Collins Tuohy, sister of the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive tackle, Michael Oher, spoke to students at Westside Christian Academy on October 18 and to almost 300 people in the evening at Westlake High School for Family Strong Series, “Never Lose Faith.”
Her family’s story was included in Michael Lewis’ 2006 book and was the basis for Academy Award-winning 2009 movie, The Blind Side. Lewis started to write a financial piece to examine why the left tackle is the second highest paid player on a football team after the quarterback. He protects the quarterback’s ‘blind side’ and prevents possibly a career-ending injury.
Collins, 26, made it clear that everyone has a “blind side” which prevents them from truly seeing the people and to value them inappropriately. It can be the people we work with, those we encounter when doing errands, or pass by every day.
She recounts how she is often approached in an attempt to reach her brother. Only ten years earlier, it would have been easy. His commute to Briarcrest Christian School, a private school similar to Westside Christian Academy, included walking on one of Memphis, Tennessee’s busiest streets used by as many as 50,000 people daily.
“You could have talked to him as long as you want,” said Collins.
Michael is one of 13 children. He had been in 22 foster homes and was labeled a “runner” by the state. Collins said it is estimated he was probably 6-8 months away from becoming a gang bodyguard, a career that usually ends in death within 18-24 months.
When they were 15, Collins found him eating lunch alone and without any friends at school where he attended on scholarship. He was bullied by other students because of the clothes he wore. Her parents set the example of living out what the Bible taught, including applying “love your neighbor as yourself” to include “if you see someone bullied, become their friend.”
Today, Collins and Michael are the closest of friends as well as siblings who talk almost every day. Collins said neither of them uses the word “adoptive”. People who knew them individually at the University of Mississippi thought they are twins by the way they talked about each other. Until they see the two of them in the same room, as some of Collins sorority sisters learned when part of the football team came to help her and her roommate move.
She challenged the audience by identifying the one thing she wanted people to take away: “When you leave here, stop and turn around to someone you have placed inappropriate value on and get to know them. Then you will have [the fun you experience giving presents on] Christmas every day.”
Earlier in the day, Collins visited Westside Christian Academy and spoke with the K-8 student body.
“Her message of valuing others just as God does was, perhaps, the main take-away for the afternoon with our children. Our kids and faculty loved her,” commented Jim Whiteman, Principal of the school.
Frequently Asked Questions
Collins also covered the two most frequently asked questions whenever she or other members of the family are interviewed or speak in public. First, how accurate was the movie?
“The message of the family and what we believe comes through so clearly but the rest doesn’t matter,” said Collins.
Going into more details, she confirmed that Michael and her younger brother, Sean Jr. (SJ) were in the accident depicted in the movie. Also, SJ received everything he asked for when Michael enrolled at the University of Mississippi. However not every event occurred as portrayed. Collins never played volleyball but played other sports. The family actually found Michael walking when they went out for Thanksgiving breakfast and it had begun to snow a little. The scene in the restaurant where Leigh Anne was criticized by her friends didn’t happen but represented the type of comments said behind their backs.
Second, what is the family is doing now? SJ is attending Loyola University in Baltimore where Michael is playing his fifth season with the Ravens. Collins is part owner of a cookie company, and like her parents Leigh Anne and Sean Sr., shares their story with audiences around the country although they seldom do it together. They have formed The Making It Happen Foundation to help people break through the red tape associated with adoption and related issues. When asked her opinion on pursuing foreign adoptions, Collins says she wants to help children living in her own city, Memphis, because the need is so great.
The family receives more requests than they can fill. To choose, they “do what hits you in the heart.” Collins observed that the needs in the world will always be great and as an individual “you can’t do everything but you can do something.
About Collins Tuohy
Collins Tuohy shares a famously close bond with her adopted brother Michael Oher. As chronicled in The Blind Side, it began when she first met Michael in the hallways of Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee. As Collins grew close to Michael, she helped him adjust to both Briarcrest and his new life with the Tuohy family. They have remained close as Michael’s high school, college, and professional football career developed.
She has said, “Michael Oher mentors me; I mentor him. It just depends on the day.”
Collins is Co-Owner and the Director of Marketing and Sales at Whimsy Cookie Company in Memphis, TN and on the Board of The Making it Happen Foundation, dedicated to changing children’s lives through hope, love, and opportunity. In addition to speaking around the country, she can be seen in Family Addition with Leigh Anne Tuohy on UP
network. She contributed to the New York Times best-seller, In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving. A gifted musician, Collins has played the piano since the age of six.
Arrangements for the appearance of Collins Tuohy made through Greater Talent Network, Inc., New York, NY.
Learn more at http://www.leighannetuohy.com/collins-tuohy/
About Westside Christian Academy
Westside Christian Academy is an inter-denominational K-8 classical and Christian school in Cleveland’s western suburb of Westlake. Our mission is to integrate biblical truth with academic excellence so that our students will become leaders committed to impacting the world for Jesus Christ.
Using a classical curriculum and methodologies, our academic program includes a strong emphasis on grammar, logic, rhetoric and Latin as well as history, science, mathematics and the arts. Through a lens of a Biblical worldview grounded in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, we teach children to think and learn for a lifetime, cultivate Biblical character and leadership, and strive to shepherd a child’s heart, not just behavior.
With approximately 100 students and 14 teachers, a principal and administrative assistant, the student-teacher ratio is favorable with class sizes that average 12. WCA is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and affiliated with The Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS).
Learn more at http://www.westsideacademy.org.