About Us

building
The first Thomas W. Hughen School for "Crippled" Children, established in 1936.

 
The Hughen Center, Inc., site of the Hughen Center, Bob Hope School and Hebert Adult Center in Port Arthur, Texas, is celebrating 75 years of service to children and adults with physical disabilities and other functional impairments. The idea for the Center started in 1922, when a committee was formed in the interest of “crippled” youngsters. In 1933, the Port Arthur Society for Crippled Children was organized. A crucial need was for these children to get an education. Schoolhouses were not built then to accommodate children in wheelchairs, on crutches, and wearing heavy metal braces. On March 18, 1936, the concept of what is today called Hughen Center began in one room of a local charity hospital. It was called the “Spastic School,” as the five children in this first class had cerebral palsy, a condition that causes involuntary spasms of the limbs. With an annual budget of $1,875, the staff consisted of one teacher, a therapist, and a helper. It was their job to provide these youngsters with individualized care, education and therapies designed to enrich the quality of their lives – at a time when little was known about the causes of “crippling” conditions, and even less about the most successful methods of special education. A local benefactor, Thomas W. Hughen, donated property for the building of the first school house. By Christmas, 1936, The Thomas W. Hughen School for Crippled Children was constructed.
 
 
Over the next 30 years, additional services were introduced, including physical, occupational and speech therapy programs. Real life “miracles” were seen and heard as new technology allowed nonverbal children to communicate via computers for the first time in their lives. Several additions to the campus allowed special needs children from outside the area to live at Hughen. The only criteria for entry during this time was that the child have an orthopedic disability, be able to function in a specialized classroom setting, and be between the ages of 5-21. Not only did Hughen Center provide for the immediate educational needs of these children, it advocated for significant change in state legislation. On behalf of the Hughen Center (Port Arthur Society), Texas State Legislator W.L. Smith introduced the Education Act of 1945. This legislation became law and was widely recognized as the “founding of Texas’ special education for crippled and handicapped children.”
 
 
The Hughen Center’s 75 year history includes the aid of legendary icons Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante, Coach Bum Phillips and the generous support of the Southeast Texas community.. In 1968, a gift from NASA Johnson Space Center Astronauts and Jimmy Durante, through the F.O.E. Durante Crippled Children’s Fund, paid for a heated therapy pool lovingly named the “Inka Dinka Doo Pool.” Over the next 20 years, legendary entertainer Bob Hope became personally involved with the Hughen Center. He often referred to the students as “his kids.” He and Mrs. Hope traveled to Port Arthur often to appear in fundraisers on the Center’s behalf. Mrs. Hope continues the family’s benefaction today.
 
 
Joining forces with the Fraternal Order of Eagles (F.O.E.), Bob Hope’s first fundraiser for Hughen Center, held in Houston, raised over $1 million to erect a high school on campus. In 1979, Bob Hope School became the newest addition to the Hughen Center. The Fraternal Order of Eagles Memorial Foundation honored the commitment of the Hopes by establishing the “Bob and Dolores Hope Scholarship.” This provides all graduates of Hope School with a full four-year scholarship to the college or vocational training institute of their choice. This scholarship is active today.
 
 
By the mid-1980’s, funds were donated by a local couple, Mr. and Mrs. Wilton Hebert, for another addition to the campus. It was referred to as “The Hebert Adult Vocational Training Center” for adults ages 20-65-plus whose physical disabilities have minimized their career opportunities. This addition now includes the Dolores Hope Library and Computer Lab, a demonstration kitchen, arts and crafts area, horticultural space, and greenhouse.
 
 
Currently, the Hughen Center is home for up to 16 boys and girls with physical disabilities and other functional impairments. Hughen Center is licensed as a General Residential Operation by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. We provide treatment services, a transitional living program, and complete care to our children including skilled nursing care, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, individual and group therapy, basic child care and life skills training. The Hebert Adult Center, licensed as an adult day care by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, is active in providing day services for up to 40 adults in need. These services include lunch, snacks, skilled nursing care, activities, transportation, computer class, and attendant care.

The Hughen Center received a charter from the Texas State Board of Education for a charter school - Bob Hope School that opened in August 2010 for 250 junior high and high school students.In 2016, the Bob Hope Elementary campus was opened to serve students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade. The Bob Hope School is a high performing school which scores above the state averages on the STAAR exam. The high school has enrolled 60% of its high school graduates in dual credit courses and provided students with ample activities in developing their leadership skills.

Jermell
Shot in the back and paralyzed at age 5, Jermell Pennie came to the Hughen Center two years later. There he gained the self-confidence and inner strength to take charge of his life. Upon his graduation he received one of the first college scholarshhips provided to Bob Hope High School graduates by the Eagles.

Journey of Hope
For over 70 years, the Hughen Center in Port Arthur, TX, has been enriching the lives of disabled persons.
"To travel hopefully is better than to arrive." – Sir James Jeans
 
One of the most dramatic examples of success  is that of Jermell Pennie. Born into a family with a history of domestic violence, Jermell had no physical or mental disabilities. But thanks to his dangerous home situation, the first five years of his life were traumatic.
 
The Jermell Years
 
 
At age 5, Jermell was shot in the back and paralyzed from the waist down. Due to the lack of any family members to care for him, he became a foster child and a resident at Hughen Center. Although now truly safe for the first time in his life, it took every hour of every day he was at Hughen to help put his past behind him and realize his potential.
 
Many now-retired members of the Hughen staff attribute most of their gray hair to the challenges they faced during what is lovingly referred to as "The Jermell Years." Though unable to walk, Jermell had full use of his upper body, allowing him to be one of the more mobile and self-sufficient students on campus. One of the most difficult tasks for staff members was having to coax Jermell away from shooting hoops for his daily physical therapy session. "Basketball is my therapy!" he would insist. Little did we know how correct he was. Jermell was able to join a local wheelchair basketball team. His love of the sport was obvious, but now he had to do the one thing he hated most – play by the rules!
 
 
Graduation Time
 
As Jermell made new friends and excelled in the game he so loved, a new confidence emerged. With the encouragement of his Hughen family, the boy who could have so easily been one of the "forgotten" found his inner strength. Jermell began to trust in others and in himself. On the day of his graduation, his Hughen family members and his basketball teammates and sponsors were in the front row. Jermell was one of the first recipients of an Eagles' Bob and Dolores Hope Scholarship.
 
Having lived for so long in a dormitory setting, Jermell was anxious to experience living independently before enrolling in college. He spent several years working and traveling, participating always in wheelchair basketball. He settled in Dallas and began his college career. His love of the game brought him in touch with the Dallas Mavericks NBA team. Soon, all the puzzle pieces of Jermell's life fell into place. It started on the day he met the coach of a special branch of the team known as "The Wheelchair Mavericks."
 
 
A Star On The Hardwood
 
For the past nine years, Jermell Pennie has been a National Wheelchair Basketball Association Class One guard for the Mavericks. Twice he has won individual and team All-American awards, and in 2002 the team won second place at the International Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Brazil. Over the past two years, the team has done a great deal of international travel, including participating in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece. For the next 10 months, Jermell's home base is Paris, France, as the Mavericks compete throughout Europe.
 
 
This son of Hughen Center has triumphed over incredible odds. Now in his 30s, Jermell is a wonderful ambassador for Hughen Center.