By: Julie Montanaro
April 7, 2017
Boys Town was first made famous on the big screen in Hollywood in the 1930's.
"Boys Town is real. It's a drama greater than the imagination of Hollywood's greatest storytellers," the original Warner Brothers movie trailer begins.
It highlighted the work of Father Edward Flangan at his Omaha, Nebraska home for at risk children.
Spencer Tracy earned an Oscar for his portrayal of Father Flanagan in the film.
That Oscar is now in Tallahassee to help "Boys Town" celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Boys Town historian Thomas Lynch traveled all the way from Omaha
carrying that statue under lock and key.
Spencer Tracy donated it to Boys Town.
"Father Flanagan received the Oscar from Spencer Tracy the day after he received it in 1939. Father was actually ill in bed and we have pictures of him holding it in his pajamas and then he placed it on his desk and kept it there for ten years until he passed away."
Those willing to wear white gloves can hold the autographed Oscar and take pictures with it at Boys Town's annual gala.
"An Oscar is something people are very interested in and many people are amazed at how heavy the Oscar is," Lynch said. "They just love to see it because they see it on t.v. and they can actually hold one."
The Oscar is usually under lock and key in a museum. It'll be on display at Friday night's sold out Spirit of Youth gala.
That gala is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Boys Town here in Tallahassee.
It has helped nearly 800 children in the past year cope with abuse and anger and start to believe in themselves.
Boys Town alum Ashley Jackson says she is living proof that all things are possible.
Ashley Jackson got her first degree from FAMU.
She's now working on her master's at Florida State.
We met at the "Unconquered" statue. It couldn't be more apt.
"You begin to develop a hopelessness in people, because you know you've seen so much bad," Jackson said.
Jackson survived years of abuse, bouncing from foster home to foster home before landing at Boys Town.
"Boys Town actually made my 15th foster home," she said.
Jackson was thrust into foster care at the age of seven. By 15, she says, she was angry and lashing out.
"All the other foster homes, all the other people in my life, they gave up on me, which didn't help because I had given up on myself, you know? But when I got to Boys Town, they didn't," Jackson said. "Because they believed in me so much, it caused me to start believing in me."
This vivacious 26 year old is now determined to be a voice for other foster kids and share the words she was so desperate to hear - and believe - herself.
"You are capable. You are intelligent and you have the willpower and potential to accomplish anything you want to accomplish. Don't let anyone tell you you can't. Always know that you can," she said.
Ashley will be headed to Washington, D.C. next month for an internship in Congressman Al Lawson's office.
This is just one of the success stories that Boys Town is celebrating.
It directly helped more than 8,000 kids in Florida in 2016 and tens of thousands more nationwide.