Joy Ryan

They Wear Sneakers

They Wear Sneakers

I recently attended chapel at the Ranch. That's not really newsworthy. We have chapel services on all of our campuses at 4:30 p.m. every Thursday. I like to attend whenever I can, and when I do, I always leave feeling pretty grateful for where I work, the people I work with, and the children we serve. Seeing the kids and staff in chapel helps me continue to believe in the good in the world, and God's love.…

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Mack the Therapy Dog

Mack the Therapy Dog

Mack doesn’t like the Nutrition Center. He got really scared when he was there one day for lunch. Some kids were playing on the other side of the big, overhead doors that separate the Nutrition Center from the gym on campus. A ball hit the big metal door and the noise was sudden and loud. It startled Mack, just like thunder does, and now he doesn’t like going in there.…

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What Nearly Running Out of Gas Taught Me about Ranch Kids and Staff

What Nearly Running Out of Gas Taught Me about Ranch Kids and Staff

I suppose it isn't too weird that almost anything that happens in my life teaches me something about the kids and staff at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. The Ranch is a big part of my life. But almost running out of gas? Yup.…

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Join Us Online on November 19th!

Join Us Online on November 19th!

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is hosting a celebration of thankfulness for all the wonderful people who support our work.…

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Join Us on November 19th For an Online Celebration of Thankfulness

Join Us on November 19th For an Online Celebration of Thankfulness

You are a huge reason we are able to continue our work, even in a pandemic. Because of your prayers and your financial support, we continue. We want to say thank you. Join us for a free online event, "A Healing Presence: an Online Celebration of Thankfulness," on November 19, 1-2 p.m. (Central Standard Time). We'll provide you with an update on the impact you are making with your support. It is a celebration of thankfulness from us to you! The very best part, I promise you, will be hearing from Ariel, a former Ranch resident.…

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A Really Good Day

A Really Good Day

A few weeks ago, I was at my desk when I heard a familiar voice in the lobby. "Look! I'm being adopted!" As I came around the corner to confirm my suspicions, a handsome boy came running at me with arms outstretched for a hug. "Joy, did you hear? I'm being adopted!"…

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Small Steps that Make a Big Difference

Small Steps that Make a Big Difference

Most things we learn from birth to adulthood come in small steps. When we learn to eat solid foods, we don't start with a T-bone, but mushed banana or rice cereal. When we learn to drive, it is usually around the block, not cross-country on Route 66. When we learn to read, Dick and Jane usually come before Dostoevsky.…

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What's Your Story?

What's Your Story?

"Bee Kind. Everyone has a story" is our rallying cry. On Monday, October 5, every Rancher—on campus, in our thrift stores, in our school, kitchens, and hallways—staff, teacher, child, thrift store employee, and Board Member—wore a bright yellow T-shirt carrying the message. In Minot, ND, our largest campus, we kicked off a month-long focus on finding the best in others with a scavenger hunt. In our Youth Home, kids decorated their own special masks with anti-bullying messages...my personal favorite was, "Putting out someone else's candle does not make yours burn brighter." Therapy dogs wore the t-shirts, but sadly, horses were excluded—size issues. Spiritual Life groups focused on Bible verses that reinforce our value in God's eyes...then made posters of the verses to hang in their rooms. Discussions about self-esteem and respect and kindness were everywhere and will continue.…

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Bee Kind: Everyone has a story

Bee Kind: Everyone has a story

On October 5, World Day of Bullying Prevention, and throughout the month, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch staff and kids are holding awareness and learning activities to help wipe out intentional, repeated, and degrading meanness. “Bullying leaves people feeling small and exposed and so lonely,” said Joy Ryan, President/CEO, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. “I was bullied in school, and unfortunately, I am in the majority. We did a quick survey of the children in our care right now and 88 percent of them report having been bullied. Bullying doesn't build character or compassion and there is no lesson to be learned from experiencing it. Social media has added another avenue for bullying at a whole new level and made it mainstream.” The effects of bullying can be long-lasting for victims including fear and anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide.…

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Young Ranch Resident Desires to be Seen

Young Ranch Resident Desires to be Seen

Recently I was on our Bismarck, ND Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch campus. COVID has messed with travel over the past few months, but I am trying to "mask up" and connect with people in person. Meetings via computer, while better than nothing, simply cannot replace sitting down face-to-face — of course, at a safe social distance.…

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The Power of Positivity in Doing God's Work

The Power of Positivity in Doing God's Work

Deaconess Kelly Bristow is the Spiritual Life Coordinator on the Minot Campus of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. She is a woman of deep faith in Christ, unbounded love, commitment to mercy care, and she's smart.…

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It All Started with "Yo."

It All Started with "Yo."

I love the Ranch kids. Really. Sometimes they are hard to like, because they've learned lots of ways to keep people at arm's length, most of which are pretty effective. But, when we love them through it, they find their best selves on the other side!…

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Going Home Sober

Going Home Sober

This morning I sat in a Core Team meeting for a boy in our care. Core Team meetings are where we bring together the child and everyone involved in the child's care to discuss how well they are making progress against their goals. The child has a full voice in talking about the goals of treatment, what is working, what isn't helping, whey they want to improve on next, and the challenges they are facing. Around the table, sit people from his or her cottage treatment team, occupational therapy, mental health therapy, psychiatry, nursing, spiritual life, and social work.…

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What is Your Favorite Chilli?

What is Your Favorite Chilli?

Most Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch employees here during a "regular" workday, eat lunch on campus. Our food service staff members are pretty amazing regardless of which campus you are on, and the food is quite good. Considering the volume they make and that they make it appeal to kids and adults, I am impressed on a daily basis.…

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Keeping Our Kids Safe

Keeping Our Kids Safe

When the first child at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch tested positive for COVID-19, I felt like a tractor ran over me. We had already experienced staff who had tested positive and had quarantined away from work. That was worrisome, they are such good people. Thankfully they have all returned healthy and virus-free But, a child? The kids come here to be safe, and I "let" this child get sick.…

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Why is Everyone Smiling and Happy?

Why is Everyone Smiling and Happy?

So much in life is about familiarity and context, isn't it? When we grow up around music, we expect music to be part of our lives. When we grow up around books, we think learning and curiosity are the norm. When we grow up with pets, we feel comfort and respect for animal "friends." You get the idea.…

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Horses and Kids

Horses and Kids

Occupational Therapy (OT) is one of the really important elements of treatment for children who are trauma survivors. At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, our OTs and COTAs (certified occupational therapy assistants) teach children how to understand and manage their sensory input to help them control emotions and reactions. Our OTs provide our kids with many tools — breathing techniques, light panels, therapeutic swings, handheld manipulatives, and even real, live horses!…

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A Hard and Joyous Day

A Hard and Joyous Day

Two weeks ago, a 20+ year Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch employee passed away suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition. The Ranch — his coworkers, the children, and the ministry — were at the center of his life. A couple weeks ago, Chaplain Rick and Deaconess Kelly led a memorial service for staff and residents. It was a hard and joyous day. We planted a tree in his honor. We read scripture and sang Amazing Grace. We also placed a plaque at the base of the tree, made here in the woodworking classroom of the Ranch. The plaque, at the request of the kids, included images of kittens, as he had been a true "cat person."…

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Therapy While Bouncing Up and Down and Doing Somersaults

Therapy While Bouncing Up and Down and Doing Somersaults

I have written before about how important it is for us, when helping kids heal, to meet them where they are at. We must, as Stephen Covey famously writes, "seek first to understand." Sometimes it is very hard to understand a child who cannot express themselves well, or does not have the vocabulary to explain.…

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"When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Just Like You!"

"When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Just Like You!"

I received a very sad letter in the mail today. It was from Maxine Beckwith, a Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Board Member. Maxine is the last remaining Board Member who had joined the board prior to the introduction of term limits. As such, she has been on the board for nearly 40 years. And she has made every moment count. Her letter says she is choosing to retire from the board at the end of this operational year.…

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Something We Can All Agree On?

Something We Can All Agree On?

I was working on a blog post that was truly in sync with all the unsettledness in the world. It seems important to talk about the pandemic and the death of George Floyd and racial injustice and political derision and how the Ranch views and deals with all these "things." I wrote a couple drafts, and then sent it to several people — from different political leanings, races, educational levels, and life experiences — to ask them for their thoughts and input. I don't usually do that, but the message is so important and I wanted to make sure I stated things well.…

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Our Four-Legged Staff Know a Little About Unconditional Love

Our Four-Legged Staff Know a Little About Unconditional Love

At the Ranch, the four-legged staff that work with our children know a little about unconditional love. The horses like Odin and Lena and Starbucks listen to the children's pains and fears and hurts. They gently walk with them. They carry them and their troubles without complaint. The therapy dogs like Bailey and Mack nuzzle and snuggle and love being petted. And they listen too.…

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Do You Believe in God's Elves?

Do You Believe in God's Elves?

What is your position on God's elves? Before we get too deep into that, I want to be forthright about two of my beliefs. I am a big believer in science, and believe that science is one of God's gifts to humanity. I also believe in miracles.…

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Kitchen Staff Present Silver Spatula Award to Young Man at the Ranch

Kitchen Staff Present Silver Spatula Award to Young Man at the Ranch

The culture at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is based in caring, purpose, and learning. Lately, I have been asking folks to share stories of the greatest example of caring they have witnessed in their time at the Ranch.…

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Now Is the Time to Accept our Imperfections

Now Is the Time to Accept our Imperfections

At the Ranch, we work to help each child see they are perfectly themselves. That the best self they can be is exactly who they are meant to be. Not like someone else. Through treatment and programming and individualized schooling, they learn to be their own strongest advocates. They learn to be in their own skin.…

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