Boys Town 100

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Today, December 12, marks 100 years since the 1917 opening of Boys Town, a private institution for homeless, abused, neglected, and disabled children. The institution is near Omaha, Nebraska. The town includes housing, recreational facilities, a grade school, a high school, and a career center. It cares for thousands of boys and girls each year. Boys Town also runs youth centers throughout the country and an institute for children with communication disorders.

The institution was established in 1917 by Edward J. Flanagan, a Roman Catholic priest. It was then known as Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home. Flanagan believed that if orphaned or troubled boys received the best possible home, education, and training, they would grow up to be productive members of society. Flanagan borrowed $90 to rent an old house in Omaha to care for five boys. As more boys moved into the house, it became necessary to move to larger quarters. In 1921, Flanagan moved the boys’ home to a 160-acre (65-hectare) farm.

Over the years, the farm was enlarged. Today, it covers 900 acres (364 hectares), including about 500 acres (200 hectares) of farmland. Boys Town was incorporated as a village in 1936. The institution first admitted girls in 1979. In 2000, the national program headquartered at Boys Town, Nebraska, changed its name to Girls and Boys Town to emphasize that it serves girls as well as boys. In 2007, however, the program shortened its name again to Boys Town.

The award-winning motion picture Boys Town (1938) starred Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan and Mickey Rooney as a young man in need of help.

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Image: Father Flanagan and the Boys Town Band pose with U.S. President Calvin Coolidge during the summer of 1927 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Credit: © Aral/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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