JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL) — When T.R. and Carla Dunn start dreaming, things just seem to happen.
During the pandemic, the longtime Johnson City youth ministers started dreaming of a new place for teens and led by teens in the Tri-Cities.
“We know a lot of people don’t like to deal with teenagers, but we do,” T.R. said. “We wanted to fill a gap, and we wanted teens to have the final say in what and how it happened.”
Soon, “4thirTEEN” was born – a ministry supported by the Dunns but run by teens. He says the name was inspired by the Bible verse Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
4thirTEEN has hosted a few events under the leadership of its teen advisory board. They already have that space T.R. and Carla were dreaming about on the second floor of the Summit Leadership building in North Johnson City. An official launch date is set for June 11.
“Teenagers have dreams, and our goal through “4thirTEEN” is to make those dreams come true,” T.R. said.
T.R. Dunn knows what it means to be a kid and to struggle.
Raised in the Carver Projects, his father died when he was just 11 years old. T.R. says family and a caring community of adults saved his life.
“It made me a better person, and it gave me the hope that I don’t have to stay here,” he said. “I want the opportunity to move up, and when I move up I never want to forget where I come from.”
Recently, Carla Dunn says she and her husband were especially burdened after a spike in teen suicides. She knows of as many as seven teenage suicides in the Tri-Cities in just the past few months.
“We knew we need to do something,” Carla said. “What can we do?”
That same night, Carla said she had another. This one came while she slept, and it seemed to come out of now where.
“Are you sure I should talk about this?” she said, indicating that what she was about to share might sound a bit far-fetched.
“In my dream, we were in Freedom Hall,” she said. “And I was standing looking at youth everywhere, and my husband came on the stage and introduced Tim Tebow.”
Carla says she was confused. She’d not thought about the Heisman Trophy winner in recent memory. But the dream wasn’t easily forgotten, so she began posting on his social media platforms and eventually got in touch with Tebow’s booking agent.
Would the sports star turned author and motivational speaker be willing to come to Johnson City to speak to area youth?
“The answer I got was no,” Carla said.
But that wasn’t the end of this dream.
“The very next day, the booking agents called and said, ‘Yes, he wants to come and pour into your community a message of hope.'”
The event that began as an unexplained dream is being billed as “There is Hope – Overcoming Depression, Despair, and Driving Your Passion.”
Tim Tebow will speak at Freedom Hall on May 15. T.R. Dunn will introduce him to the audience.
The Dunns say their new dream is that the teens from around the region will come to the event and hear the truth.
“They are somebody,” Carla said. “They can make it. They can have dreams and they can accomplish them. This is giving their voice back and giving them a sense of purpose and community in their lives.”
“I want to make sure that every teenager knows they matter,” T.R. said. “Every teen can realize you don’t have to stay in the same place and in the same shape that you are. You can be a better person. You can do anything you want when you put your mind to it.”
CLICK HERE to purchase tickets and learn more about the event.