MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Hollywood hits home this week with the nationwide theatrical release of "The Blind Side," the remarkable true life story of a Mid-South family and its adopted son. The story became a New York Times bestseller before being turned into a movie.
The film starts Sandra Bullock in the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy, a Memphis woman whose family adopted an African American teenager from Hurt Village. That teen, Michael Oher, experiences the culture shock of upper crust white suburbia while taking a remarkable journey.
"Michael Oher was walking the streets of Memphis, Tennessee and society had deemed him worthless," Tuohy said. "He had been labeled as homeless for all practical purposes."
Oher ended up attending high school at Briarcrest. As a gigantic left tackle who protected the quarterback's "blind side," Oher became a highly sought-after college football prospect who went on to star on the gridiron at Ole Miss.
Then, this past April, Oher was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL Draft.
"You take a child like that and you bring him in, and you love him, and you clothe him, and you feed him, and you just give him the basic necessities, and it's just amazing the transformation that takes place," Tuohy said. "So you just have to go: how many Michael Ohers are on the street?"
Memphis City Schools counts at least 1,500 students like Oher: homeless and hungry.
Leigh Ann and her daughter, Collins, recently took a tour of Memphis Family Shelter, where 16 homeless mothers are currently staying with their children. Though she is an animal lover, Leigh Anne is outraged that more attention is given to the situation at the Memphis Animal Shelter than to the hundreds of kids who need help now.
"I'm sorry that we're not feeding an animal," she said. "We're not feeding children. I mean there are children who go to bed every night in Memphis hungry. And if you don't think there are, it's like you said so eloquently earlier, get off the Poplar corridor. Take a left, take a right. Find something."
Tuohy advocates adoption, but concedes it's not possible for every family. The Tuohys, however, insist that each of us have gifts to share - no matter how small - with less fortunate children:
"If you get them new school books every year, or if you make sure they have their clothes cleaned once a week, we just have no idea the kind of impact that the small things have on children," Collins said.
"We've got names and names of kids that need help," Leigh Anne added. "If we all could just diversify a little bit, I think it'd have a tremendous impact on the city, and maybe we wouldn't hear so much about the racial problems. I think we could solve a lot of those if we all did something minor just to be involved."
Leigh Anne's family did something so loving that people all over the world will now come to know about it. Viewers of The Blind Side will see a Memphis love story that needs real life sequels.
"Everywhere you look in Memphis you'll find children like that," Leigh Anne Tuohy said. "I think that's an unfortunate thing, Is that how many Michael Ohers are there out there?"
This homeless shelter is featured toward the end of Behind the Blind Side:
Thursday on Action News Five at 10, we'll report live from the red carpet premiere of "The Blind Side" in New Orleans. Don't miss our special report, Thursday at 10.
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