“If you know something wonderful, it would be a shame not to share it.” That was one of Sidney Buford Scott’s favorite expressions. He believed that if you were aware of something good, you had to tell everyone about it. In that spirit, I’d like to tell you a little about Buford, and aboutElk Hill.
Elk Hill Farm is a special place: 300 acres of rolling fields and forest in Goochland County. Buford lived there for two months with his wife Susie when they were first married. That, Susie believes, was when Buford first began to envision Elk Hill as a place that could nurture struggling young men (and later women) and offer them encouragement, education and safety.
Inspired by Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in Nebraska, Buford asked his father, Buford Scott, and family friend Jim Ball to donate money to support the founding of Elk Hill. In September 1970, a handful of passionate staff began working with eight boys on the Elk Hill campus.
Buford was often there, cheering them on. He and Susie spent weekends at Elk Hill with their family, and Buford became a trusted friend of the young men. Once, while at home in Richmond, Buford received a phone call one Sunday afternoon from two boys who had run away from Elk Hill. They had hitch hiked more than 30 miles on a truck from the Goochland men’s prison, then found themselves at the corner of Ridge and Patterson, unsure where to go. Buford and Susie went to pick them up, gave them a big supper on their back porch, and then drove them back to Elk Hill without uttering a single reprimand.
As those first few boys grew and thrived, Elk Hill expanded as well. I joined the organization in 1984 as a youth counselor, then took on a series of roles that culminated with my stepping into the role of CEO this year. Elk Hill now offers specialized education, community-based services and residential treatment programs to 700 youth with emotional and/or behavioral challenges.
Buford Scott’s support and enthusiasm is one of the reasons that I’ve remained at Elk Hill for 36 years. He believed passionately in ElkHill’s mission, and he wanted other people to have an opportunity to participate in that mission, too. Even in his later years, when walking was difficult for him, Buford would often drive friends and acquaintances out toElk Hill to show them this wonderful place. “I want you to come out and look at something I’m real proud of,” he’d tell them.
He was a great mentor and friend, as well as Elk Hill’s best fundraiser and most successful recruiter. Buford always had high praise for ElkHill’s youth, staff and board, which he said was the finest gathering of trustees of any board that he had ever been involved with. In addition to his extensive philanthropy work, Buford worked for more than 60 years at the investment firm founded by his grandfather, now BB&T Scott & Stringfellow. He was known, too, for his bowties and his abiding love of UVA.He often invited Elk Hill staff to attend football games with him — and if he discovered you didn’t have a Hoos cap, he’d insist on buying you one.
Sadly, Buford passed away in September 2019. This month, his cherished Elk Hill marks its 50th year serving Virginia’s youth. And our work is far from over; in fact, the need has only grown. In Virginia, 14%of children have behavioral or mental health challenges. Two-thirds of them fail to receive the services they need. That’s where Elk Hill steps in, by providing intensive, trauma-informed therapy in children’s homes, in schools, and in our three group homes for teens. In some rural counties outside ofRichmond and Charlottesville, we are the only provider offering outpatient mental health services to children.
Just as Buford would have done, I invite you to get to know Elk Hill. Follow our work, come visit us when our campus reopens to guests, and help us carry on Buford’s legacy by supporting the 50th anniversary campaign.
Ron Spears is CEO of Elk Hill.