HE YOUNG BOY, physically
and sexually abused by his
own family and told that he
would never amount to any-thing,
ran away when he was 10. Sleeping
under what he called the “Market Street
Hilton” — the fountain at the intersec-tion
of Market and 5th streets — Tom
Simmons had nowhere else to go.
“I had an abusive father that liked to
beat on me and had an older brother that
would occasionally sexually assault me,
and I just felt safer living on the street in
Wilmington than at home,” he says.
Rescue came when he was taken to
a newly opened children’s home on the
shores of Lake Waccamaw in Columbus
“My aunt found me and brought me
down here and said, ‘See if you can save
this boy’s life,’” Simmons says.
He was the seventh boy admitted to
the Boys Home, as it was called when
it opened in 1954. It took him a week
to decide he didn’t want to leave. The
nurturing, loving environment made all
“I learned I had value as a human
being,” says Simmons, now vice presi-dent
of education at the nonprofit.
“Once I began to realize I’m not stupid,
once I began to realize there’s somebody
that cares for me, everything about me
changed. I’m a living example of if you
give a kid nurturing and love and they
understand their value as a human being,
it’ll change their life. Kids have to feel
stable, they have to feel loved. And that’s
what this whole place is about.”
The children’s home overlooking Lake Waccamaw has been helping vulnerable children for more than 60 years.