Opportunity audience urged to make a difference

June 4, 2014

boppr2smThe Tuohy family’s experience popularized in the Oscar-winning movie “The Blind Side” mirrors the purpose of the Bryan Opportunity Program, Leigh Anne Tuohy told the audience at the Bryan Opportunity Program dinner Thursday, April 18.

From left are Bryan President Dr. Stephen Livesay, Corinne Livesay, Opportunity dinner speaker Leigh Anne Tuohy, and dinner host committee Co-Chairs Joanne and Chuck Zeiser. Mrs. Tuohy said when her family brought Michael Oher to be part of their lives, “All we did was offer Michael hope, love and opportunity, and it changed his life. But we were the lucky ones. We learned what it was to be a family.”

She challenged the audience to be aware of people around them. “Within a couple of blocks of where you go tonight, there is a Michael Oher. All we did was offer hope, love and opportunity to someone society deemed of low value. We invested some time, and now he’s a starting tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and a contributing member of society.

“You can make a difference. That’s the power of giving – it will change your life.”

Bryan senior Callie Dawkins, told the audience that the Bryan Opportunity Program has given her the same kind of assistance that Michael Oher received. “I knew I wanted to go to a Christian college in Tennessee, so I Googled ‘Christian colleges in Tennessee’ and Bryan College was one of the first names I saw. I applied and was accepted, but didn’t know how I was going to afford it,” she said.

That concern was answered when she was informed she qualified for the Bryan Opportunity grant. “Those of you who have given to the Bryan Opportunity Program, thank you,” she said. “Being at Bryan has changed my life.”

This year, 65 students are attending Bryan with assistance from the Bryan Opportunity Program. While the program targets Tennessee students with family incomes of less than $35,000, Bryan President Dr. Stephen Livesay said the average family income for Opportunity students this year is $19,000.

Blake Hudson, vice president of advancement, said commitments from members of the host committee, plus gifts at the dinner, have raised more than $205,000 for the program. “We still have additional gifts pending, so we anticipate that total increasing,” he said. “We are so grateful for the assistance of friends like Chuck and Joanne Zeiser, our host committee co-chairs, and many others who have made the Bryan Opportunity Program possible.”