Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
That’s the motto the Tuohy family lives by. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the Tennessee couple whose family inspired the 2009 movie “The Blind Side,” will talk about the way they have lived out that motto at the Salvation Army’s D.J.’s Heroes Awards Luncheon on Tuesday.
D.J.’s Heroes Awards are named for D.J. Sokol, who died from cancer in 1999 when he was 18 years old. His parents, David and Peggy Sokol, honor their son with the awards, and recognize deserving high school seniors from across Nebraska who receive the scholarships. Winners are chosen for their resilience, perseverance and courage when overcoming adversity.
Of the 11 Nebraska high school seniors being honored, five are from the Omaha area. Each will receive a $10,000 scholarship.
Here’s the full list of honorees:
- Saray Bedoya, Papillion-La Vista High School
- Madelynn Carbaugh, Millard South High School
- Gizela Kwihangana, Benson High School
- Sarup Kunwor, Westside High School
- Suleyma Garcia Mendez, Omaha South High School
- Aliesha Walker, Humboldt Table Rock Steinauer
- Hayden Higgins, Pius X High School
- Madison Newell, South Sioux City High School
- Noal Lambrecht, McCool Junction High School
- Ragan Wood, Central Valley High School
- Reaghan Shelbourn, Valentine High School
Leigh Anne Tuohy said in a phone interview that she isn’t sure yet what she and her husband will say to the group. But they’ll honor the students for overcoming enormous obstacles in their lives and address the way the Salvation Army helps people overcome obstacles.
“So many people, they kind of have a patent speech,” Leigh Anne Tuohy said. “We don’t do that. Whatever God lays on our hearts is what we want to talk about.”
She said the couple will touch on the impact “The Blind Side” has made in their lives since that’s what most people know them for. In the movie, actress Sandra Bullock portrays Leigh Anne, who takes in and adopts Michael Oher, a homeless teenager.
Sean Tuohy, played by Tim McGraw in the movie, said in a phone interview that the movie’s message about valuing people is a message the family believes in.
Oher played football at the University of Mississippi and then played eight seasons in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens, the Tennessee Titans and the Carolina Panthers. He recently retired after suffering concussion injuries, but “he’ll land where the good Lord wants him,” Leigh Anne said.
The couple’s son, Sean Tuohy Jr., known as “S.J.” in the movie, is the assistant director of football operations and assistant to the head coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks. He also serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit started by his parents called the Making It Happen Foundation.
Collins Tuohy Smith, the couple’s daughter, also serves on the foundation’s board and runs her own cookie company called the Whimsey Cookie Co. She’s also a motivational speaker and blogger.
Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy have been to Omaha for baseball games and other philanthropic events, but said they knew right away that they wanted to speak at the D.J.’s Heroes Awards Luncheon.
Leigh Anne Tuohy said they give to the Salvation Army because it spreads positive messages and is “moving the needle in the community.”
She said their family believes that anyone can make a difference by doing what they can with what they have. That could be donating money to a charitable organization, or simply giving a smile to a stranger on the street.