Boys Town’s motto, “He ain't heavy, Father, he’s my brother,” inspired 
this statue

Boys Town’s motto, “He ain't heavy, Father, he’s my brother,” inspired this statue

In an investigation published in 1972, the Omaha Sun, a weekly newspaper with not much money or staff, ferreted out the huge amounts of money Boys Town, a nonprofit to help at-risk boys, was collecting with its “he ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother” mass mailings, and how little was being used to improve the boys’ lives.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning package (“Boys Town—America’s Wealthiest City?”) demonstrated that the main ingredients for good journalism are a supportive publisher, energetic and determined reporters, and a commitment to exploring the full story. The series was not a “gotcha” moment; it was nuanced and fair and explored how approaches to child care and stewardship had changed over the years.

I read those stories when I was a medical reporter for the Detroit Free Press.

The Sun wrote an accompanying story about how it conducted the investigation, and I was impressed by the staffers’ excitement and decency and how they rented a special room for the reporters who were doing the story so they could keep it under wraps until it was published. The series made me realize that great journalism doesn’t necessarily require a lot of money and staff.

Boys Town—America’s Wealthiest City?

‘Give an account of thy stewardship…’
Luke, 16

By staff of Omaha Sun
Omaha Sun, March 30, 1972


This is an account of the stewardship that Father Flanagan’s Boy’s Home, internationally renowned as Boys Town, has given to hundreds of millions of dollars donated by the American public in the 55 years of its existence.

Never in those years has Boys Town felt constrained to report to its millions of donors how the money was used. Unlike most major institutions which rely on public financial support, Boys Town has drawn deeper into secrecy—indeed has flatly refused questions about finances from donors and newsmen.

This is why the Sun late last year decided to take an in-depth look at the affairs of the institution, perhaps the best-known privately-supported child-care home in America. The Sun dug through public records, talked to persons now and formerly acquainted with Boys Town’s operations, and finally confronted Boys Town’s leadership with the facts. The facts are that:

—Boys Town now has net worth of at least 209 million dollars, and perhaps more.

—Boys Town has a money machine that brings in some $25 million a year from public donations and investment income.

—Boys Town increases its net worth by 16 to 18 million dollars a year. This is three to four times as much as it spends to take good care of its boys.

—Boys Town still continues to send out some 33 million letters a year telling Americans it needs their money (“$1, $2, $5 or any amount you care to give”) to keep the wolf from the door.

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