Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Advice to Child Advocates: Just 'Stop and Turn around'; Tuohy Daughter, Part of "The Blind Side," Visits the First Coast

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Advice to Child Advocates: Just 'Stop and Turn around'; Tuohy Daughter, Part of "The Blind Side," Visits the First Coast

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN SCANLAN

After 21 foster homes and living homeless on the street, Michael Oher's future changed Thanksgiving Day in 2003.

That's when Leigh Anne Tuohy saw all 300-plus pounds of him walking down a cold Memphis street to his and her children's school gym wearing only a T-shirt and shorts, and realized something was wrong.

"She looked at my dad and said, 'Turn around,'" daughter Collins Tuohy related to the audience at the Florida Coalition for Children's annual conference in Jacksonville Tuesday.

The homeless 16-year-old was going to the gym to get warm. Within a year, the future Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle was Collins Tuohy's adopted brother. His life story later became the book behind last year's award-winning film "The Blind Side." Oher's story also showed the 650 advocates for abused and neglected children gathered there that anyone they deal with could have a great future, Tuohy said.

That message is why the coalition invited Tuohy to be the conference's speaker, chairman William Frye said.

"What the Tuohy family did was bring happiness and love as a family to that one young man," Frye said. "This whole [conference] group is child-care advocates, and what they heard today is if one family can do it, so can I."

The coalition advocates for the protection of Florida's abused and neglected children and supports agencies that work on their behalf, such as Family Support Services of North Florida, the conference's host agency. The conference concludes today at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront.

Oher was one of 12 children whose mother and father provided little or no support as he bounced in and out of foster homes and 11 schools until he was accepted into Briarcrest Christian School. The Tuohys invited the boy to stay with them a few weeks after seeing him on the street, then adopted him. …

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