.

In supporting children and families, Ramos says, Boys Town California also advocates for systemic change.

"Father Flanagan created the village of Boys Town to set children on a new path. He did what was right for kids. He housed kids of all ​races in the same buildings. He did it because he knew that deep inside we're uniquely made in the image of our Creator – and each of us is uniquely made for something special."

Interestingly, Father Flanagan began his ministry by reaching out to homeless men after doing research to find out how to make their lives better. One day a man asked him, "Where were you when I was 14?" That haunting question prompted Father Flanagan to seek the assistance of Henry Monsky, a Jewish attorney who saw injustices every day in the Omaha courthouse. Monsky was the first donor to support the organization. "Boys Town was founded in Father Flanagan's heart," Ramos says.

At the time of its founding and for decades following, Ramos says, some Midwest community leaders criticized Father Flanagan for opening Boys Town's doors to boys of all races, backgrounds and religions. A nondenominational organization, Boys Town is unrelated to the Catholic Church, but Father Flanagan himself currently is on a path to possible sainthood.

"One of the things Father Flanagan said is that every boy must pray, but how he prays is up to him," Ramos says. "We encourage them to connect to their own religion and faith. If a kid comes to us and they are Buddhist, we will help them grow in that faith."

One 14-year-old girl arrived at Boys Town California after being placed in 26 different foster, group and other homes, Ramos recalls. "She had a pretty horrible existence. Each time a child has to leave a home, they leave everything behind. It breaks my heart to see kids come into the program and knowing all the heartache, pain and suffering they have to deal with."

That teenage girl now is a successful working adult with a family of her own, Ramos notes.

"She said thank you to me for giving her multiple chances. That is living out our faith of giving grace and forgiveness. We're supposed to forgive, so we do that at Boys Town. The kids become part of our family."

Ramos is proud to note that Boys Town California teens have a 90 percent success rate for graduating from high school.

"We want to continue to carry on Father Flanagan's dream and change how we care for children locally. We want to be a beacon, a light in the world for how we take care of kids."

Throughout the nation, the Boys Town affiliates help thousands of children each year with the Boys Town Integrated Continuum of Care®, which delivers the right care at the right time to help children and families who are edging toward crisis. The program's National Hotline fields more than 170,000 calls annually; its education programs reach 225,000 teachers, families and children; and Boys Town provides direct services to 75,000 people each year.​​

Locally, Boys Town California services include in-home counseling, a behavioral health clinic, parenting classes, support groups and family and peer mentoring, in addition to the four Family Homes for Adolescents and one Family Home for Young Children located on 80 acres in Trabuco Canyon and two Family Homes for siblings in Tustin.

Boys Town has a long history of serving as an excellent steward of donor support. It received one of the highest rankings from Charity Navigator, one of the nation's largest and most-respected charity rating systems.

The Boys Town California 2016 Silver Jubilee Night of Hope gala will take place on November 5 at the Resort at Pelican Hill on Newport Coast. More than 300 are expected to attend. Last year's gala raised more than $145,0o00, with all the proceeds going directly to help children and families in need. This year's target is more than $175,000. For sponsorship information, to register, or other questions, go to​ or call 714-558-0303.​