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Reiley Mcclendon

Reiley Mcclendon

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Boys home sets scene for Hallmark movieBy Jenna Rew | July 01, 2009 After spending time in a juvenile detention center and being sentenced to six weeks of drug rehabilitation for pleading guilty to a minor drug charge, a disgruntled teenage boy decided to turn his life around, but needed someone to turn to for help.That was in 1986, and Seminole County politician Steve Barnes was only 16."That was definitely the low point of my life," Barnes said.

"It was miserable."As a young teenager, Barnes described himself as rebellious.

He ran away from home, got in trouble at school, and when he was arrested on minor drug charges, he was expelled and sent to a juvenile detention facility."If you are a juvenile, you can get out if one of your parents will take you and the judge says it's OK," he said, "but neither one of my parents really trusted me at that point because I'd been so disrespectful."So when Barnes was released, he was on his own to find help, and his social worker gave him the number for the Safe Harbor Boys Home, a young program that operated on donated boats out of a marina in Jacksonville.Safe Harbor focused on providing young men with an environment based on stability, structure, discipline and love.His parents drove him to the marina and dropped him off in an attempt to give him a second chance.Barnes' situation and those of many others who found sanctuary at Safe Harbor in its early years were recently depicted in a Hallmark Channel original movie starring Treat Williams and Nancy Travis called "Safe Harbor."In the movie, Williams and Travis play Doug and Robbie Smith, a young couple preparing to sail around the world.

Their plans change, however, when a judge who once helped Doug Smith change his own life asks if the couple will look after a few boys headed for adult lock-up because the juvenile facility is full.The couple can't refuse, and suddenly they are responsible for three juvenile delinquents.The boys' characters in the movie are a composite of boys that have been at Safe Harbor over the years.Luke, played by Reiley McClendon, is a wannabe tough guy who spends a good portion of his time in fights, and David, played by Charlie McDermott, is a little more sensitive and in need of a structured environment.

Barnes said he can relate to both."The first six months were miserable," Barnes said.

"I hated it.

I was very rebellious like [Luke].

I thought I was really tough."Robbie Smith remembers when Barnes arrived."He was like every other kid that came through the program as a teenage boy," she said.

"He wanted freedom without boundaries."At first, Barnes said, it's the same for all the boys, They try to wear down the wills of Doug and Robbie Smith.They want freedom without rules, they want privileges without work, but eventually it dawns on them that they are better off doing what they are told.Barnes said the program tries to keep the boys productive and find the things they are good at.It was at Safe Harbor that Barnes got involved in TV production and later photography, which led to a successful career as a photo journalist and writer for such outlets as the Sanford Herald, Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press.When he arrived at Safe Harbor, Barnes had a GPA below 1.0 and a 10th-grade education.

By 1987, he had earned enough credits to graduate with his class and had boosted his GPA enough to graduate with honors and be nominated for a scholarship.Today, Barnes has retired from journalism and plays an active role in community politics, serving on the Soil and Water Conservation Board.He also volunteers at the boys' home when he has a chance and said that when his daughters are grown, he might like to open a branch in Seminole County or work as a house parent in Jacksonville."Wanting to change is sometimes not enough," Barnes said.

"You have to have a role model; you have to have somebody kind of helping you along, and that's what they did for me."Just knowing how much they helped me makes me love them."Barnes still keeps in touch with the Smiths and works to promote the values he learned while there in a local youth sailing program, where he and other volunteers try to give disadvantaged children the opportunity to learn how to sail."We have a saying," Robbie Smith said, "Once a Safe Harbor boy always a Safe Harbor boy."A major part of the Safe Harbor program is learning to sail and building values, and Barnes believes it's his duty to help pass those lessons on."I'm exceptionally proud of Steve and all the boys that he represents," Robbie Smith said.For more information or to make a donation, visit the Safe Harbor Web site at

For more information about the movie, visit harborPost your feedback on this topic hereDateSubjectPosted by:07/01/2009I just wanted to add that I became a...Steve Barnes07/04/2009Well, that ought to be one in the eye...VPJavaScript is disabled.

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