It was a beautiful North Dakota winter morning and the Ranch's Wildlife Club was just about to start its first fishing adventure of the season. Helping to unload the pickup was a very chatty 14-year-old girl who was relatively new to the Ranch. Since her early childhood was spent in the south, I knew she had never been ice fishing. With a twinkle in my eye and sincerity "dripping" from every word, I leaned over to her and whispered, "You CAN walk on water, right?"
The shock stopped her in mid-sentence! Her mouth dropped. Her eyes got big. Bewilderment rolled over her face as if something had become unhinged inside her brain. She looked at e with panicky eyes and said, "Huh?"
Unable to keep a straight face any longer I busted out with laughter. "It's OK," I said. "We're ALL going to walk on water today. That's what ice fishing is!" Her eyes twinkled. She started to giggle. Then, three steps out onto the lake she shouted with deep satisfaction, "Look everyone, I'm walking on water!" At that moment, I knew this was going to be a great day filled with wonderful victories and new experiences for our kids!
The kids smiled and laughed as they took in new experiences on the ice. With great satisfaction, they held onto the gas-powered auger as we drilled a BUNCH of holes in the 13" ice. With curious energy, they scooped slush from the holes, prepared lines for fishing, and bravely reached into the minnow pail to catch their bait—squealing all the way—as the little minnows wiggled through their fingers.
Time and time again kids yelled at the top of their lungs, "We got one!" as they went tearing across the ice to see who could be the first to pull a fish out of the hole. Laughing and smiling, they ooohed and aaahed at the big fish—and giggled at the small (ok, really small) fish. For one glorious day, kids got to forget about the trauma that brought them to the Ranch... and simply experience being a kid!
While it certainly was a day of non-stop fun, the time spent on a frozen North Dakota lake was so much more for our kids! It was a time of discovery, accomplishment, and success. Whether it was holding on to the ice auger as it chewed through the ice, finally capturing a squirrely minnow, or pulling a big fish through the hole, children had all sorts of mini-victories. They discovered it really is OK to try something new. But most importantly, they discovered they could be successful—even with something they've never done before.
In our adult worlds, we often forget how the little successes of childhood help us achieve the big successes in our lives. Someone taught us to believe. Someone taught us we could achieve. Someone walked by our side and gave us the confidence to try the things that we'd never done before and with that confidence we've become who we are today.
As a friend of the Ranch, you are helping our children experience those very same things. Whether it's in the classrooms of Dakota Memorial School, the stables of our horse program, the transformative care of or spiritual life programming, or even on a frozen North Dakota lake, you are helping precious children gain success in ways they never thought possible.
Thanks to you, our kids have someone helping them believe. They have someone helping them achieve. They have someone walking by their side and giving them the confidence to try things they've never done before. And with that confidence, you're helping them become the precious adults they will be tomorrow!
So, maybe you can't walk on water! That's OK, because what you're doing for our kids with your generosity, kindness, and care is even more amazing! Thank you for blessing our kids!
Rev. Dr. Paul Krueger
Senior Development Officer
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Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is a Christ-centered residential treatment and educational center for children and their families. We help the most troubled, complicated, and amazing kids by providing best-in-class psychiatric therapy and trauma-informed care, where we look kids in the eye, walk with them, and help them become their best selves.