• By Lauren Hanna
  • Posted:
  • Alumni, News, Uncategorized

Alumni Return as Staff Members to Boys Home

One of the most valuable resources at Boys Home is the staff. The Boys Home mission comes full circle when men who were residents in their youth return to “pay it forward” for the boys who live here now. Only they can uniquely relate to the challenges and struggles the students face.

Administratively, the most well-known of the group is Executive Director Donnie Wheatley. Mr. Wheatley has led the way through capital campaigns, the creation of Boys Home School and the applied trades program and has become the resident expert on Boys Home’s history. It’s a big responsibility, but he always has time to say hello or share a piece of advice with the boys. Chad Whitmer, associate director of program, builds relationships with each boy and helps them develop leadership skills. On many weekends, he can be found leading a group of students through mountain passes on camping trips and teaching them life skills. Bobby Trice serves as director of support services and joined the staff in 2017 when he retired from the Army as a Master Sergeant after 20 years of service. Although Bobby’s full-time job keeps him busy seeing that the campus infrastructure is running smoothly, he makes it a point to know the students and spends time with them. He is also willing to come to your area and share his story about how Boys Home has made a difference in his life.

Danny Cale is the facility maintenance manager. Danny is a skilled organizer with his team and applies that same efficiency when teaching his home wiring class to students. Check out the December 20 post to the News section of the website to see how this hands-on class causes students to begin to think like business owners. Rick Turner came to Boys Home after selling a successful heating and air-conditioning business. He teaches those same skills to students, also keeping busy with maintenance projects on campus. It’s also possible to catch Rick in a snappy Santa Claus outfit at the Boys Home Christmas Tree Farm!

None of Boys Home’s programming would be possible without houseparents. After graduation from college, Donnie Costigan and Milliyon Fesseha found their way back to Boys Home to share their experience and wisdom. Their influence for good in the lives of the boys is inspiring. David Powers also returned to Boys Home and worked on the farm. He has recently accepted a position in law enforcement, and we wish him all the best in that new endeavor. 

Lastly, Mike Nunnally became the Hilltopper’s basketball coach in 2018. A retired teacher and coach, he now impacts both players and spectators with his professionalism, work ethic, fairness, and general good humor. He excels at not only building basketball skills but at building character in team members.

The presence of these men on campus demonstrates the success of the mission of Boys Home. They bring depth and a breadth of experience that is invaluable as we offer today’s students a second chance at success.

Left to right first row: Donnie Wheatley, Bobby Trice, Milliyon Fesseha       

Second row: David Powers, Rick Turner                                                           

Third row: Mike Nunnally, Chad Whitmer, Danny Cale, Donnie Costigan

  • By Colleen Urffer
  • Posted:
  • Alumni, Events, News

Bobby Trice Receives the Purple Heart

On July 3rd, Boys Home’s Director of Support Services and retired Army Master Sergeant Bobby Trice received the official certificate of a Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan. Colonel Paul Linkenhoker presented the certificate in a ceremony on the Boys Home campus.

During the ceremony, Bobby spoke of his early years at Boys Home in which he attended Callaghan Elementary. While attending Callaghan, he had a desk in Mr. Linkenhoker’s office, in order to continue learning while being scolded. Years later, Bobby is grateful to Colonel Linkenhoker and everyone who helped him get where he is today. Quoting Aristotle, he said, “the roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Bobby’s family and the Boys Home staff and students attended the ceremony. 

More about the Purple Heart here:

  • By Lauren Hanna
  • Posted:
  • Alumni, News, Uncategorized

Pete Nunnally Serves as Chaplain Intern at Boys Home this Summer

Boys Home is delighted to welcome Pete Nunnally to campus this summer. He is working on his field education internship from Virginia Theological Seminary. Pete brings a unique history to his service, as his father, Mike Nunnally, was a resident at Boys Home and currently the basketball coach. Pete also brings a wealth of experience as a teacher, mission director, and youth minister prior to going to seminary.

Pete brought his guitar along to a recent campfire, offering singing and story telling along with s’mores. During chapel over the last school year, he led the boys in singing “Wade in the Water” and told the story of his own faith journey. More recently, he has engaged the boys in making and praying with Anglican prayer beads. During the summer evenings, he is offering a sunset compline service. Pete brings a keen listening heart, eager engagement, and deep faith to his service at Boys Home.


A biography from Pete Nunnally:

I was born and raised in Sterling, Virginia, and grew up hearing stories of Boys Home from my father Mike, who lived at Boys Home from 1956-1963. After graduating from Bridgewater College in 2001, I taught middle school physical education for 6 years before moving to New Orleans in 2008 to rebuild houses with the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. While in New Orleans, I became the volunteer coordinator for the Rebuild Program and later, Program Director for Living With Purpose, an Episcopal Service Corps program. Upon returning to Virginia in 2014, I became Director of Spiritual Formation and Youth Ministries for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond until enrolling at Virginia Theological Seminary in 2017. I am passionate about God’s dream for our lives, good music, people, reconciliation, social justice, and building true community that shimmers with the hope of the Kingdom of God. My experience at St. George’s Camp at Shrine Mont taught me that all God’s children are part of the Body of Christ and worthy of dignity and love, while my time in New Orleans instilled in me a passion for racial reconciliation and systemic change. I am a cradle Episcopalian and am deeply thankful for the richness of our tradition and its commitment to a sacramental corporate prayer life and a textured individual spiritual journey in which we search daily for the sacred in places expected and unexpected. 


An entry from Pete Nunnally:

I remember wishing as a kid that I could grow up at Boys Home. The stories Dad told about Boys Home and its residents and staff were so alive and electric, as though somehow life here was just…more. I have been at Boys Home as a chaplain for two and a half weeks. I have also been at Boys Home since 1956, when, after becoming a ward of the state and a brief stint in foster care, my father was brought here. These two realities are slowly weaving into one narrative about dislocation, struggle, hope, and redemption.

On the evening of my first day here, after prayer time with Mrs. Turner, Mrs. Sarratt and Mrs. Gordon, chapel time with the boys, and discipleship groups with each cottage, we had dinner. Eating dinner in the dining hall, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was sharing the space with my 14-year old father, a skinny kid with a bright smile and big dreams. I remembered the story he told about when they used to turn out the lights to sing happy birthday during meals. When the lights came back on someone’s head had spaghetti dripping all over it. Today this would garner a whole bunch of demerits.

Dusk spread over my first evening and I sat under the trees by the field and watched boys run and play. Laughter and shouts drifted across the field and through time. Thousands of boys have romped in this field as evenings fell, pale skies slowly darkening to deep mountain blue, like a friend who doesn’t want to go home. Star after star began to twinkle their nighttime hello, the same stars that have shined over so many lives and so many boys. This wasn’t just a beautiful summer mountain night. It was something…more.

In the days since my first evening, I’ve spent time with all the boys and met most of the staff. Things have changed since the 50s and 60s, and even since the 90s and 2000s, and they are also the same. The boys that are here have lived lives of disruption. The individual levels of disruption may vary, but this much is clear: Boys Home is, and always will be, a place where boys find stability, consistency, and love. A place where former Boys Home boys come back to work, and where the staff pour out themselves, their love, and comfort like the Spirit spreading over the watery chaos of creation. Indeed, something new is being created here. Boys Home seems to me at this early stage in my time here as a wellspring of hope for boys who may not have any. A place of healing for those carrying deep wounds. And a place where God’s presence twinkles over the mountains, ripples through the bends of Dunlap Creek, and sparkles across the field in muffled shouts as evening descends, waiting for the new day God has promised.

Chaplain Intern Pete Nunnally 


Alumnus and Basketball Coach, Mike Nunnally with son, Pete Nunnally

  • By Lauren Hanna
  • Posted:
  • Alumni, News

Boys Home Hall of Fame 2018


On Saturday, September 29, 2018, Boys Home of Virginia hosted its 21st annual Hall of Fame Banquet in the Ben Parrott Dining Hall, located on the campus of Boys Home in Covington, Virginia. This honor is given to those who have either made a difference in their communities because of Boys Home or who have made a difference at Boys Home. Following a dinner attended by students, members of the staff, and invited guests, three individuals were inducted into the Hall of Fame. The inductees were Wayland F. Grubbs, Thomas “T.J.” Jones, Jr. and Bernard “Bud” Syme. Boys Home Executive Director Donnie E. Wheatley served as master of ceremonies.


Wayland F. Grubbs was the first inductee. The presentation was made by daughter Anita Harris who spoke about her father as her hero. Wayland was a resident of Boys Home from 1957 to 1960 where he was active as a basketball player and was a member of Boy Scout Troop 66. He returned to his home community of Lynchburg prior to high school graduation. He married at eighteen and his wife, Linda, was present to see her husband accept the award. When Mr. Grubbs spoke, he talked about the importance of faith and family and how both have impacted his life, especially when he got married and he and his wife created a home together. Mr. Grubbs addressed the current Boys Home students and urged them to not be discouraged during times of difficulty. He offered them a message of hope as he described his efforts to get an education and how he pursued various certifications in the trades field. Mr. Grubbs became a certified contractor, received a license to preach and serves as an ordained deacon at Living Word Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia. Mr. Grubbs ended his acceptance of the award by encouraging the students at Boys Home, urging them to not become discouraged, but to persevere and pursue their dreams.


Thomas “T. J.” Jones, Jr. was the second inductee. T. J. was a resident of Boys Home from 1983-1991. He played varsity basketball, football, and was on the track team at Covington High School where he graduated in 1991. He also played on the Boys Home varsity basketball team. Pastor Scott Reece, senior pastor at Goshen Baptist Church (VA) talked about his relationship with T. J.  and how he considers him a brother at heart. He used each letter in the word “brother” to paint a picture of T. J.’s characteristics as a husband, father, and friend. Pastor Claudette Wilcher of Bell’s Valley Worship Center spoke about how T. J.’s experience at Boys Home has led the congregation of Bell’s Valley to choose Boys Home as a mission of their church, benefitting not only the students at Boys Home, but blessing the congregation of Bell’s Valley as well. Then, Mr. Wheatley read a stirring letter from Mr. Mike Vogel, vice president of operations of Van Wyk, Inc. T. J. drives a transport truck for Van Wyk and Mr. Vogel wrote of T. J.’s dedication to his job, his strong work ethic, and his value to Van Wyk, Inc. as an employee. In honor of T. J.’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Van Wyk, Inc. made a donation to Boys Home which will include a bronze plaque in honor of T.J. Boys Home Support Services Director Bobby Trice introduced T. J. When T. J. addressed the crowd, he talked about Boys Home as a place that provided security for him as a boy, giving him a clean bed to sleep in and three meals a day. He reminisced about playing football for Covington High School and being impacted by the leadership of Boys Home, including being tutored by Mary Wheatley, who taught him not just how to read better, but how to understand what he read and how that has positively impacted his life. T. J. accepted his award with his wife, Tammy, and was also accompanied by daughters Maddy and Hannah.


The final inductee was Bernard “Bud” Syme, a longtime friend and supporter of Boys Home. Ever since Bud heard about Boys Home via a presentation made at his church years ago, he has been a tireless advocate for the organization. He has been a board member, treasurer, and fundraiser on behalf of Boys Home, beginning his service in 2005 and continuing to the present.  Mr. Wheatley presented Bud with his award. Bud’s wife, Boolie, and Blair, his daughter, shared the experience with him. Bud graduated from Petersburg High School in Petersburg, Virginia, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Randolph Macon College. He served his country in the United States Army and the National Guard from 1968 to 1976. He was self-employed in the retail tire business from 1983 until 1989 and is currently the owner and manager of Telcom Consulting Group. Bud has been active in both Christ and Grace Episcopal Church in Petersburg and Galilee Church in Virginia Beach. He served on the city of Petersburg’s planning commission and has been active in the Porsche Club of America and the Mercedes-Benz Club of America. He has been a member of the Country Club of Petersburg and Princess Anne Country Club. When he spoke, Bud contended that the Boys Home story convinces others to become involved in the mission, and he has found that telling the Boys Home story is easy. Bud has invested generously in Boys Home with his time and resources and had encouraged many others to do so. Bud has proven to be a steadfast friend and ambassador to this mission over the last thirteen years and his impact will continue as he works to educate and influence others as to the purpose and value of Boys Home of Virginia.


Mr. Wheatley shared some closing remarks prior to dismissal. It was a special evening filled with inductees, families and friends, and students of Boys Home. Thanks to each of these individuals who have lived in such a way to have been inspirational to others and who have made a difference at Boys Home. We are grateful for your investment in the mission of Boys Home of Virginia.



  • By Sarah Jones
  • Posted:
  • Alumni, News

Alumni Chance Davis on Naked and Afraid

Alumni Chance Davis will be on this Sunday’s episode of Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid. Chance is currently working as the Lower School Manager at Boys Home. Learn more about Chance in part 1 of our interview with him. (Part 2 is coming after his episode premieres on Discovery Channel.) We’re excited to have Chance on staff here at Boys Home!

UPDATE: Below is part 2 of Chance’s interview! Chance talks about his experience on the show.