Boys Town came to fruition in 1917 as an orphanage for boys. Flanagan, who worked as a priest in Omaha, acquired a loan of ninety dollars and housed five boys under his supervision. What began as a simple measure still exists more than a century later.
By the following spring, the number of children grew to a hundred. Boys Town became known for being open to young lads of all religions and color. The community went from strength to strength and a few years later, Father Flanagan relocated the boys to a farm on the outskirts of Omaha.
Now able to host more kids, a hundred turned into a thousand as the 30’s began. By that time, Boys Town also included a school, dorms and buildings. Moreover, the community also had an elected mayor and commissioners. This led to Boys Town being declared a village in Nebraska.
More than a decade of extraordinary work brought acclaim of the international variety as well. In the late 1930’s, the community was well represented in a movie called ‘Boys Town’. In fact, it starred legendary thespian Spender Tracy, who would go on to win an Academy Award for his portrayal of Father Flanagan.
In the aftermath of World War II, Harry Truman, the President of the United States, implored Father Flanagan to travel across borders and preach his message of brotherhood and community.
Father Flanagan devoted the final years of his life to boys who were adversely affected children such as war orphans. He also engaged prominent governments to look after these kids.
Unfortunately, Father Flanagan passed away in 1948. However, his legacy lived on. His demise meant that Boys Town required a new leader – Monsignor Nicholas Wegner. The population of boys in the Omaha property was in the thousands and it had a sound financial footing. Residents had more academic and athletic opportunities as well.
Wegner led Boys Town until 1973, when he was succeeded by Robert Hupp. Hupp’s tenure was a game changer because he allowed girls to enter the fray too. Under his Family Home Program, children could reside with married couples, who were known as Family Teachers.
Also, Hupp oversaw the inauguration of the Boys Town National Research Hospital in 1977. Fast forward to the 21st century, this institute is recognized as a treatment center for children suffering from hearing and speech impediments.
Boys Town in Present Day
Boys Town, Omaha has been under the watchful eye of Steven Boes since 2005. It is one of the foremost child care agencies in North America, with more than 2 million lives being positively changed by Father Flanagan’s work.
If you’d like to learn more about Omaha and its history be sure to check out the History of the College World Series.
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