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Father Steven Boes, President and National Executive Director of Boys Town

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Standing on the Shoulders of Genius

The following is from a “State of Child Care” presentation by Father Steven Boes, President and National Executive Director of Boys Town, at a recent celebration of Boys Town’s 100-year anniversary. They illustrate Boys Town’s ongoing efforts to adapt our mission to meet the ever-changing needs of America’s children and families as we begin our second century of service.  Boys Town’s founder, Father Edward Flanagan, was a genius. I believe at the heart of that genius was his openness to explore ...

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Boys Town Contributor

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America’s No. 1 War Dad

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, three former Boys Town residents died along with the more than 2,000 other victims of the attack. Over the ensuing war years, Father Flanagan received letters from many of the thousand former Boys Town citizens fighting in Europe and the Pacific. In fact, so many former Boys Town boys named Father Flanagan as their next of kin that the American War Dads Association named him as America’s No. 1 War Dad. ...

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Boys Town Contributor

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The Statue that Never Was

In the early 1960s, Monsignor Nicholas Wegner, Boys Town director at the time, conceived a plan to place a memorial to Father Flanagan on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Monsignor Wegner selected an artist and approved a design, which was turned into a miniature. But that’s as far as the project progressed.

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America’s First Boy Band

Father Edward J. Flanagan loved music. Growing up in Ireland, he would gather with his family in the evenings to sing and play instruments as they sat around their home’s hearth. Father Flanagan also believed that music was a positive hobby and outlet for children. After he founded Boys Town in 1917, he immediately began to organize a musical program for the boys. One of the earliest Boys Town band leaders was Dan Desdunes, leader of the Dan Desdunes Band, which ...

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Boys Town Centennial Celebration Featured on NBC Nightly News

Video courtesy of NBC Nightly News. Recently, NBC Nightly News sent correspondent Anne Thompson to Omaha to check in on Boys Town as it celebrates its centennial birthday. Check out the video below and share it with your friends.

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How Father Flanagan’s Kennedy Book Was Almost Lost to History

Perhaps it was the “luck of the Irish.” Whatever the reason, an extremely important, valuable and rare book was almost lost forever, were it not for the sharp eyes of a Boys Town employee at a library book sale. Father Flanagan’s personally signed copy of President John F. Kennedy’s Harvard thesis “Why England Slept” now holds a prominent place in Boys Town’s Hall of History. Watch the video below to learn the amazing story of how it ended up there.

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The Bus That Travels without Moving

This 1952 Flxible Visicoach transports its passengers back to an era when integrated schools such as Boys Town experienced many difficulties when taking their athletic teams on the road to compete. Now housed permanently in the Boys Town Hall of History, this old bus serves as an important reminder of Father Flanagan’s progressive views on equality and fairness. Watch the video below to take a trip back in time.

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Boys Town Contributor

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Father Flanagan’s Desk: More than Just a Workspace

Crafted from more than 250,000 pieces of wood from all around the world, this 320-pound intricately inlaid desk tells a story of dedication and perseverance. It was hand-made by 20 boys as a Christmas present for Father Edward J. Flanagan. The desk took more than three years to complete and was presented to the Boys Town founder in 1939. Learn more about its fascinating story when you watch the video below.

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A Road Much Traveled

There’s not much left of Birch Drive today — just a few jagged pieces of crumbling concrete. But in its heyday, this tree-lined street was the path to a second chance for homeless young men and boys coming from as far away as Florida and Washington. Watch the video below to learn more about their historic journey.

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Four Reasons Why Boys Town Needs to be a Stop on Your Omaha Vacation

If you’re planning a road trip to Omaha, Neb., make sure to mark an afternoon off for Boys Town and let your kids experience what makes Boys Town unique. John Sennert, Boys Town Gift Shop Manager, shares some insights on what to see and do when you get here. 1. The World’s Largest Stamp Ball The World’s Largest Stamp Ball is a favorite with children and adults alike and everyone gets their photo taken with it. Children can go through our “penny ...

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Boys Town and One of its Oldest Alums Will Turn 100 Together

It’s a happy coincidence that Boys Town alum Joe Renteria will be celebrating his 100th birthday this summer at Boys Town, right in the middle of the Home’s Centennial celebration. Renteria will return to the Village where he grew up for the Boys Town Alumni Association’s Biennial Reunion, slated for July 11-16. His birthday is on July 17, and will be observed during the reunion festivities. Nearing his own impressive milestone, Renteria serves as a link to Boys Town’s past and a ...

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Boys Town Supporters Are Everywhere

We like to say, “Boys Town kids are everywhere.” And they are. Given a second chance for success, they graduate from Boys Town to become teachers, police officers, congressional interns, social workers and more. At the midpoint of our 100th year, we can also say, “Boys Town supporters are everywhere.” To celebrate our centennial, we first asked corporate sponsors and community partners across the nation to show their support for Boys Town by displaying our centennial materials around their buildings, campuses ...

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Father Steven Boes | President and National Executive Director of Boys Town

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The Story Behind “He Ain’t Heavy…”

“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 ...

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Terry Hyland | Boys Town Contributor

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‘The Work Continues’ Statue: A New Symbol for a New Era

Today, as part of our ongoing centennial celebration, Boys Town unveiled a new statue. Though the sculpture may be new, it is inspired by a well-known work of art — which was inspired by the iconic words that have come to symbolize Boys Town: “He ain’t heavy, Father… he’s my brother.” Boys Town began as a single small boarding house in downtown Omaha, Nebraska, in 1917. One hundred years later, it is one of America’s largest child and family service organizations, with ...

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Tom Lynch |Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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Little Known Facts About Boys Town

Most people know that Father Flanagan started Boys Town in 1917 as a refuge for homeless boys who otherwise would have lived on the streets. Many would have led lives of crime and addiction. But there’s a lot more to the story than that. In fact, over the past 100 years, many interesting details have been forgotten or otherwise lost to history. We’ve collected some of that information below. In 1917, Father Flanagan rented an old boarding house for his ...

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Tom Lynch | Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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Early Life of the Boys Town Students

  In 1917 Father Edward J. Flanagan founded his children’s home around new concepts of care. The prevailing childcare practices often eliminated the individual needs of children, and prescribed harsh punishment. Father Flanagan’s revolutionary home fostered the individual spirt of the children, and advocated love and understanding. The first Boys Town home was located in an old former boarding house located in downtown Omaha. Within weeks of opening the home was filled with over seventy boys, and the rooms were bursting at ...

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Boys Town Contributer

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The House at 122 Maher Drive

A revolution in youth care was launched in 1975 when this former dormitory was converted into the first Boys Town Family Home. This new model of care, where a group of boys or girls live and learn under the care and tutelage of a married couple known as Family-Teachers, would eventually spread beyond Boys Town to residential youth care programs across the country. Watch the video to learn how it all began.

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Tom Lynch, Boys Town Historian

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Hall of History Updating Project

By the late 1930’s the population of Boys Town was growing and Father Flanagan decided a new dining Hall was needed. In 1939 the new dining hall was constructed with the capacity to feed four hundred boys three times a day. Over the decades thousands of boys ate their meals and special events were held in the building. Each week Father Flanagan stood in a special spot and addressed the boys with announcements of life in the village. In the ...

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Boys Town Contributer

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From a Dumpster to the Hall of History: Father Flanagan’s Cross of Cong

One of Boys Town’s most visually stunning and culturally valuable artifacts — Father Flanagan’s personal replica of the famous Cross of Cong, presented to him by the Lord Mayor of Dublin — was almost lost forever, had it not been for an Omaha priest passing by a dumpster. Watch the video below to see this fascinating story. Cross of Cong from Boys Town on Vimeo.

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Father Steven Boes, Boys Town National Executive Director

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One Man’s Vision, One Nation’s Transformation

On Dec. 12, 2016, Boys Town marks its 99th anniversary of saving children and healing families. As we begin the celebration of our centennial year, it is fitting that we honor the legacy of our founder, Servant of God Father Edward Flanagan. Boys Town’s mission to change the way America cares for children, families and communities began with his dream and thrives today to benefit boys and girls across the country. In the early 1900s, the treatment and living conditions ...

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Your Friends at Boys Town

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Calling All Boys Town Supporters

This is it. The start of something big. REALLY BIG! After all, how many organizations get to celebrate 100 years of service? First Things First Throughout our history, Boys Town employees have been the key to successfully carrying out our mission of saving children, healing families and strengthening communities. So it was fitting that we launched the beginning of our 100th year with a special employee appreciation event for all our sites around the country. Josh Temple, star of various HGTV and DIY ...

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By Father Steven Boes, Boys Town National Executive Director

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At Election Time, Wage Your Own Campaign to Teach Kids Positive Behaviors

I am so tired of seeing attack ads from politicians, both on television and the Internet. Between all the name-calling and unsupported claims, what is being modeled for our kids? That if you tear a person down enough, people will like you more? I don’t think so, and I know most parents don’t think so either. At Boys Town, we have a more positive way to teach youth about citizenship and the electoral process. Each year since 1935, the youth of ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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Education Has Always Been the Cornerstone of Success at Boys Town

In 1917, Father Edward J. Flanagan founded Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, as a revolutionary home for children. At Boys Town, children were valued, nurtured and cared for with compassion and understanding. Why were Father Flanagan’s ideas and practices considered to be so contrary to America’s prevailing child care system? Boys Town was conceived through years of research by Father Flanagan as a response to the American concept of eugenics. The philosophy of eugenics stated that a child’s race, religion or social ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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Olympic Torch Lit Up Boys Town

Many important and distinctive events occur in the Village of Boys Town. Their purpose is to enrich students and broaden their educational experience. Oftentimes, these events are sports related. One of the most interesting occurred in 2002 when the Olympic torch passed through Boys Town on its way to Salt Lake City, host of that year’s Winter Olympics. As you may know, months before the start of the Winter and Summer Games, a ceremonial torch is lit in Olympia, Greece, the birthplace ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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Trailblazing Olympian Got His Start at Boys Town

Father Edward Flanagan knew sports helped children physically and emotionally. That’s why one of the first youth programs he organized was a baseball league for Omaha’s homeless children. At Boys Town, Father Flanagan created a large intramural program that involved everyone. Baseball, football, basketball, track and other sports gave his kids the opportunity to have fun, exercise, learn team building skills and, most importantly, experience success. One young lad who took advantage of these extracurricular activities was Charles “Deacon” Jones. He arrived ...

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Boys Town Contributor

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Star NFL Cornerback Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman Visits Boys Town

Charles Tillman’s day job is all about taking — primarily footballs intended for opposing receivers. But when he’s not harassing NFL offenses, Charles focuses on giving back to the community. In 2008, Charles’ daughter was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease that usually leads to heart failure and death. Fortunately, his daughter was the recipient of a heart transplant, and today she is a vibrant, active young girl with a bright future. As a result of this experience, Charles and his wife Jackie ...

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Father Steven Boes, Boys Town National Executive Director 

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Teaching Citizenship to Kids in an Era of Attack Ads

I am so tired of seeing attack ads from politicians. Between all the name calling and unsupported claims, what are we modeling to our kids? That if you tear a person down enough, people will like you more? I don’t think so, and I know most parents don’t either. At Boys Town we instead find ways of teaching youth citizenship through class elections. Each year since 1935, the youth of Boys Town elect a Mayor and Vice Mayor from the upcoming ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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Achievements of Supporters, Alumni Highlight Boys Town’s Black History Month Celebration

In 1917, Servant of God Father Edward Flanagan founded his Home for Boys in Omaha, Nebraska, on the principles of racial and religious tolerance and acceptance. Many people did not appreciate or support this revolutionary concept, and Father Flanagan eventually left the city to create his own community – the Village of Boys Town – away from disapproving critics. Many organizations that fought for racial equality supported the Home, including the NAACP. Over the decades, Boys Town sought out African Americans ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and Boys Town Hall of History 

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Valentines and Voting Booths

Valentine’s Day has always been special at Boys Town, but it was especially true in 1926. It was Election Day at the Home, and the outcome ushered in a new era. Boys Town founder, Servant of God Father Edward Flanagan, was a big believer in civic responsibility. He wanted the children at the Home to be good citizens and learn about the law and government. He advocated a form of self-government that gave boys a voice in the rules that governed ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and Boys Town Hall of History

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Through the Decades, Christmas Traditions Have Brought Holiday Happiness to Boys Town Youth

“No season of the entire year brings with it such warmth of feeling and such a sense of peace as Christmas time.” Servant of God Edward Flanagan Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys had been open only eight days when the boys in Servant of God Edward Flanagan’s care celebrated their first Christmas in 1917. Their Christmas meal that day consisted of a barrel of sauerkraut donated by a local merchant. Years later, Servant of God Flanagan reflected on that momentous holiday: “...I ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and Boys Town Hall of History 

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Boys Town – 98 Years Strong

On December 12, 1917, Servant of God Father Edward Flanagan welcomed the first residents to his new children’s home in Omaha, Nebraska. After working with homeless men for several years, Father Flanagan realized that his true mission was to help the children no one wanted. Over a period of several months, the priest took time each week to sit in the local courthouse to hear cases involving juvenile offenders. He was surprised to see that in most cases, the boy offenders ...

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Thomas Lynch, Director of Community Programs and Boys Town Hall of History

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Through the Decades, Boys Town Youth Celebrate a Tradition of Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving means so much more than turkey and pumpkin pie to the children of Boys Town. It is a special holiday celebration when our young citizens express how thankful they are for a new start and a new direction in their lives. Our founder, the Servant of God Edward Flanagan, often said that the most appreciative children in America were those who lived at Boys Town. The early Thanksgiving celebrations at Boys Town were often simple events, mainly because there wasn’t ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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Halloween at Boys Town

The Servant of God Edward Flanagan founded Boys Town to be a home for abandoned and orphaned children. His intention was to provide the boys a family-based lifestyle whenever possible. This included the celebration of holidays. One major fall holiday was Halloween. Being Irish, the Servant of God Flanagan had celebrated this holiday in his native country. Once the Home had moved to Overlook Farm, the Halloween celebrations became a fall harvest event. In the 1920s, the Servant of God would ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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The History of Women Mayors at Boys Town

In 1926, Father Edward Flanagan created the Boys Town Mayor system to help run the village. He believed the boys should have a say in their community and it would help the boys to learn how to get along with each other. But after several months, Father Flanagan realized the Home was not ready yet for the mayor system. By 1936, Father Flanagan felt the boys were ready once again to try the mayoral system. It proved successful and operated ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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The Day Father Flanagan Died

The U.S. Government Had Called on the Founder of Boys Town to Help Children in Post-War Asia and Europe   It was a story made famous by Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. During the winter of 1917, Father Edward J. Flanagan borrowed $90 from a friend and turned an Omaha boardinghouse into a residence for homeless and neglected boys. The young Irish immigrant priest stuck to his then radical idea that all boys were welcome regardless of race or religion. By the late ...

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Father Steven Boes, President and National Executive Director of Boys Town

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Boys Town’s National Reach and Impact

On beautiful spring days like today, I love to sit outside and reflect on all of God’s glorious deeds. The miracles of the heart that happen for the young people in our care at Boys Town would certainly be high on that list for me. What an absolute blessing it is to see Father Flanagan’s dream continue every day in the lives of the children and families with whom we work. What started nearly a hundred years ago with a few ...

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Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Boys Town Hall of History

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Boys Town Self-Government: Citizenship in Action

Boys Town founder Father Edward Flanagan once described his work as “building good Americans.” He believed that being a good citizen required active participation in the political process and voting. To give his boys a chance to experience and experiment with these activities, he set up a system of self-government at Boys Town. In 1935, Boys Town residents went to the polls to elect their very first mayor and Village commissioners. The elections allowed all the boys to have a voice ...

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Father Boes

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Well-Deserved Honors for the Founder of Boys Town

Father Edward Flanagan inspires me every day. The founder of Boys Town may have passed away more than 60 years ago, but his dedication to children and his leadership in changing how they are cared for, in America and around the world, still influences us today. Father Flanagan was truly a man ahead of his time, welcoming kids of every race, nationality and religion to work together to form their own healthy community. It is because of his good works and ministry ...