Wow! Attending the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Valentines Luncheon in Arizona this past Thursday was such a blessing! Being out of the snow and bitter cold for a short time was wonderful, of course, but the real blessing was the event itself and the people who attended.
Over 200 people came to hear the impact and the importance of our work—and they all received a Valentine, handmade by a Ranch child. Long-time board member, Maxine Beckwith, talked about the changes she has seen at the Ranch since its inception in 1952. DIck Shorma, another Ranch board member, shared an opening prayer and Loren and Lucy Larson, members of the Arizona Steering Committee, shared their musical talent to entertain us while we ate.
Joy Ryan, Ranch President and CEO, shared some of our kids' stories and told the group about the Ranch HOME at Northgate program that launched in the past year. HOME is a transitional living program for young adults ages 18+, who have little to no family support. Joy told us that she is nearly certain that the young men in the program now would be homeless if it weren't for HOME.
We also heard from a former Ranch resident. Haysel's story made a powerful impact on me. She told us how she battled with "cutting", a self-harm behavior young people do to "control the pain they feel." She confessed that for a year she was able to hide what she was doing from others while spiraling downward into more problems and unhealthy choices. Thankfully, her mom was able to see through her façade and brought her to the Ranch.
While at the Ranch, Haysel shared that she had been sexually abused, and she started to work through the pain. She was able to recognize that cutting did not solve her problems—it was only a temporary escape.
At 20 years old, Haysel has a successful job, she is married to a loving man, and she continues to make good choices in her life. I was amazed at her strength of character and humbled to hear her story. She credits much of her success to her Ranch therapist, but we all know that she is the one who chose to make the most of her life and then did all the hard work. I wish everyone could have been there to hear her story firsthand.
The lunch closed with a benediction from former board member, Reverend Loren Vogler. He also shared insight into why we are all so passionate about Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. "Because it always has been about helping the kids."
We are so thankful to our donors for helping us change the future for kids who have had difficult pasts. Because of their prayers and generosity, we can be present for each child, one at a time, and help them become healthy, have a stronger faith in God, and become their best selves.
May God be with you on this day and every day.
Senior Development Officer
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is a Christian residential treatment and educational center for children and their families. We help the most troubled, complicated, and amazing kids by providing best-in-class psychiatric therapy and trauma-informed care, where we look kids in the eye, walk with them, and help them become their best selves.