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At-risk Boys Find Hope and Stability at My Friend’s House, a SmileDirectClub and Nashville Predators Foundation SuperGrant Awardee

My Friend’s House has been providing a home for at-risk teen boys with no other place to go for more than 30 years.

The organization is licensed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and gives boys shelter, counseling, and a sense of stability while they work through traumas. Now, My Friend’s House is close to paying off the mortgage on a newly constructed house in Franklin, Tennessee, thanks to a SuperGrant from SmileDirectClub and the Nashville Predators Foundation. The beautiful new dwelling replaced a home My Friend’s House used for 28 years. After many years of use, the old house was deteriorating and there was an increasing need for an upgrade.

When you’re a boy with no home, a sparkling house in the suburbs with a bedroom of your own—something many people take for granted—can be a game-changer.

A view of the kitchen at My Friend’s House.

Empowering At-Risk Boys to Lead

My Friend’s House shelters eight boys aged 13 to 18 who, for various reasons, cannot live with their families. “They’re in state custody, so the boys don’t have control over their lives,” says Laura Jumonville, Executive Development Director at My Friend’s House. “We’re trying to get them to take control of their life again in a positive way and learn how to grow into responsible adults.”

Residents of My Friend’s House after painting together. Face are blurred to protect identities.

My Friend’s House does this by teaching life skills and confidence through therapy and hands-on life experiences. Adult staffers live with the boys and help them 24/7, making sure they get to school, therapy, and extra curricular activities like sports and volunteering . “We do lots of life skills, behavior modification therapies,” Jumonville says. “We’re trying to empower them to lead.”

But one of the most essential pieces of the boys’ recovery is the house itself. “Giving those boys hot food, their own bed, and letting them know they’re safe and won’t be disrupted in the middle of the night with family chaos provides a base for them to grow and heal,” says Juanda Moore, Executive Program Director at My Friend’s House. “For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve had anything like a stable home life.”

‘He Could Envision A Better Life’

My Friend’s House serves teens who have suffered from neglect or emotional and physical abuse. Some have struggled with substance abuse or the loss of one or both of their parents. They’re hurting. They don’t know how to deal with the misfortunes life has thrown at them, much less the usual adolescent pressures of peers, school, and teachers.

One 14-year-old came to My Friend’s House after years in the foster care system. His mother had died. His father had lost his parental rights. “The boy was hostile, and he was discouraged,” Moore says. His adult sister had offered to take custody of him, and that had given him hope. “He could envision a better life with his sister in another state. He made a decision that he wanted to make good choices. It was a big turning point for him.”

A room named in honor of the SuperGrant.

The boy worked hard in the group therapy sessions held in the Empowerment Room, named for the SuperGrant, and started learning how to deal with life in more constructive ways. “If he got angry and had an outburst, he would recognize it, and say ‘Oh my gosh, I am sorry, can I do that over?'” Moore says.

Within a year, the boy finished the program successfully and moved out of My Friend’s House. “He became so self-aware,” Moore says. “He got so much more confident and in control of his life.”

The boy is 15 now. He lives with his sister, has a job, and is about to join a football team. “His entire life has changed,” says Moore.

A New House Keeps the Program Alive

SmileDirectClub teamed up with the Nashville Predators Foundation during the 2019-2020 hockey season for the SuperGrant program. The partners plan to give four or five SuperGrants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 annually to area organizations that empower people in times of transition. Investing in the people of Middle Tennessee is one way the Preds Foundation and SmileDirectClub can give back to the community.

The SuperGrant to My Friend’s House allowed the group to offer a 1:1 matching gift so donors could double their contribution to help pay off the house. “We desperately needed the funds,” says Moore. “If we don’t have a house, we don’t have a program.”

Moore has seen that house change lives. “Boys come to the house withdrawn,” she says. “They wear their hoodies with the hood drawn tightly around their face. By day three, that hoodie is off, and they’re smiling. In just a couple of days, they feel so much happier and so much more secure.”

Head to My Friend’s House’s website to find out more information.

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