Boys Town


Father Flanagan rented and opened a boarding house in downtown Omaha, Nebraska and opens Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys


Boys Town youth member Ruben Granger was photographed carrying fellow member Howard Loomis on his back. The image would later inspire the Boys Town symbol


The organization adopted the name Boys Town


Boys Town became an incorporated village in Nebraska


Boys Town officially adopted the image of a boy carrying a younger boy on his back with the slogan, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother.”


The national headquarters of the Boys Town property was listed as a national historic landmark on February 4th

“He Ain’t Heavy, Father. He’s My Brother.”

In the 1940s, Father Edward Flanagan took the words as the slogan for Boys Town; however, it was in 1969, that The Hollies made this phrase famous in their song, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (co-written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell). The phrase is said to be based on a story from The Parables of Jesus, by James Wells of the United Free Church of Scotland in 1884. As the story goes, someone asked a young girl carrying a big baby, if she was tired; she was heard to say, “No he’s not heavy; he’s my brother.” Elton John played the piano on the Holley’s version, and Neil Diamond’s rendition went to number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in 1970. The song was also covered by the Osmonds and Olivia Newton-John.


A Century of Saving Children & Healing Families Across America

This is the official tag line of Boys Town’s 100-year celebration. In 1917, Father Flanagan got a loan for $90 to rent a boarding house that became Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys. His goal was to provide forward thinking juvenile care and education methods for troubled boys. One hundred years later, Boys Town helps over 16,000 kids, 50% of whom are girls. While the national headquarters is in village of Boys Town, Nebraska; the organization consists of 11 regional headquarters around the US, in states such as Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New York, and others.


How it Works

Only some of the kids live in cottages or homes on the Nebraska campus; 90% are served in their home communities. Parents, family members, and caregivers can receive online parenting resources through By 2013, Boys Town had trained over 11,000 teachers and educators in the Boys Town’s Education Training Model. In addition, they offer Common Sense Parenting to parents in their communities to build/re-build family relationships and encourage positive behavior.

If a child lives on campus, he or she belongs to a “family”. There are 6-8 kids and a married couple (Family-Teachers). They share activities, meals, afterschool activities, and attend events. For those living in other areas, they can contact Boys Town resources through the Boys Town National Hotline – it is available to kids and parents. Boys Town states on its website: “We are driven by an unwavering belief that every child and every family has the potential to succeed, regardless of their circumstances. They believe that every child they help in turn helps the community surrounding him or her.


How Boys Town is Celebrating its Birthday

Boys Town is inviting the world to help them celebrate; as they state, “Boys Town kids are everywhere. They are teachers, parents, engineers, artists. Given a second chance, help and healing, they have triumphed. Now we need your help to spread the word about the amazing work Boys Town does every day—and has been doing for 100 years.” Three of their activities include social media and the hashtags, #FlatFlanagan and #HeAintHeavy, and involve postcards that can be placed and photographed in unexpected places, bookmarks to leave in waiting room reading materials, and finally, window decals. You have until June 30, 2017 to enter the #FlatFlanagan photo prize!


Did You Know?

  • The “He ain’t heavy” photograph was taken in 1921 – Rueben Granger had Howard Loomis on his back.
  • The 1938 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Andy Rooney, garnered Tracy an Oscar, which he gave to Father Flanagan
  • Several Boys Town kids were at Pearl Harbor and perished on December 7, 1941.
  • Boys Town alumnus Lloyd Bucher was the commander of the USS Pueblo, the boat and crew captured and held by the North Koreans in 1968.
  • The first girls were admitted to Boys Town in 1979.



CBS Visits Boys Town in December 2016 to speak with students and “parent/teachers”

Listen to Susana Pettis and Brianna Wessling from Marian High School in Omaha Nebraska tell the story of Boys Town for National History Day 2015

Visit the 100 Years of Boys Town

Have a centennial suggestion? Let us know!

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