Blog

Beginning to See Life's Possibilities

Beginning to See Life's Possibilities

Due to a recent knee replacement surgery, I got a much-appreciated wheelchair ride from one airport gate to another while traveling through the Minneapolis airport. My driver, Abdi, was an absolutely delightful man. For part of the ride, I was wondering if I would make my flight connection. Abdi, with an authentic and infectious smile on his face, was on constant lookout for lost-looking travelers. Multiple times in our 20-minute trek we stopped as he offered directions or reassurances. He went out of his way to ensure that everyone who needed information went safely in the right direction!…

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Making Sense of Pain

Making Sense of Pain

Every once-in-a-while a phrase from a book or article sticks with me and makes me ponder. An example of this was a phrase from a historical novel about a sibling group's travels through the difficult child welfare systems of the early 1900s. The phrase that stuck with me was: "They wanted a pain they could understand."…

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Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Awarded $1,000 by Elmer & Kaya Berg Foundation

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Awarded $1,000 by Elmer & Kaya Berg Foundation

The Elmer & Kaya Berg Foundation awarded $1,000 to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch to purchase trees that will beautify its Fargo campus and restore the green spaces for the children served.…

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Really Hard Work

Really Hard Work

My mom once told me something like “Not just anyone can marry just anyone.” I don’t remember the whole conversation, but basically, the point was that people are not just commodities. It isn’t enough to be just a good person, there has to be a “fit” whether for marriage or friendship or, even work. I thought of that last week when we had a couple really good people resign from their work at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. They both worked in our cottage providing psychiatric treatment to our youngest boys, ages 10-14. It’s OK that they resigned. They were good, smart people. But it wasn’t a fit.…

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Daily Prayers for Our Students

Daily Prayers for Our Students

It is an exciting time of year at Dakota Memorial School. School is back in session with some of the most amazing teachers and staff. Not to mention the fantastic students who are ready to learn, grow, and experience life through educational activities.…

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Cameron: A Walking Miracle

Cameron: A Walking Miracle

In fourth grade, Cameron started having attention issues. By fifth grade, anything associated with school caused Cameron to experience extreme anxiety. Most days he refused to go. Then he started having wild and out-of-control behaviors.…

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The Proof is in the Cupcake

The Proof is in the Cupcake

The kids who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch are working hard to learn new behaviors—it is not easy to overcome what they have learned through what has happened to them. Most of our kids have had to find ways to survive.…

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Loving these messy, angry, loud, hurting, challenging, precious kids

Loving these messy, angry, loud, hurting, challenging, precious kids

I am constantly grateful for the way really great professionals find their way to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. It is important to work with people who share a passion for our mission. The Ranch’s Director of Therapy Services/Clinical Director, Tim Gienger, is one of those great people. Tim oversees the therapeutic work done by our Masters’ level mental and behavioral health counselors who work here. He travels to all three campuses and works with each therapist to develop the very best-of-the-best approaches to help each child in their own unique ways. He is insightful, upbeat, kind, and a really hard worker.…

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Hand Me the Spackle and a Putty Knife

Hand Me the Spackle and a Putty Knife

I just signed a purchase order for a replacement window in one of the children’s bedrooms. It was broken by an angry child who is just learning that it’s OK to have emotions. (Don’t worry. It is special glass, so it cracked, but no one was hurt and the child now has a different bedroom.) Of course, the next step is for the child to learn healthy ways to show those emotions. Learning how to manage emotions is all part of healing.…

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Summer Olympics at the Ranch

Summer Olympics at the Ranch

It has been more than 40 years since “The Miracle on Ice,” when the U.S. Men’s Hockey team defeated the Soviet Union on their way to Olympic gold. To this day, whenever I think about that win, I still feel the same emotions I did the night it happened. That moment was electric, and people talk about it as if it were yesterday.…

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How does your light shine?

How does your light shine?

As a private not-for-profit, we are owned by our community. We are not a government agency. We are not owned by a family, by individuals, or by shareholders. The kids at the Ranch, when we first meet, often ask me “Do you own the Ranch?” I tell them “Nope. We are owned by everyone, with God at our center.” That usually disappoints them, because I would be much more glamorous as an owner!…

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The Power of Yet

The Power of Yet

One of the (many) great things about working at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is being surrounded by inspirational messages. Of course, they are intended for the children… to keep them buoyed up and encouraged. The healing work they do is hard, and they have endured so much. In Chapel services, spiritual life groups, Dakota Memorial School, and the living facilities our kids see and hear all kinds of “You Can Do It” messages. Spoken, or a nod, or a worksheet or a side hug, all carry the message of hope.…

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The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Grants $81,680 to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch at National Convention

The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Grants $81,680 to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch at National Convention

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch will receive $81,680 from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League to support the Deaconess Ministry portion of its Spiritual Life programming. Recognizing the need to minister directly to the hearts of the young girls and boys in their care, in 2018 the Ranch called LCMS Deaconess Kelly Bristow to complement the work of the Spiritual Life staff.…

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MDU Resources Foundation Grants $4,000 to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

MDU Resources Foundation Grants $4,000 to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

MDU Resources Foundation awarded $4,000 to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch to purchase a commercial gas stove for the Nutrition Center on its Bismarck campus. The purchase is just one part of an overall transformation of the Nutrition Center.…

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FM Area Foundation Grants $3,500 for Wellness Program at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

FM Area Foundation Grants $3,500 for Wellness Program at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

The FM Area Foundation granted $3,500 to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch to support the Wellness Program on its Fargo campus. Funds will be used to purchase items and accessories such as helmets, rollerblades, bikes, longboards, skateboards, and more.…

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God's Grace and Mercy

God's Grace and Mercy

Chapel Services are at 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays on all the campuses of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. We do not require children or staff to attend. But, many do. Last week, I was on campus in Minot for Chapel. Minot is our largest campus, our seminal campus. Chaplain Rick Jones and Deaconess Kelly Bristow do a beautiful job of bringing His word to the kids in a way that relates to them. Yesterday the message was from Romans 13, where Paul talks about how to think about “authorities.” Chaplain Rick was able to make sense of God’s delegation to “authorities” in his name, while acknowledging that many in authority had been the very people who had victimized these children. He explained how the authority was from God, but how the person in that position may be in the clutches of sin.…

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A Very Special Thank You

A Very Special Thank You

I hear the same lament over and over from friends, particularly grandparents, aunts, and uncles who live a distance away. "Why don't kids today ever send thank you notes?" and "I have to call to see if they got the gift, because I never hear about it from them." I honestly don't know if it is worse than in previous generations. My mom and dad made sure I wrote thank you notes. But I also remember when, having heard nothing, they would ponder whether a gift they sent had ever been received.…

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Kiwanis Club of Minot Provides Funds for Library Books at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

Kiwanis Club of Minot Provides Funds for Library Books at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

The Kiwanis Club of Minot granted $300 to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch to purchase library books for Dakota Memorial School, the on-campus school of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Reading offers children at the Ranch the chance to expand their horizons beyond the tough and often traumatizing lives they’ve lived. It stirs the imagination, stimulates creativity, gives freedom to the soul, and inspires kids to dream big for the future.…

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Dirt is a Happy Place

Dirt is a Happy Place

When I was a kid, I didn't really appreciate all the work that went into raising food. Gardening was a lot of work, and it took away from what I wanted to do—generally anything except work. I've since gained an appreciation for gardening, and even gave it a name, "dirt therapy." For some people, digging in the dirt, watching plants grow, and harvesting vegetables all come together to create a sense of accomplishment and well-being.…

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The Wisdom of a Child

The Wisdom of a Child

We should never quit growing and learning. One of my former bosses, a remarkably wise man, always said, "If you are the same person next year that you are this year, you're not very interesting." His point was that each year we should evolve, learn, have new experiences... maybe even change some strongly held opinions.…

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Putting on the Brakes

Putting on the Brakes

Imagine driving through the middle of town during road construction season trying to navigate unexpected stop signs, orange cones, and random holes in the middle of the road to get through to the other side safely. Most of us are familiar with applying the right amount of pressure to the brake and gas pedals to get through the construction safely. For some, it's second nature and requires very little active thought.…

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A Future He Never Imagined

A Future He Never Imagined

Now, in his second time at the Ranch, Jeremiah wants the help he needs. "I want to get stuff done. I want to be able to communicate efficiently and to have friends, good friends. My therapists at the Ranch are really helping me with those things. They are helping me with pretty much anything you can name that a young adult needs to live independently." In therapy, Jeremiah has learned to talk through his uncomfortable feelings and emotions. "I think the only way to go forward is to be uncomfortable when you're talking about something. If you stop talking every time you're uncomfortable, it's not going to help you. You have to just sit there and cry and work through things." While at the Ranch, Jeremiah also developed coping skills, learned how to interact with other people, and worked hard to repair and rebuild relationships with his parents.…

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Becoming Adults: Preparing Ranch Kids to Live in the World

Becoming Adults: Preparing Ranch Kids to Live in the World

In so many ways, the children who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch are just like other kids. They may have endured more trauma than others and need help to heal and move forward, but like all kids, they face a full range of choices as they step out into the world. Just like their peers, some Ranch kids go to college. Others aren't interested or suited for that path.…

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Vocational Education Through the Years

Vocational Education Through the Years

In the 1960s, Dakota Boys Ranch faced some serious education issues. At that time, the Ranch's education program consisted of two elementary teachers, one full-time and one part-time. Consequently, the Ranch was basically dependent on the public schools for educating the boys living at the Ranch. Many of the boys had special education needs and most had difficulty functioning in the public school setting due to backgrounds of neglect.…

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Getting Some Zzzzzzzzz's: Helping Ranch Kids get Good Sleep

Getting Some Zzzzzzzzz's: Helping Ranch Kids get Good Sleep

Imagine what it would be like if you couldn't go home at the end of a long day and crawl into your own safe, comfortable bed. That's what it has been like for many of the kids at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch—their beds, and sleep in general, have not always been a safe, comfortable place. Some didn't have a bed and spent nights on the floor, on the couch, under the kitchen table...wherever they fell asleep. Others hopped from couch to couch with their families—never knowing where they would spend the night. Many see nighttime as scary because that is when bad things happened to them. They come to the Ranch we expect them to sleep in an unfamiliar place surrounded by people they don't know.…

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