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Boys Town Youth Supports "Little Sister"

Youth Shawn with Rylie, daughter of Family-Teachers Pam and Brian Heck.

We often hear about the benefits Boys ​Town provides for the youth that go through the programs, but there is another group that stands to gain from the outstanding techniques encouraged in Treatment Family Homes and classes: the biological children of Family-Teachers ®.

Pam and Brian Heck, Family-Teachers at Boys Town North Florida, recently had the chance to see this benefit through their daughter, Rylie. To Rylie, the youth that come to live with her and her parents are built-in big brothers. She is especially close with a young man named Shawn.

Pam describes Shawn as outgoing, friendly and entertaining. He keeps his goals in mind and sets a good example for all those in the home. “She [Rylie] thinks the world of Shawn,” she said. “She calls him her big brother and is so proud of him when he has dance or rap performances.”

Recently, Shawn had the opportunity to pass on a valuable lesson to Rylie. When he heard her telling her parents how her gymnastics instructor said some mean things to her when she was accidentally pushed off the balance beam at practice, Shawn immediately stepped up and began encouraging her. He challenged her to return to practice and continue working hard to show her teacher how tough she was.

His brotherly support didn’t stop there. Shawn began attending Rylie’s practices to give her moral support. Now when Rylie feels uncomfortable, she can look to Shawn in the stands for a smile and an encouraging thumbs up. Pam says he is always sure to give her a high five after practice. With a relationship this heartwarming, it is hard to believe that Rylie and Shawn ever had a rocky patch.

When Shawn first arrived at Boys Town, he had difficulties with outbursts caused by his anger. His first Family-Teachers said that they had never seen anyone “do as much property destruction as he did in 15 minutes.” Rylie witnessed a tantrum early on and was very shaken up.

In the one and a half years Shawn has lived with the Hecks, his relationships and behaviors have shown vast growth. “Shawn is now a leader and is on achievement,” said Pam. “He is a protector of the home and encourages his peers to make better choices. His academics have improved immensely and just this month he was Student of the Month at Godby High School. Before we know it, Shawn will leave Boys Town and move onto bigger and better things, but we are thankful to have had the opportunity to have a part in his life.”

Both Heck parents appreciate the opportunity to raise their children among the youth that come to Boys Town and are proud of the example Rylie and Shawn have set through their friendship. The pair has demonstrated how an older brother and younger sister can support, love and teach one another. Rylie showed Shawn the value in giving back, and Shawn taught Rylie a lesson she’ll never forget.

“I am thankful to have Shawn as my big brother because he helps me to learn things, like how to not give up,” said Rylie. With their relationship growing stronger each day, Rylie surely has many more lessons to look forward to.