the Eagle Rock story
a 9-part video series
BOYS NOBODY WANTED – BUT GOD.
an article by Victory Magazine
Life was looking pretty good for Scott Hilton in 1993. The 26 year old had graduated from Samford University, earned a Master’s degree from UAB, and landed a job making $500.00 a day in a private counseling practice. And to top it all off he had met the girl of his dreams. Diana was a lovely chemist from Mexico, studying in the United States. Scott was successful and in love. He had a $10,000.00 nest egg in the bank and a big dream in his heart.
It wasn’t long before Scott and Diana said, “I do”, and settled into a small house in the country. Diana had a dream too-a dream home. She wanted to use some of the nest egg for a better place to live. Scott on the other hand, felt compelled to do something else…something for the Lord….something that would make a difference. And that something burned deep within him – a desire to help troubled, young boys that nobody wanted – nobody but God.
Six months after the wedding the Hiltons found themselves in a home with six rowdy boys. A college student who Scott had befriended was there to help so Scott could continue to work in the counseling practice. The recreation center they would call home had been abandoned for several years and was heavily vandalized. It would take all of the Hilton’s nestegg plus a lot of volunteer labor to get the building into livable condition but on March 17, 1994 they took the first boy into their “home”. It was a far cry from the subdivision paradise Diana had envisioned and it was crowded. Soon six boys would call it their home and the sanity of a home of their own would have to wait.
Scott’s dream really started years earlier when he became involved in a campus ministries program at Samford. His task was to spend two afternoons per week as a mentor at the local Juvenile Detention center. Having been raised in a loving Christian home Scott was shocked to hear the stories of the young men behind bars. A 15 year old named Bruce was one. Bruce was facing a long prison sentence. His mother was a prostitute and his father a drug dealer. Scott wondered where his own life would be had he been raised in the kind of home Bruce was raised in. He often tells a story about the day he left the detention center and God spoke to him. “It was as clear as anything I’ve ever heard”, Scott says, “God told me that I could have been born into Bruce’s family and that I would probably be just like him if raised under his circumstances."
As a 19 year old Hilton had a calling on his life. He didn’t know exactly what the calling was but he knew he wanted to provide a home for the Bruces of the world. He knew that these young men did not have much of a chance growing up in the homes they were in. He wanted to provide them with the kind of home he had grown up in – a home where he knew he was loved and where there was plenty of guidance.
It would be several years before Scott’s vision became clear to him. Through college and graduate school he had worked at, interned at, and visited several children’s homes and psychiatric treatment centers. One thing that troubled him was the fact that there was a certain population that nobody really wanted. The kids who were the most deeply distressed had the fewest resources available. Most of the boys’ ranches he visited had strict admissions guidelines and most of the boys Scott worked with did not fit their guidelines. This discovery, sadly, came too late. Just prior to opening his home two tragedies occurred. One of the boys he’d worked with committed suicide. Another boy, who Scott had tried to help committed a mass murder. Scott knew there was no time to waste so he proceeded against all odds.
Nobody really thought this young dreamer had good sense. A local juvenile judge commended him for his desire but told him he would never get his home “off the ground”. When Scott contacted the State of Alabama about getting a license to operate a children’s home they did not return his phone calls. A number of people told him he needed some sort of “gimmick” to raise money – that he needed to be some sort of celebrity so people would listen to him. Almost everyone he talked to asked why we needed another boys’ ranch and Scott repeatedly had to explain that he would be taking boys that the other ranches could not take. When the Hilton’s opened the home in March 1994 they had exactly one person providing financial support – that was Scott himself.
Over the past 20 years Eagle Rock has been home to over 200 boys and the Hilton’s have seen a lot of things. One boy’s mother had tied him to a bed while she went out to party. When she came home he had escaped and was roaming the streets looking for food. By the time Scott got him, the eleven year old had attempted suicide three times. Another came home from school to find his clothes on fire in the front yard. His mother, high on meth, told him she never wanted to see him again. Scott says some people think there is something glamorous about running a boys ranch and he often receives request to help other people who want to do the same thing he’s done. He reminds them that there is nothing glamorous about losing sleep because you’re worried about a child or how you’ll balance the budget. The stress level became so great in the early 2000’s that Scott and Diana gave up Houseparenting and now have ten Houseparents who carry the burden they used to carry alone. The Hilton’s have stood with several boys at the side of a parent’s casket. It is never easy because no matter how badly the parent abused the child, it is still his mom or dad. One little boy awoke to find that his father had died in his sleep and was lying in the bed with the boy. The boy was so traumatized that his behavior became uncontrollable. A few months after the death, the mother’s live-in boyfriend beat the boy with a horsewhip. He ran away and lived in a forest for several days before Eagle Rock gave him a home.
Scott has seen more than his share of tragedy. A suicide, a murder, a car accident, and an overdose have claimed the lives of four of his boys. Two others are serving lifetime prison sentences.
However, along with the stress comes great reward. Scott’s greatest joy is in seeing boys grow up to be good husbands and fathers. Eagle Rock’s mission is not only to help young men but also to break the chains of family dysfunction. He has a number of boys who have made him proud. Anytime one of the boys gets a job and refuses welfare, Scott jumps for joy. Several of the boys serve faithfully in the military and some have gone to college. Others are married and providing for their children what was not provided for them as children – the love and affection of their parents. Eagle Rock Boys Home's 35-acre property and their two large ILP homes on 19 acres are all paid for and are a far cry from the abandoned recreation center where they started. And yes, Diana finally got her dream home. It is not in a subdivision but it is where Scott’s heart is.
Adapted from “Boys Nobody Wanted But God”. Victory Magazine