One of the great blessings of my job is that I occasionally get to meet, face-to-face, folks like you who support the healing of the children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch.
For over 40 years the Ranch has hosted a Valentine’s Day Donor Appreciation Luncheon for friends in Arizona. Actually, we host one luncheon in the Mesa area on February 14, and one in the Sun City area either the day before or the day after. In the beginning, these luncheons centered around a fish fry held in church basements. The main course was provided by the late Duane and LuAnn Kiefel, who spent the summer catching walleye in North Dakota—then froze them and shipped them to Arizona to cook for the crowds. Then Ranch President, Larry Knutson, would spread the word about the mission of Dakota Boys (no Girls then) Ranch and talk about how the Ranch survives through the love of its supporters.
Not much has changed, except we don’t cook fish.
This year, we gathered in a hotel meeting room. A remarkable young man named Andrew, a current student at our on-campus school who will be graduating this May, spoke about how his ADHD had caused him to be labeled and expelled from his home school district. He shared how the personalized education he received at the Ranch taught him he had the capacity to learn. He learned he was smart. He shared his plans to become an electrician and own his own business. He also read a note his mother had written—telling how she and Andrew’s father's believed the Ranch opened the doors to Andrew's future they thought were permanently closed.
Larry Knutson attended. At 88 years old he has a vibrant and robust personality. Many people at the luncheon got hugs from him as he recalled names and relationships with startling accuracy.
I sat at a table with folks who had been donating for decades, a wonderful lady who started supporting us last year, and her friend, who had not yet been a donor. They all had great life stories, and all have a deep passion for children… especially those for whom life has been unkind. During the next several days, I met with a variety of folks and heard about their life work, their loves, and their celebrations.
Every one of these people has had their own challenges in life, too. Major health battles, financial worries, careers that took hairpin turns, unexpected losses of loved ones. Yet, every one of them looks beyond their lives to encourage, support, and pray for the precious children of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. It is humbling. Really good people.
I love my job.
Please keep our staff and kids in your prayers.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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