[Noozhawk’s note: This article is one in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation.]
“Brooks (Douglass) is the most inspirational speaker I have ever heard,” said Joyce Dudley, district attorney for Santa Barbara County and board member for the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara. “He has managed to take the worst life has to offer and turn it into making the world a better place for all of us.”
Upon Dudley’s recommendation, Douglass agreed to be the keynote speaker for the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara’s “For the Kids” Breakfast that will be held at 7 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 10 at the club, 632 E. Canon Perdido St. in Santa Barbara.
The breakfast is complimentary, but there will be a call for support of the club at the closing of the program.
Douglass knows all too well what it means to face adversity and overcome it. He and his sister were shot and his parents murdered during a home invasion in 1979. He memorialized the tragedy in the film he wrote, produced and acted in called Heaven’s Rain, a movie that won Best Narrative in 2011 at the Tulsa United Film Festival.
The movie tells the true story of how he, his father, mother and sister were tied up in their home in Oklahoma, assaulted and shot by two drifters, Glen Ake and Steven Hatch. Only Douglass and his sister survived. Ake and Hatch were sentenced to death in 1980. In a 1986 retrial, Ake was convicted again but received life in prison instead of death.
For 16 years, the legal system tried to protect the rights of the accused, which required Douglass and his sister to return to court time and again to testify. During those years, Douglass and his sister relived the nightmare and faced financial challenges so extreme that they were forced to sell the family home and many of their possessions.
Douglass knew he had to somehow turn adversity into opportunity.
He earned a bachelor of science degree from Baylor University, a master's degree in business administration and a juris doctor from Oklahoma City University Law School and a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
In 1990, at age 27, Douglass became the youngest state senator to serve in Oklahoma. He served on the Energy, Commerce and Appropriations committees and co-chaired the standing committee on International Trade Development during his 12-year tenure. Perhaps, most importantly, he authored important legislation regarding victims’ rights.
Attorney General Eric Holder presented Douglass with the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award in 2011 for “serving victims of crime and changing state legislation to help guide victims through the criminal justice system.”
According to a press release issued by the Office of Justice on April 8, 2011, “As an Oklahoma state senator, Mr. Douglass authored and worked to pass numerous crime rights’ bills and laws, including the Oklahoma Victims’ Bill of Rights, which dramatically changed the state criminal justice system. He also worked to pass laws regulating rights to restitution; confidentiality of victim information; rights of victims to attend all court proceedings; rights to be informed of case status; and right of victims to attend the execution of their loved one’s convicted killer.”
Upon ending his tenure as a senator, Douglass decided it was time to do something different — to focus on his creative side. He moved he and his wife, Julea, and two children to Southern California, where he co-wrote the movie Heaven’s Rain with Hollywood writer and director Paul Brown. Douglass produced and starred in the movie as well.
The “Kids for Kids” Breakfast is in its second year and is an important event for the club. The breakfast benefits the club’s “For the Kids” program, which directly supports the Boys & Girls Club after-school programs in sports, homework assistance, arts and leadership development.
Executive Director Carolyn Brown enthused about the upcoming breakfast and Dudley’s assistance in securing the speaker. It seems to be just one more proverbial “feather in the Club’s cap” for the club during its 75th anniversary year.
“It’s been a banner year for us,” Brown said. “I’m really excited that we’ve been serving the kids in the community for 75 years and raising kids into adulthood. ... This year, 100 percent of our kids who were high school seniors graduated. That’s how the Boys & Girls Club makes a difference. ... And, when you have an impact on kids, you have an impact on the entire community.”
To RSVP for the breakfast, contact Vickie Prezelin at 805.962.2382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The mission of the Boys & Girls Club “is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
The club provides programs for more than 1,500 kids annually such as free math tutoring, soccer, basketball, flag football, Music Box Recording Studio, Computer Lab, Homework Help, The Art Room, Dance, Tea Time and Etiquette, and the Teen Center.
Membership for students costs only $20 a year, even though it costs the club more than $1,060 per child each year. Donors and supporters of the Boys & Girls Club are imperative to the success of the club because they make up the difference.
» Click here for more information on the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara, or call 805.962.2382.
— Nancy Shobe is a Noozhawk contributing writer. She can be contacted at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @shobebiz. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.