Larry Hamme grew up in North Carolina, bounced around from his parents' and other relatives' homes, and even ran away when he was young.
The chief clinical officer for Unison Behavioral Health Group, who has volunteered countless hours to help local troubled and neglected children, said he uses his own life's up and downs to reach the children he's trying to help.
The Toledo-based psychologist has been honored by the University of Toledo Alumni Association's Minority Affiliate and the Lucas County Court Appointed Special Advocates department for his work in psychology. But Mr. Hamme said his real reward is helping someone get on the right track.
"When I look back at my struggles, I can feel some of these kids' pain," said Mr. Hamme, a single parent of a daughter who lives in New York City. "I can understand their struggle while they're trying to gain their own autonomy. I try to help parents with a developmental process and how to pick their battles with them."
Mr. Hamme spent part of his life on a farm in Oxford, N.C., before he and his five brothers and sisters were separated and sent to live with other relatives. He and a sister eventually moved in with his Aunt Ollie.
An educator, the aunt set strict rules and consequences for breaking those rules.
Mr. Hamme said he spent a lot of time rebelling against those rules, but realizes now it gave him the discipline to make it through college and earn his doctorate in clinical psychology from UT.
"Whatever it took, she made sure I got a good education," Mr. Hamme said of his aunt, who died while he was completing his doctoral work. "When I was almost done with high school, it was not 'if' you're going to college, but 'what' college were you going to. She loved us and took care of us. She was old school and didn't tolerate any kind of nonsense, and I love her for it."
He graduated from North Carolina Central College, a historically black college in Durham, with his bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology. A recruiter at UT talked him into pursuing his doctorate.
Mr. Hamme does private-practice work and has worked with the East Center for Community Mental Health Inc. He has worked with the Lucas County Children Services Board, CASA, and others on cultural diversity and sensitivity issues.
Mr. Hamme said storytelling seems to make the lessons he teaches about diversity to adults and helping children overcome difficult times more relevant than simply trying to lecture about what is right and what is wrong. He said he hopes some of the stories he tells about his own life will go a long way to benefit others.