published Friday, September 9th, 2011

‘The Blind Side’ comes to life for Signal Mountain family


by Andrew Pantazi
Leigh Anne Tuohy speaks during the Mountain Education Foundation fundraising event Thursday evening at Signal Mountain Middle School in Signal Mountain, Tenn.  Tuohy spoke of the events surrounding the adoption of Michael Oher and subsequent movie adaption called "The Blind Side."
Leigh Anne Tuohy speaks during the Mountain Education Foundation fundraising event Thursday evening at Signal Mountain Middle School in Signal Mountain, Tenn. Tuohy spoke of the events surrounding the adoption of Michael Oher and subsequent movie adaption called "The Blind Side."
Photo by Jenna Walker.

A year and a half ago, Gervell Morgan told his track coach at Signal Mountain High School that after living in 10 foster homes since he was 4 he would no longer have a place to stay because he was turning 18.

Morgan and his coach, Beverly Blackwell, weren’t particularly close.

“It was a typical coach-athlete relationship,” Blackwell would say later.

But she took him in, offering what she said was a stable home. In the next year, he received a football scholarship to play linebacker for Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn.

Thursday night, Blackwell got to meet the woman whose similar experiences had encouraged her when she was helping Morgan.

Before Morgan left for college, he, Blackwell, her husband and their three children watched “The Blind Side” together. The movie chronicles the story of a wealthy family in Memphis who adopted Michael Oher, a homeless student at a private school who later would be drafted in the NFL in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens.

As Blackwell took photos with and shook the hand of Leigh Anne Tuohy, who had become the mother of Oher, Tuohy said, “Sometimes, it’s good for kids to look up at the screen and see that there is hope.”

Tuohy was invited to speak at a fundraising event Thursday night by the Mountain Education Foundation on Signal Mountain. Mike Taylor, who organized the event, said that he expected it to raise about $160,000 to support Signal Mountain public schools. The foundation paid Tuohy about $20,000 and paid about $10,000 for food.

The event was the first in a series celebrating the Mountain Education Foundation’s 20 years of supporting public schools.

Tuohy told the audience what it was like having journalist Michael Lewis live with her family for 18 months before he wrote a New York Times best-seller. She described what it was like to have that book turn into a movie with Sandra Bullock winning an Oscar for her performance as Tuohy.

About attending the Oscars, Tuohy said, “When I tell you we looked like ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ gone to Hollywood, I kid you not.”

She also told the audience of about 800 that it’s important to notice the children who are ignored.

“The takeaway is this: A kid that got off the bus at the busiest intersection in Memphis every day, and if Michael Oher had fallen on the sidewalk dead, no one would’ve cared,” she said. “But if you take him in your home and offer him the basic necessities of hope, love and opportunity, he’s able to succeed.”

about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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librul said...

Show me one of the current crop of Rethug candidates for preznit who have indicated that they care one whit about the Michael Ohers of America or are committed to the belief that "all men (and women) are created equal" or give a hoot if the growing millions of the less fortunate citizens of America have "the basic necessities of hope, love, and opportunity".

Just one.

September 9, 2011 at 7:54 a.m.
jgmason75 said...

Michelle Bachmann was a foster parent.

September 9, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.
librul said...

Pity the poor child.

September 9, 2011 at 8:53 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Is that Carrie Fisher??

September 9, 2011 at 8:57 a.m.
adolphochs said...

librul: Exactly how would they demonstrate the "care" you refer to? Would we print a few hundred billion dollars more and give the money to several DC based compassionate government programs to disburse to politically favored groups to keep them dependent on federal handouts? After spending tens of trillions already to demonstrate our care, it would seem that we have already proven that kind of care results in even more Michael Ohers.

September 9, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.

Why try to make this political librul? Go back to Clay's coloring book with your juvenile comments. This isn't about politics. This is about real heroes. People who actually care.

September 9, 2011 at 9:48 a.m.
amnestiUSAF84 said...

jgmason75 said... Michelle Bachmann was a foster parent.

Who likely used her foster children as farmhands.

Wonder if these two young men had been budding scientists, mathermaticians, astronomers, potential doctors or anything other than rising athletes would they have received the same reception?

September 9, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.
esaletnik said...

$20,000 for one nights work, star of Extreme Makeover Home Edition, this turned out to be very profitable for her.

September 9, 2011 at 12:34 p.m.
MetroMax said...

librul... What has Obama done for the African-American community? 17% unemployment.

September 9, 2011 at 4:07 p.m.
adolphochs said...

esaletnik: When you can draw more than 800 folks on Signal Mountain three weeks in advance and raise $160K+ for charity, they'll gladly pay you $20K. Although, I doubt a retelling of your life story would draw more than flies.

September 9, 2011 at 5:48 p.m.

This is a great story as is The Blind Side. Too bad some folks feel the need to wee-wee on others giving a helping hand.

The Tuohys should be role models for everyone regardless of race, politics, or 1040.

September 9, 2011 at 7:10 p.m.
01centare said...

I can understand some of you being liberals but hating hard work and white women who adopt black kids is ridiculous.

Surely some poor white kid could've benefitted just as well from being adopted by a white family.

You ain't seen anger yet until you've seen angry white folks over some black family raising raising a white kid. And this coming from a white man's own personal observation.

September 9, 2011 at 8:27 p.m.
canes0496 said...

It saddens me and makes me upset that some of the comments have to be a black and white issue. I am the father in this article. When Gervell came to my wife to ask for help, we discussed at length, how to help him. We decided, as a family, that the best way to help was to give Gervell a place he could call home. Not one time did his athletic ability come up in the conversation as amnestiUSAF84 commented. The only thing that mattered to us is that an 18 year old fell through the cracks of the "system" and he turned to us for help. Gervell had to follow the same rules as my other children and we preached grades not athletic ability. We did not ask for anything nor do we expect anything in return for helping Gervell. Gervell is a part of our family now and a big brother to my other children. Gervell was told, when he left for college, that we would always be here for him and that's why we helped.

September 9, 2011 at 10:12 p.m.
hmgreen said...

@canes0496 Bless you and your family for taking this young man in and giving him a chance. I have told my husband that if we were able we would foster to teens (of any race) due to the fact that these kids do age out and then what? They have no family. It breaks my heart to know that there are so many of them out there who have no one to cheer them on at their graduation and to encourage them to go to college. To be there at their wedding or to share with them the joy of their first child. Holidays. For those of you who make it a black/white issue, what is wrong with you? These are kids who have a family. I wish every child could be saved and given a chance in this world. Be happy for the ones who do find loving and supportive families, do not bash the ones who open their homes and hearts to them!!!

September 9, 2011 at 11:26 p.m.
quietreader said...

canes0496, Sorry you had to read the crap some of the above wrote but they're at it all day, griping and complaining and generally making their useless comments just so they can read their own remarks and stir things up. Thanks for caring enough about that young man to give him a chance to survive in this world

September 9, 2011 at 11:28 p.m.
brokentoe said...

How did the media get wind of this present young man's situation to begin with? Also, the young man portrayed in the movie "The Blind Side" wasn't at all pleased with the way his character was portrayed in the movie. As if he was some slow, dimwitted individual.

I recall Texas DEFACS taking a black family to court years back to prevent them from legally adopting a white child the family had raised practically all of the child's life. Upon realizing she wouldn't live to see her child grow up, the mother's wishes were for the black family, who'd befriended and cared for her and the child, to continue raise the child after her death. It is curious to know how similar situations are treated when the family offering to help is black rather than white.

September 10, 2011 at 5:09 p.m.
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