Joy Ryan

Children Learn What They Live

Children Learn What They Live

When I was growing up, Dorothy Law Nolte's poem, Children Learn What They Live, was everywhere. It was first published in 1954 and exploded into popular culture where it stayed through the 1970s. When I was little, it was hanging on refrigerators, on posters in doctors' offices, in classrooms. The poem was even plastered on milk cartons and cereal boxes.…

Read More

Taking Time to "Be"

Taking Time to "Be"

We had a young lady at the Ranch who really touched my heart. Whenever she would see me, she would yell, "Joy," and then scurry up to wherever I was. She'd give me a side hug and beam from ear to ear. Over time, I made it my mission to teach her to shake hands firmly, with eye contact. She was an excellent learner!…

Read More

Patience in All Things

Patience in All Things

Christ is at the center of all our work at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. God is our hero. To stay grounded in our work, Chaplain Rick Jones sends out a Ranch daily devotional email. All of the devotions are potent, and every once in a while, one makes me stop in my tracks.…

Read More

Providing Pathways to Success

Providing Pathways to Success

Being a teenager is tough. You're not a kid. You're not an adult. Much is expected of you, but you don't have a road map. Your body is changing. Your thoughts are changing. Nothing seems to stay in place.…

Read More

Showing Up for Kids at the Ranch

Showing Up for Kids at the Ranch

It is almost impossible to overstate the caliber of people I have the honor of working alongside. The level of compassion and decency they bring, meeting each child in the midst of their pain, is inspiring. One of those remarkable people is Gladys Skinner, who is a Residential Supervisor in Challenge Cottage, a Residential Child Caring Facility for girls 12-18 years old. Gladys has been at the Ranch for over four years and she simply exudes, "I got this," in her daily work.…

Read More

Compassion and Mercy

Compassion and Mercy

Recently, the reading in church was from Luke’s gospel where Jesus shared the parable of the Good Samaritan. When I reflect on this lesson, I think about how I can be a better neighbor to those around me. I think about times I could have let someone go ahead of me in line, stopped to listen, offered encouragement to someone, or engaged in conversation with the grocery store clerk or the person bagging my purchases. This time, I stopped to think about the definition of the neighbor referenced as "the one" in the phrase, “The one who had mercy on him."…

Read More

"Perfect" by Dr. Monte Selby; A Song About Ranch Kids

"Perfect" by Dr. Monte Selby; A Song About Ranch Kids

One of the most important things children discover in their time at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is their "voice." Most of our trauma-affected kids have been told what they are, what they think, why they are failures, and why they will always be failures. Through hard work, determination, and a commitment to their treatment and education, they begin to discover their strengths. They begin to tell their own true stories, in their own voice.…

Read More

Belief in the Power of HOPE

Belief in the Power of HOPE

When it comes to overcoming challenges, Helen Keller (1880-1968) set the bar quite high. She was a lifelong learner, teacher, inspiration. She danced, laughed, wrote, and loved. She was deaf, blind, and had great difficulty speaking. And, she changed the world and the way we view the potential of those with special needs. Her teacher and best friend, Anne Sullivan, who was herself blind and parentless, instilled a sense of hope in the young Helen. Anne had a persistent hope that guided Helen into her future.…

Read More

The Many Faces of Ranch Kids and Staff

The Many Faces of Ranch Kids and Staff

All of us at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch are humbled and grateful each day. First, by the opportunity to serve the Lord by serving others. Second, that the “others” we serve are precious children on a journey of hope and healing to become their best selves. Third, that so many people, like you, support our work. The attitude of gratitude we carry into each day is more than a clever rhyme, it is a worldview based on the honor we feel. We try to find every way possible to share our thankfulness with everyone.…

Read More

Open Hearts and Compassionate Spirits

Open Hearts and Compassionate Spirits

If you have had kids, or been around kids, you know that trips to urgent care or the emergency room are part of “the deal.” With my own children, we had the requisite ear infections, occasional stitches from a variety of boo-boos, and a very exciting dislocated thumb that happened on the school playground. As they got older, we moved onto sports injuries. Ranch kids are kids. They have these experiences, too. And sometimes, an acute psychiatric issue may lead to a hospital visit.…

Read More

A Work in Progress

A Work in Progress

A few weeks ago I was going through our cafeteria line for lunch on campus when there was a commotion at the other end of the dining center. Something had agitated one of our children, a young boy, and he threw his lunch tray on the floor. It hit with such force that the unbreakable plastic dish shattered and, of course, milk flew everywhere. Staff quickly helped the young man leave the environment and helped him use some of his coping and calming skills. In a few minutes, he was able to re-set his emotions and finish lunch.…

Read More

Live Long and Prosper

Live Long and Prosper

I truly love the Ranch kids. They surprise me every day with their courage, resilience, desire to be their best selves. This morning as I walked through the dining room at breakfast time, several of the girls stopped me to teach them how to do the Star Trek “live long and prosper” sign with my hands. Much giggling and goofing later, we settled for them making the peace sign. For many of the children, their journey also includes their first real consideration of God and His role in their healing. Tara, whose story follows, was a child who opened her heart to the work of treatment and the word of the Lord. These children are remarkable.…

Read More

May Your Christmas Tree Fall Over

May Your Christmas Tree Fall Over

When Janet Zinke asked me to be the “guest writer” for this week’s edition of her sharing, my first thought was “What can I bring to a Christmas Greeting that hasn’t been said a hundred times?” And then I thought, “My wish for them is that their Christmas tree falls over!”…

Read More

Where Will You Look, and What Will You See?

It is wonderful when I can be part of the real work of the Ranch…the work that happens face to face, one-on-one with the children. All of my job (almost) is a blessing, but watching the kids succeed in real time is what makes every other challenge and hoop we jump through make sense.…

Read More

Welcome to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is truly a special place. The boards of Directors, staff, and I are dreaming broadly and boldly about the upcoming generations impacted by this organization's ongoing work.…

Read More