In the center of Boys’ Village campus stands a flagpole with the American flag fastened to the top. Fred Durant, a 1986 Boys’ Village alumna, approached the base of the pole.
“I remember how on Saturdays, we’d come up and stand around the flagpole and say the pledge of allegiance,” Durant said.
Durant continued to recall memories of his time at Boys’ Village, which was more than 30 years ago, as he toured the campus last August. He saw the pool he swam in and walked by the pasture where he cared for horses during his teenage years.
“Seeing things like that brought back memories of what it was like here,” Durant said. “At Boys’ Village, life was more normal.”
Durant lived in Smucker and Jennings Cottage with two house parents and attended Smithville High School, both of which provided him a sense of normalcy. He shared his story on the radio show, at dinner functions and in the local newspaper. Durant even worked as a golf caddy for The Village Network’s annual golf outing.
“When I think of Boys’ Village, even though I was only here for two years, I think of it as home,” Durant said. “My time here was a turning point in my life.”
Durant came from a broken family; his parents divorced when he was two-years-old and his mother was arrested for child abuse when he was five.
“In kindergarten, I remember waiting for the bell to ring to leave and we got a call,” Durant said. “I went up to the office and there was a Columbus policeman there and they said we were going to go for a ride with them. I thought it was kind of cool to go for a ride in a police car but after that I found out what was going on.”
Durant and his four siblings went to live in a crowded house with his aunt and uncle before they were split up and placed in foster care. Durant was alone and bounced from group home to group home. He lived in 15 different places before his 18th birthday.
“As a child, you don’t really have a choice, it’s just what life hands you and you’re forced to deal with it,” Durant said.
At Boys’ Village, Durant experienced great healing from his past because of the genuine relationships he had with The Village Network staff- everyone from his social worker to the night guard.
“It was nice to have people to talk to and have people who didn’t treat you like you were a group home kid. They treated me like a person,” Durant said.
He also said the structured environment allowed him to learn and retain valuable skills, like how to cope with life’s challenges. In 1986, Durant left Boys’ Village and moved back in with his mother where life continued to be difficult. His relationship with his mom was still problematic and as a senior in high school, his sister was murdered, a crime that remains unsolved.
“I’m still dealing with that years later,” Durant said. “I’ll always have my past, I can’t really forget that. It still bugs me. But I’ve learned to enjoy my life.”
Flying, Diving and Family
Now in his late 40’s, Durant owns his own handyman business, Do It All Handyman, and has taken up two unique hobbies: ultralight flying and scuba diving. His interest in flying began after he saw someone fly an ultralight aircraft over his house. He later met of a man in Indiana who gave rides and quickly learned how to fly.
“The first time, he takes me up in the air to make sure I didn’t freeze up. Second time, he operates the controls and I tell him what to do. Third time, and this is the same day, he’s standing on the runway and I was in there by myself,” Durant said. “I guess that shows how easy it is to fly.”
Durant is also a certified scuba diver and volunteers on occasion to clean the aquatics tanks at the Columbus Zoo. He started in 1996 at Discovery Reef, the zoo’s 100,000-gallon tank, and has since moved to the dive in the manatee tank.
Durant has also been married to his wife, Janice, for 25 years and together they have a 17-year-old daughter, Alaina. His daughter is now in the process of applying to colleges and wants to study neuroscience and zoology, which Durant credits to her growing up watching her dad dive at the zoo.
“Statistics show that I had every reason to do anything I wanted to do and people would look at me and say it was because of my past,” Durant said. “But The Village Network showed me that I could be somebody else and I could change and leave my past in the past.”