The feisty mom made famous in the Academy Award-winning movie “The Blind Side” will turn a spotlight on foster care and adoption in a new reality TV show.
Leigh Anne Tuohy, who was portrayed by Sandra Bullock in the 2009 hit film, will star in the GMC cable channel's first reality series called “Family Addition With Leigh Anne Tuohy.” The show, premiering June 7, will follow a different family each episode as it goes through the process of adding a new family member through foster care or adoption.
Officials with GMC, also known as the Gospel Music Channel, said the network will officially change its name to Uplifting Entertainment or UP in June.
Tuohy, of Memphis, Tenn., will bring to the families her expertise as someone whose family famously adopted a young stranger. She and her husband, Sean Tuohy, with their children Collins and Sean Jr., added then 16-year-old Michael Oher to their family circle in 2004, after meeting him near their children's private Christian school.
Their story, which was the focus of “The Blind Side,” propelled the Tuohys into the spotlight. With the guidance and support of his adopted family, Oher, who had been in several foster homes and experienced periods of homelessness, went on to become a National Football League player with the Baltimore Ravens in 2009.
On “Family Addition,” Tuohy will lead “Team Tuohy,” consisting of herself, her daughter Collins Tuohy and “Miss Sue” Mitchell, the teacher who tutored Oher. (Mitchell was portrayed in “The Blind Side” by Kathy Bates.)
Leigh Anne Tuohy, in a recent teleconference with the news media, said she envisions the show letting people see how important adoption and foster care are in today's society.
With her well-known sassy demeanor, she said her family had been approached about being part of numerous other reality TV shows, but they felt that “Family Addition” is a perfect fit.
“You name it, we've been offered it, and we've turned them all down because that's not who we are, but this show actually just enhances our platform and our message because there are great people trying to adopt kids,” Tuohy said. “They don't know how to get through the red tape. There could be one snafu keeping it from happening, and we are taking one family at a time and we are trying to make a difference.”
The show's premise should bring much-needed awareness about the issue of foster care/adoption, said several Oklahomans at the forefront of the faith-based and community foster care/adoption movement in the Oklahoma City metro area and the state.
“When the Tuohy family embraced their son, Michael Oher, they did not know their story would inspire thousands to consider fostering and adoption. A family like this, committed to doing the right thing because of their faith, is an exceptional family to have as a model,” said Robin Jones, former director of the state Office of Faith Based and Community Affairs.
“‘Family Addition' is positioned to invest that inspiration to be a catalyst for changing the world of thousands of other children and families. For me, that is worth watching,” said Jones, now director of Salt and Light Leadership Training Inc.
Lisa Feist, executive director of Oklahoma Foster Wishes, said she hopes the new show will help dispel negative myths and stereotypes about foster children. She said bringing awareness to the foster/adoption care issue is critical for the numerous youths who need families.
“Not everyone is called to foster care and adopt, but everyone is called to care for the orphaned in some way. There are lots of opportunities,” Feist said.
Meanwhile, Tuohy said each family featured on the show, along with each special set of circumstances, tugged on her heart, and she became attached to all of them.
“I can just tell you they were all wonderful families, and we were honored to be associated with each and every one of them,” she said. “It was a very humbling experience.”
Tuohy said the show does not try to sugarcoat some of the rough spots encountered when families welcome a new member into their fold. She said the process isn't easy, but raising biological children isn't either.
“So we want people to know that it's difficult, but all good things in life that are worth working for are difficult,” Tuohy said, adding that she feels her family has been tasked to spread the message that there are “valuable kids in every city in the United States of America and all they need is a chance.”
Tuohy said families for whom foster care and adoption are not options may still be of help to families that do decide to open their home to a child. She said individuals can help adoption/foster care families perform simple tasks such as laundry.
“There are a lot of things you can do to make a difference, and we want to make sure that you're aware of the options that are available to you, because one person can have a huge impact on someone's life.”
When asked how her family's faith has played a role in her family's journey with Oher, Tuohy said spirituality was key.
“Honey, it hadn't played a role. It's the head cheerleader. We don't believe in karma. We don't believe in fate. We believe that every single thing we do is 100 percent God-driven,” she said.
She said adoption and foster care is an issue she believes faith communities should be addressing.
“If every faith-based organization would be responsible for placing one child in a loving home, then that would wipe out the need for foster care, and then we can work on the kids that are on the street, because these kids are on the street through a cycle that was by no choosing of their own.”
Tuohy said she hopes to highlight the responsibility people have to reach out to children in need of a “forever family.”
“We are charged to take care of these people and we have to stop turning a blind eye to it.”