Joy Ryan

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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A Child's Expression of Empathy Through Art

A Child's Expression of Empathy Through Art

Empathy, "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another," is hard. It is truly difficult to stand in another person's shoes and see life from their perspective. We all spend most of our time seeing the world from our own vantage point. It is even harder for Ranch kids.…

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A Child's Incredible Act of Caring

A Child's Incredible Act of Caring

I work with really great people here at the Ranch. Frankly, this is not a place you come to work if you are, at your core, a jerk. The people who commit to being Ranchers are truly interested in leaving the world a better place. They come together to help heal children who, through no fault of their own, have had to learn to navigate a world that has not shown itself to be on their side. These remarkable Ranchers use the best scientific medical and therapeutic practice, educational practice, faith in God, and good old fashioned kindness to make a difference.…

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Tolley Couple Opened Their Hearts and Home to Ten Challenging Boys

Tolley Couple Opened Their Hearts and Home to Ten Challenging Boys

Louis C. Butt, and his wife, Ida Mae, are legends in Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch history. They farmed and ranched outside of Tolley, ND, and were one of the first couples to open their home to the boys who needed a place to lay their head. Their home became the first physical location of Dakota Boys Ranch when the family donated their farm and ranch.…

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Love Languages Open the Door to Healing

Love Languages Open the Door to Healing

We understand our world and each other in so many ways. At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, that means finding the set of constructs that resonate for each particular child. Each of these precious children is unique, with their own experiences, traumas, and defense mechanisms. In short, they are like all the rest of us as far as how we take in information. There is no "one size fits all" way to communicate.…

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Chicken/Bacon/Waffle Sandwich with Homemade Maple Sriracha Aioli Sauce

Chicken/Bacon/Waffle Sandwich with Homemade Maple Sriracha Aioli Sauce

Do you remember when your mom or Grandma would try out a new recipe and it was really wonderful? I remember how it felt. I didn't have all the words then, but I felt cared for and special and loved. I saw how hard my mom tried to make every part of my life as good as she could.…

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God Carries Our Stories

God Carries Our Stories

Every person we meet has lived a life only they can truly understand. Like the children at the Ranch, some of us can tell our stories, and some cannot. Each of us carries our experiences in our own way. And, when they are too heavy, God carries them for us.…

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If We Do the Possible, God Will Do the Rest

If We Do the Possible, God Will Do the Rest

In this time of trying to separate the truly important from the normally important, I want you to know we are focused on one thing, "to help at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ." Right now, helping these kids succeed means making decisions that keep them and our staff as safe as possible. It means delivering programming and education that creates a semblance of normalcy and predictability in a time when the world is neither. It means praying and laughing with our kids, and listening to their fears. It means accepting children from other facilities that have shut their doors. It means relying on Him, when we are not enough. He will give us the strength.…

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Uncharted Territory

Uncharted Territory

We are in uncharted territory. Although we are likely to start sentences with "it's like of like" or "I remember when," the reality is that the COVID-19/Coronovirus pandemic is a new reality for the entire world. Here at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, we, like everyone else, are navigating one day, and sometimes one minute, at a time.…

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The Mountains We Climb

The Mountains We Climb

At a meeting I recently attended, a young minister told a story about his honeymoon. He and his wife wanted to do something really special to mark the start of their new life together. They were honeymooning in New England and decided that climbing a mountain nearby would fit the bill.…

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"Why didn't you yell at me, or hit me?"

"Why didn't you yell at me, or hit me?"

Barry Backman has worked at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch for over 18 years. He is a Youth Care Worker Team Lead, and works, along with his team, directly with the kids. As parents, most of us need to live through about seven teenage years. Barry has stood by at-risk teens for 18+ years, helping them discover their best selves.…

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