Joy Ryan

An Attitude of Gratitude

An Attitude of Gratitude

Many years ago I had the opportunity to hear a talk by Lou Holtz, the former head coach of numerous winning football teams...perhaps most memorably, Notre Dame. His message, as I remember it, was about how he stays enthusiastic, positive, optimistic. He made the point that when you are not winning is when it is most important to stay positive.…

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Trauma is a Thief

Trauma is a Thief

Trauma is a thief. It steals one's sense of safety, predictability, trust. A generally accepted definition of Emotional and psychological trauma is "the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won't go away."…

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Tearing Up After Receiving Donation from Former Ranch Resident

Tearing Up After Receiving Donation from Former Ranch Resident

People from all across the United States help Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch wrap each precious child who comes to us in the care they need to find and become their best selves. Many pray for our staff and kids. Others donate time through servant teams, board service, or within our thrift stores. Still, others donate treasure, funds that are the result of the sweat of the brows of the givers. Regardless of where or who or how the gifts of prayer, time, and treasure come from, they are all blessings. They all contribute to the healing of these brave trauma survivors. Every gift has special meaning.…

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An Extra-Special Graduation Ceremony

An Extra-Special Graduation Ceremony

A couple weeks ago, three very proud young people were the stars of their high school graduation at Dakota Memorial School. That was kind of a funny time of year for a graduation. It also doesn't sound like a very large graduation class.…

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Blessing Us with a Servant Heart

Blessing Us with a Servant Heart

So many folks help make Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch a place of His healing and hope, including the members of our Boards of Directors. Our Boards are filled with some of the best people I have ever met in my life. Each brings a special gift or skill or expertise to their governance role, and in combination, they ensure we are Sustainably Excellent.…

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I Wore Pajamas to Work!

I Wore Pajamas to Work!

I wore pajamas to work. Well, technically it was an oversized cotton sleep shirt/dress. And I wore tights and boots. Quite an ensemble. Why you might ask? Surprisingly, it is about normalcy.…

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One Child's Profoundly Simple Life Goals

One Child's Profoundly Simple Life Goals

Our mission at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is to "help at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ." Our work at the Ranch is to help children find their best selves. Ranch kids learn to think about goals and the future. I know I've mentioned it before in these writings, but when kids come to the Ranch, they are not future-oriented. They have been in survival mode (because of fear, hunger, abuse, and trauma) for so long that their goals are to make it through the day, or the morning, or this minute. The future is a concept without meaning when you have to scrabble through each moment. So we teach the children to stop and dream. Set goals. If you are your best self, imagine what your goals could be, your future could become.…

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Everyone Loves a Taco

Everyone Loves a Taco

One of the favorite lunch meals for children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is the "walking taco." For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a walking taco starts with a personal-sized bag of tortilla chips. You crunch the bag to break the chips into small pieces, then open the bag and add taco meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, and possibly sour cream or guacamole. The gastronomical delight is eaten right out of the bag with a fork. Sort of a taco salad, but funkier. "Walking taco" is a fun name.…

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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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Watch Out for Exploding Watermelons!

Watch Out for Exploding Watermelons!

I am constantly reminded of the many types of expertise held by the people working with the children who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Because the children have a multitude of experiences and traumas, we must use a multitude of approaches to help them identify their own challenges and develop ways to cope with them. The door to understanding is opened in many different ways — sometimes in school, sometimes in nursing services, in therapy, with the horses, in Spiritual Life.…

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