Tulare Teens Life-Changing Decision

December 4, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The movie "The Blind Side" has captured the hearts of millions since its release. The film is based on the true story of a troubled teenager taken in by a supportive family. He's able to turn his life around ... and eventually earn a football scholarship. A similar story is unfolding in the south Valley. On the football field ... Tulare Union Senior Edward Dillihunt is in his comfort zone ... and it shows. But it's off the field ... almost two years ago ... that Dillihunt found happiness ... in the most unlikely of places.

Lacking the structure and supervision he says he needed to stay out of trouble ... Edward turned to the family of a close friend he had known for almost a decade ... and made an emotional plea.

Dillihunt said, "I wanted to make a change in my life. I wanted to be different than all the others that didn't want to do anything. So I called her and told her I was ready. I mean I was crying and she didn't think I was ready. But I told her I was ready. I wanted to leave home. I wanted to make that change."

She ... is Ana Ferreira ... the mother of Edward's longtime friend and classmate ... Kayla. Ana and her husband Joe asked Edward's grandmother ... for permission to have him move into their home.

Dillihunt said, "She came over to talk to my grandma. As soon as she came over to talk to my grandma I was packing my clothes and throwing them in the truck."

And in a decision made with equal amounts of love and necessity ... grandma gave the ok. But the transition from living carefree ... to living with rules and discipline in the Ferreira home ... was tough.

Ana Ferreira said, "At first I was hesitant because I didn't think Edward would transition well into our rules because we were a family set with rules. It was hard at first."

Joe Ferreira said, "He didn't quite understand that the rules setting was going to be as tough as it were. But he adjusted well after a while and he fit right in. So it was good."

In less than two years ... Dillihunt and sister Kayla are closer than ever. And he's little brother Brian's chief competition in video games.

Meanwhile in the classroom ... Dillihunt's grades have improved significantly. And in October verbally accepted a scholarship to play football at Fresno State.

Dillihunt said, "I've came a long way. I've done a whole 180. They helped me do it. I couldn't do it alone. I couldn't ask for more help."

Ana Ferreira said, "I believe that if you put the challenges in front of him, he's met them. Every time there's been something there he's met them. I believe that's why he's there. He's climbed that ladder and he's accomplished it."

Accomplished more than he ever thought he could ... hopefully ... with plenty more to come.


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