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 was sent to Boys Home. His mother and stepfather were abusive, his biological father was absent, and a foster care placement hadn’t worked out. 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.


Unexpected Opportunities at Boys Home

Chad Whitmer, Boys Home resident 1999 – 2004

Chad Whitmer never expected to remain at Boys Home for five years. When he arrived in 1999, his probation officer told him he would spend 30 days being evaluated before returning home. However, Chad quickly realized that Boys Home provided him with opportunities he wouldn’t have access to at home. For the first time, he had the structure he needed to do well in school. Also, he learned to take responsibility for his decisions, good or bad. Outside of school, he was able to participate in various leadership roles on campus, basketball, and Boy Scouts, eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Chad remained at Boys Home until graduating from high school in 2004.

After high school, Chad attended Liberty University and joined the Army Reserves. While working on his degree in psychology, he completed two tours of duty in Iraq. His time overseas helped him realize he wanted to give back to the place that gave him so much. Upon returning, he worked first as a houseparent, and eventually in his current position as Associate Director of Program. Chad is married and has two daughters and a son, and he recently completed a master’s degree in divinity from Rawlings Divinity School at Liberty University.

Chad Whitmer, L, and Teresa Johnson, R, present Ms. Kelly Calhoun with a certificate of appreciation for fifteen years of service at Boys Home.

Three Decades of Commitment

Donnie Wheatley, resident 1959 – 1966

By the time he turned 12, Donnie Wheatley tended toward trouble. His mother, a single woman raising five kids, was having difficulty making ends meet. Donnie initially went to live in a foster home, but the placement didn’t work out. Next, he went to Boys Home.

At first, Donnie didn’t want to be at Boys Home, and he ran away. Soon, though, he decided to use his time more constructively. He reached a particular turning point in eighth grade. “When I was in the eighth grade, Mr. Burrowes, who was director at the time, asked me if I’d given any thought to going to college.” Since no one in his family had graduated from high school, “It wasn’t on my radar screen,” Donnie says. But Mr. Burrowes gave him some good advice.

He said, “If you think you might like to go, you need to act like you want to go from the first day of high school.” That made an impression. Donnie began to pay more attention to his grades. In addition to being a good student, he participated in sports, student government, and worked at jobs on campus.

By applying himself, and with letters of recommendation from several Virginia Military Institute graduates, Donnie earned acceptance at the institute and a State Cadetship. After graduation, Donnie attended Virginia Tech and worked on a M.S. in electrical engineering. In 1971, he entered the Marine Corps, where his engineering degree allowed him to get into data processing. Resigning in 1974 as a Captain, U.S.M.C.R., Donnie went to work in the private sector for Proctor & Gamble. That didn’t stop his educational achievement, though. He earned an M.B.A. from Valdosta State College, and completed courses toward a Masters in Education through Georgia State University.

Years before, Donnie had talked with Mr. Burrowes about returning to Boys Home, but at the time his career was well on its way. Life and family, however, moved him toward a return. Donnie married his childhood sweetheart, whom he began dating in high school. The two of them and their family moved back to Covington, and Donnie went to work for Westvaco. They had been back in the area for three years when the position of executive director at Boys Home opened.

The associate director approached Donnie to apply for the position. “I didn’t feel like an electrical engineer with an M.B.A. fit the criteria, because they were looking for someone in the social services field,” Donnie says. But his commitment to the institution and his interest in its continued success impressed the search committee, and they chose to hire him. Donnie began his role as executive director in 1985 and continued to serve in that capacity until his retirement in December 2021.

Donnie Wheatley with two residents

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.