Against All Odds - Boys Town
Father Edward J. Flanagan was the founder and visionary for what's known today as Boys Town. He had a dream, a vision, that every child could be a productive citizen if given love, a home, an education and a trade. He accepted boys of every race, color and creed. Father Flanagan firmly believed, "There are no bad boys.There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking."
Father Flanagan was born prematurely and his family feared he would not survive the first days of his life. His grandfather held him wrapped in a blanket to his chest for hours at a time sitting next to the hearth in their kitchen. In those first hours, prayer, warmth and complete love sustained him to survive. Edward J. Flanagan was the eighth of eleven children.
Perhaps due to his condition at birth, Edward was frail and often struggled with illnesses throughout his entire life. Despite this he was determined and optimistic to accomplish the deeds in front of him. In a letter to a friend he wrote, "You also may not know that I was the little shepherd boy who took care of the cattle and sheep. That seemed to be my job as I was the delicate member of the family and good for nothing else, and with probably a poorer brain than most of the other members of the family." However he excelled in school and graduated early. As a young man he entered the seminary and was ordained in 1912. Father Flanagan was assigned to the Diocese of Omaha, NE. He opened a shelter for the homeless in an old downtown hotel and ministered to anyone that needed food and shelter.
In 1917, Father Flanagan opened his first Boys' Home in a "run-down" Victorian mansion in downtown Omaha with $90 of borrowed money. Starting with 7 "wayward" boys it grew to over 100 in just a few years. Despite public ridicule and a huge lack of funds, he was determined to see his vision through. Against all odds he relentlessly and tirelessly fought to keep the Boys Home open. In 1921, the Boys' Home, now named Boys Town, moved to Overlook Farm, 10 miles outside of Omaha, where it is thriving today. From those humble beginnings Father Flanagan and Boys Town became internationally known with the help of the 1938 movie, Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. Father Flanagan became an acknowledged expert in the field of child care, and toured the United States discussing his views on juvenile delinquency.
The federal government called on Father Flanagan to help children both nationally and internationally. After World War II, President Truman asked him to travel to Asia and Europe to attend discussions about children left orphaned and displaced by the war.
As a leader, Father Flanagan had a vision. He also had the passion and the commitment to overcome obstacles and see his vision through.Today the legacy of his vision benefits about 1.5 million youth each year.
"The value we put on anything is revealed by what we are willing to sacrifice to possess it." Father Edward Flanagan