Kids at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch like to play Bingo.
When I first came to the Ranch and learned this, it surprised me. Here are kids with all different kinds of trauma-related behaviors. Some have attention deficit issues, others deal with anger or noise triggers, and others are uncomfortable in groups. They may be depressed or anxious or struggle with bipolar or schizophrenia diagnoses. They have seen much in their young lives.
Yet, they like old, boring, low-tech Bingo.
Every once in a while, we hold “Bingo Night” at the Ranch. A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to play along with them on our Minot Campus. It was in the evening, after dinner. The dining center was filled with kids and staff. Residential Treatment Director, Amber Marquardt, and Horse Program Manager, Amber Benham, were the callers. They used a small toy Bingo tumbler. The players used paper cards and marked the called numbers with beads. One table was filled with prizes like balls and press-on nails and Ramen noodles and stuffed animals. (Most were either donated or purchased with donated gift cards from Ranch friends.)
The kids were ages 10 to 17. All had challenges. But, for those two hours, Bingo was cool.
I heard laughter, groans, and kids calling out, “Call B9”! I told the girls at my table about playing Bingo with my grandma at church dinners when I was little. She won a lot. I didn’t. But, sometimes she let me pick the prize. They told me a little about their grandmothers.
Near the end of the evening, the two Ambers started calling out “special” prize winners. “If you wear glasses and are under 12 years old, you win a prize!” Quite magically, these special prizes ensured that every child, even those who didn't win a game, went back to their cottages with something that was theirs alone.
With all the time I have worked in this field, I am still not sure what it is about Bingo Night. But, if you made me guess, I would say it is fair fun (there really is no way to ‘excel’ at Bingo), in a safe place, with a sense of community, where the hard parts of life can wait. It’s kid stuff.
Please keep our kids and staff in your prayers.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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