OMYF Community Spotlight: Boys Town of Central Florida

By John Denton
May 26, 2011


ORLANDO – Life has never been particularly kind or fair to Latori Freeney and Shatilla James. But getting help from Boys Town of Central Florida has given the teenagers a chance at success and both wonder now where they would be without that assistance.

Freeney, a 15-year-old from Sanford, saw her mother suffer a stroke and father abandon the family, leaving her basically alone with her sisters and brothers. A single mother at 18, Shatilla used help from the programs provided to her to learn social skills, independent living skills, understand how to seek community resources and she even participated in parenting classes. Ultimately, Shatilla enrolled in a GED program in hopes of reaching her goal of someday attending college.

Latori and Shatilla are two of the many success stories from the Boys Town of Central Florida. Their Intervention and Assessment Shelters and Family Treatment Homes serve hundreds annually and thousands through the years.

And without the help of the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, such a program would most likely not be possible. Earlier this year, Boys Town of Central Florida received a $50,000 grant from the Orlando Magic Youth Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund (OMYF-MFF), which distributed $1 million to local non-profit organizations that focus on nourishing the minds and bodies of at-risk children throughout Central Florida.

Over the last 21 years, the OMYF has distributed more than $16 million to local non-profit community organizations. The Orlando Magic Youth Foundation raises community dollars annually through donations, auctions and events such as the Black Tie and Tennies Gala and the OMYF Golf Tournament. Fundraising efforts then go to the Fund, and are matched at $0.50 on the dollar by the McCormick Foundation. In 2011, in addition to presenting checks totaling $1 million to 19 non-profit organizations, the OMYF-MFF also awarded scholarships totaling $30,000.

``We are proud to be able to assist organizations who are in need during these tough economic times,’’ Orlando Magic President Alex Martins said. ``It is only possible through a collaborative effort of the DeVos family, this community, our players, coaches, staff, corporate partners and season ticket holders that we are capable of distributing $1 million this year. Most importantly we want to recognize and thank those who work every day with the youth of our community … they are the true heroes.’’

The 2011 grant recipients from OMYF: Adult Literacy League, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Boys Town of Central Florida, Coalition for the Homeless, Conductive Education Center of Orlando, Crealde School of Art, Education Foundation-Osceola County, Elevate Orlando, Foundation for Orange County Public Schools, Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools, Hebni Nutrition Consultants, Hope Foundation for the Homeless, Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando, Orlando Ballet, Florida Hospital for Children, Harbor House of Central Florida, Hope Community Center, Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families and the Valencia Community College Foundation.

Boys Town Central Florida’s goal is to provide positive nurturing to abused, neglected, abandoned, homeless and/or runaway youth ages 10 to 18 through one of its programs. It offers Treatment Family Homes, Intervention and Assessment Shelter and In-Home Family Services.

Latori is a resident in the Intervention Assessment Shelter where she is receiving positive nurturing along with her younger sister in one of the Family Treatment Homes. She has been in foster care at Boys Town for about four months, and she’s quite thankful for the support and care she has received.

``At Boys Town I have learned how to express my feelings with others and not just hold it in. Also, Boys Town really cares,’’ Latori wrote recently. ``They treat you like their own kids and let you know they care. Plus, here you get awarded for your good behavior which is good because it makes you want to keep doing good. Boys Town teaches you skills you will need in life such as anger control, boundaries, following instructions, and more. Boys Town is a great environment for kids to grow and learn. And it has been a great experience for me.’’

As for Shatilla, she had originally planned to make her stay at Boys Town a short one since she was about to turn 18 years old and become free to do as she pleased as an adult. But after speaking with the Boys Town staff she learned she could strengthen her skills to be more successful when she ages out of care. Shatilla decided it was a good idea for her to stay for a little while to get all the help she could before she went out on her own.

A resident in one of the Treatment Family Homes where she received positive nurturing and treatment and care from specially trained married couples, Shatilla learned social skills, better ways to live on your own, how to acquire community resources and took parenting classes to help her be a better parent to her own child.

Boys Town’s Family Teachers and G.A.L. programs helped Shatilla find an apartment, taught her to use community resources and helped her enroll in a GED program. Someday, she hopes her path will take her to college where she might become one of the first members of her family with a degree. She still maintains contact with the Boys Town family and continues to make good choices and implementing the skills she learned in the program.

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.