LAKELAND, Fla. – Dr. Tommy McElroy walks hurriedly down the hall to see his next patient at the Center for Advanced Healthcare on the campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa. This successful physician is living the dream he had when he and his brother came to live at the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes in Lakeland.
In the 1980’s Dr. McElroy’s family was experiencing increasing difficulties. His parents divorced, and his mother suffered from mental illness, which prevented her from being able to care for them. His father worked as a truck driver to make ends meet, but the long hours on the road prevented him from being able to be at home to take care of his family.
In 1988, at the age of nine, Dr. McElroy and his younger brother Kevin moved to the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes where they lived for the next two years.
“Looking back as a nine year old, I didn’t want to be there. Every kid wants to be with their family. On the other hand, I also understood that it was necessary because of our situation,” McElroy said.
His brother Kevin died unexpectedly last year from an undiagnosed heart problem, which prompted him to reconnect with the Children’s Homes. He is currently working to set up a Legacy Fund in his brother’s name in order to benefit the Children’s Homes.
“After Kevin died I started thinking more about our lives together and what the Children’s Homes meant to us growing up and how it shaped us.
“I definitely remember our house parents, Chuck and Ellen. They showed us God’s love and cared for us like we were their own children. They took a genuine interest in us. They did more than just take care of our physical needs, but also understood what we needed as kids whose hearts longed to be back with our own families.”
McElroy’s father eventually remarried, and they were all reunited. Soon afterward, McElroy began to distinguish himself in his studies, making excellent grades throughout the rest of his school years.
“Life isn’t perfect. It never is. However, God’s grace is clearly evident in my life and in the lives of those in my family. God restored us, and we ended up being closer than ever before,” McElroy said.
“I firmly believe that the Christ-centered environment at the Children’s Homes made all the difference in our lives. I thank God for the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes!”