Stories

Putting faces on the work we do

The long history of Boys Home is rich with stories of boys who found themselves here, and went on to live productive, successful, happy lives. We’re proud of that tradition, and here we’ll share some of what our students and alumni have to say about their experience. And we’ll also tell you more about the values young men learn here along the way.


 

Athletics as Opportunity at Boys Home

Mike Nunnally, Boys Home resident 1956-1963

When he was 12, Mike Nunnally became a ward of the state of Virginia and went to live at Boys Home. His mother and stepfather were abusive, and his biological father was absent. A foster placement hadn’t worked out, and Boys Home was the next option.

Mike describes Boys Home in 1956 as being fueled by competition. He says there were always kids playing sports in the field, and the cottages were so serious about the annual Christmas decoration contest that his cottage acted out a live nativity scene one year!

Luckily, in that sort of environment, Mike was a natural athlete. He joined in the competition, playing on the basketball and baseball teams while at Boys Home. Many older students were accomplished athletes, and Mike looked up to them as they went on to play college sports. Without a family support system to count on after high school, college sports provided an opportunity that he may not have had otherwise. “Athletics were a stepping stone to a future where I had control over my life,” he says. After his time at Boys Home, Mike attended Bridgewater College and worked as a teacher and coach in Loudon County for over 30 years. He returned to Boys Home to coach the basketball team in 2018.

Being back at Boys Home as the basketball coach has been both a challenge and a labor of love. “I love these guys,” Mike says. He recognizes that our students have many similar problems, challenges, and growing to do that he had at their age. But he also knows with fairness, honesty, and consistency, every child can live up to or exceed expectations.

Mike (L) and his son Pete (R) in front of the dining hall, summer 2019

Mike also writes a blog with stories from his life. Read more here.

 

This is the story of a boy named Chad

I arrived in April 1999, with a trash bag full of filthy clothes and no recollection as to how long I would remain at Boys Home. My probation officer said I would spend 30 days being evaluated and then released to go home; however, this was not the outcome because I would remain at Boys Home until I graduated in 2004.

While at Boys Home I was provided with an opportunity to focus my time towards academics, boy scouts, basketball, and activities at school. At home, I was unable to focus on academics because there was no structure or any accountability for my poor decision making. The structure and support Boys Home provided helped me gain the respect of my peers and adults, attain the Eagle Scout rank and fill various leadership roles in clubs at school. Once I entered 9th grade, I was determined to earn the honor roll. I graduated in 2004 with an advanced diploma and, upon graduation, joined the military as a means to pay for college.

I attended Basic Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, then started my first semester at Liberty University. I completed my first two years as a student and was called for my first tour of duty. Before leaving the country, I decided to marry Laura Bird. After spending time overseas, I determined to give something back to the place that gave me so much, so I returned to Boys Home. I finished my bachelor’s degree in Psychology, right before deploying for my second tour of duty in Iraq.

While in Iraq, I gained insight into the plight of children which intensified my zeal for helping children. I brought this passion and augmented way of thinking back to Boys Home with the drive and determination to meet the needs of boys like me. Since returning from Iraq, Laura and I had a little girl, Savannah and a son, David.

Currently, I am the associate director of operations at Boys Home. I am a seminary student as well. At Boys Home, I remain interested in creating a team environment in all aspects of what we do. My ultimate goal is to serve each young man here as if he were myself, addressing his needs socially, spiritually, and educationally.

This is a story about a boy named Donnie

In 1959, Donnie Wheatley arrived at Boys Home, twelve years old and a ward of the state. At first, his discontentment with Boys Home and his desire to return to his family led to several attempts to run away. Once Donnie decided to give Boys Home a try, he participated in sports, student government and campus jobs.

When encouraged by staff, Donnie entered Virginia Military Institute in 1966 on a State Cadetship, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. After working on a Master of Science degree from Virginia Tech, Wheatley spent three years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps, attaining the rank of Captain.  With a Master’s in Business Administration from Valdosta State College in Georgia and courses toward a Master’s in Education at Georgia State University, he enjoyed success and respect in his early career as a professional engineer.

In 1985, Wheatley returned to Boys Home as Executive Director.  During his tenure new buildings have been constructed, major renovations completed and new programs added—all in service to improving better opportunities for at-risk children and to ensure that no child is turned away due to his family’s inability to pay.

Donnie’s willingness to share his faith and vulnerability has enabled hundreds of young men to break cycles of despair and neglect to become productive citizens and emotionally healthy husbands and fathers.

This is a story about a boy named Walter

Walter did not come to Boys Home by himself. He came here with his two brothers. Having his brothers also at Boys Home made the transition to residential living a little easier. Walter was a good student and, after leaving Boys Home, graduated from high school.

Inspired to continue his education, Walter attended college and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia and a Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary.  He was ordained to the priesthood and served several parishes in Maryland and New Jersey.

Walter earned a Doctor of Ministry from Drew University. Although officially retired, he currently donates his expertise in assisting at a local parish, sharing worship duties, serving on the pastoral care committee and overseeing grief ministries. His wife is a real estate agent. They have three grown children and ten grandchildren.

This is a story about a boy named Larry

Larry arrived at Boys Home at the young age of 6. Small in stature, Larry was a favorite of the housemothers. He soon learned that studying was necessary for a good education. A student of Boys Home for 12 years, Larry participated in the baseball and basketball sports program. His shining star, however, was earning the first Eagle Scout award for the Boys Home Troop 6, with 35 merit badges.

All of the studying and hard work paid off, as he graduated from VMI in 1955, majoring in English.  He was the co-founder of the Boys Home Alumni Association and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 as a charter member. Larry was recognized for his significant accomplishments since leaving Boys Home.

Larry retired as Senior Vice President for Bank One Corporation. He resides in Kentucky, is an experienced golfer and has been a frequent visitor and motivational speaker at Boys Home.