Joy Ryan

Jumpstarting Imaginations

Jumpstarting Imaginations

Children should have wonderful imaginations and see great possibilities. For many years, my son was committed to the idea that his life's work was to invent a flying car ala' the Jetsons. He saw his future as allowing him to pursue his dream, whatever it may be. And, to a large extent, he was right. Although his dream changed and he now is delightfully happy working in the culinary arts, he continues to develop greatly imaginative recipes.…

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Lawn Mowers, Confidence, and Pride

Lawn Mowers, Confidence, and Pride

It is really important in an organization like Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch that every single person… no matter their role or position, know why we are here and why we do what we do. Our ability to meet our mission, “to help at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ,” hinges on each person’s ability to understand how what they do impacts the kids. Whether direct service or working in our thrift stores, providing therapy or patching holes in the walls, every person makes it just a little more possible for these amazing kids to heal.…

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Do You Ever Identify with "Doubting Thomas?" I Do.

Do You Ever Identify with "Doubting Thomas?" I Do.

The Sunday after Easter, the scripture readings in church were all about Thomas, who for all time, has been dubbed "Doubting Thomas." Poor guy. I don't think it is fair that he gets labeled for doing what nearly all of us would have done in the same circumstances!…

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Moving Towards the Light

Moving Towards the Light

Earlier this year, Dakota Family Services, the arm of the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch family that provides outpatient mental health counseling, hosted "The Light Experience." With Dakota Medical Foundation's support, the virtual event gave teenagers a safe space to talk about mental health, learn, and ask questions. Small breakout sessions were offered on depression, self-care, anxiety, suicide, and ADHD. The youth had a chance to learn about mental health and how to ask for help. Over 100 teens "ZOOMED" into the event.…

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Grateful Family Floods Us with Pizza

Grateful Family Floods Us with Pizza

Pizza everywhere! As I walked into the building that houses the living areas for the children on one of our campuses, all I could smell was pizza. You know, the sauce, pepperoni, ham, sausage, crust. I'm not sure you actually "smell" the cheese, but when you smell pizza, you know it's pizza. I walked into the staff room and there were enough pizza boxes to feed Hannibal's army.…

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Each Ranch Child's Story is a "Mini-Resurrection"

Each Ranch Child's Story is a "Mini-Resurrection"

This week we celebrate Easter. The story of the death and resurrection of Christ is the Greatest Story ever told. Over and over we share the joyous news of His triumph over death. In His resurrection, we have the irrefutable proof that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be—God’s son, the Messiah. We celebrate the event in profoundly human ways—with worship, candy, special meals, fancy clothes. At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch we do a full-on Easter Egg hunt! But the underlying impact and meaning is about hope, an eternal Father who loves us, and mercy. Telling and re-telling the story, over centuries, has ensured each generation has the opportunity to believe.…

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When Jesus is Our Map

When Jesus is Our Map

I have had the wonderful opportunity to hear Pastor Mark Huber, from the Sanctuary Church in Marshfield, Massachusetts lead devotions at several national Christian Leadership events. I have never listed to him without then spending significant time pondering his words.…

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Moving Kids to the Top of Our Priority List

Moving Kids to the Top of Our Priority List

At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, we work with kids who have endured more than anyone should in a lifetime. They are kids with psychiatric, behavioral, and social issues; and sometimes working with them is exhausting. But, they are still kids. The people who work here must have well-developed resiliency—and the ability to see the potential in each child—over the noise of their challenges.…

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The Many Ways People Find to Be Good

The Many Ways People Find to Be Good

Sometimes I am astonished by the many ways people find to be good. Today at the Ranch, we received a $5 donation. We are incredibly grateful and are careful stewards of each and every gift. This gift came with two letters, one from a teacher at a Christian school, and the other from her student.…

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The Truth About You

The Truth About You

I think it is really important to say out loud to people the good things you see and appreciate in them. For the children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, it is a critical part of their healing. It is called being "Strength-Based." Because most of our kids have not been told they are good at anything, teaching them to see the positives in themselves is so very important.…

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Pondering Happiness and Pizza!

Pondering Happiness and Pizza!

The Fargo Youth Home is a Qualified Residential Treatment Program of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. It is located in a residential area away from our main campus. The children who are at the Youth Home are generally 14-18 years old. They tend to have fewer family or social connections and are also in need of less intensive treatment and supervision. They are working on independent living skills, some hold jobs, some go to public school. They may ride public transportation or take driver's education. They are taking charge, and responsibility, of their own lives.…

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An Attitude of Gratitude

An Attitude of Gratitude

Many years ago I had the opportunity to hear a talk by Lou Holtz, the former head coach of numerous winning football teams...perhaps most memorably, Notre Dame. His message, as I remember it, was about how he stays enthusiastic, positive, optimistic. He made the point that when you are not winning is when it is most important to stay positive.…

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Trauma is a Thief

Trauma is a Thief

Trauma is a thief. It steals one's sense of safety, predictability, trust. A generally accepted definition of Emotional and psychological trauma is "the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won't go away."…

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Tearing Up After Receiving Donation from Former Ranch Resident

Tearing Up After Receiving Donation from Former Ranch Resident

People from all across the United States help Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch wrap each precious child who comes to us in the care they need to find and become their best selves. Many pray for our staff and kids. Others donate time through servant teams, board service, or within our thrift stores. Still, others donate treasure, funds that are the result of the sweat of the brows of the givers. Regardless of where or who or how the gifts of prayer, time, and treasure come from, they are all blessings. They all contribute to the healing of these brave trauma survivors. Every gift has special meaning.…

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An Extra-Special Graduation Ceremony

An Extra-Special Graduation Ceremony

A couple weeks ago, three very proud young people were the stars of their high school graduation at Dakota Memorial School. That was kind of a funny time of year for a graduation. It also doesn't sound like a very large graduation class.…

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Blessing Us with a Servant Heart

Blessing Us with a Servant Heart

So many folks help make Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch a place of His healing and hope, including the members of our Boards of Directors. Our Boards are filled with some of the best people I have ever met in my life. Each brings a special gift or skill or expertise to their governance role, and in combination, they ensure we are Sustainably Excellent.…

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I Wore Pajamas to Work!

I Wore Pajamas to Work!

I wore pajamas to work. Well, technically it was an oversized cotton sleep shirt/dress. And I wore tights and boots. Quite an ensemble. Why you might ask? Surprisingly, it is about normalcy.…

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One Child's Profoundly Simple Life Goals

One Child's Profoundly Simple Life Goals

Our mission at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is to "help at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ." Our work at the Ranch is to help children find their best selves. Ranch kids learn to think about goals and the future. I know I've mentioned it before in these writings, but when kids come to the Ranch, they are not future-oriented. They have been in survival mode (because of fear, hunger, abuse, and trauma) for so long that their goals are to make it through the day, or the morning, or this minute. The future is a concept without meaning when you have to scrabble through each moment. So we teach the children to stop and dream. Set goals. If you are your best self, imagine what your goals could be, your future could become.…

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Everyone Loves a Taco

Everyone Loves a Taco

One of the favorite lunch meals for children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is the "walking taco." For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a walking taco starts with a personal-sized bag of tortilla chips. You crunch the bag to break the chips into small pieces, then open the bag and add taco meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, and possibly sour cream or guacamole. The gastronomical delight is eaten right out of the bag with a fork. Sort of a taco salad, but funkier. "Walking taco" is a fun name.…

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They Wear Sneakers

They Wear Sneakers

I recently attended chapel at the Ranch. That's not really newsworthy. We have chapel services on all of our campuses at 4:30 p.m. every Thursday. I like to attend whenever I can, and when I do, I always leave feeling pretty grateful for where I work, the people I work with, and the children we serve. Seeing the kids and staff in chapel helps me continue to believe in the good in the world, and God's love.…

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Mack the Therapy Dog

Mack the Therapy Dog

Mack doesn’t like the Nutrition Center. He got really scared when he was there one day for lunch. Some kids were playing on the other side of the big, overhead doors that separate the Nutrition Center from the gym on campus. A ball hit the big metal door and the noise was sudden and loud. It startled Mack, just like thunder does, and now he doesn’t like going in there.…

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What Nearly Running Out of Gas Taught Me about Ranch Kids and Staff

What Nearly Running Out of Gas Taught Me about Ranch Kids and Staff

I suppose it isn't too weird that almost anything that happens in my life teaches me something about the kids and staff at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. The Ranch is a big part of my life. But almost running out of gas? Yup.…

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Join Us Online on November 19th!

Join Us Online on November 19th!

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is hosting a celebration of thankfulness for all the wonderful people who support our work.…

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Join Us on November 19th For an Online Celebration of Thankfulness

Join Us on November 19th For an Online Celebration of Thankfulness

You are a huge reason we are able to continue our work, even in a pandemic. Because of your prayers and your financial support, we continue. We want to say thank you. Join us for a free online event, "A Healing Presence: an Online Celebration of Thankfulness," on November 19, 1-2 p.m. (Central Standard Time). We'll provide you with an update on the impact you are making with your support. It is a celebration of thankfulness from us to you! The very best part, I promise you, will be hearing from Ariel, a former Ranch resident.…

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A Really Good Day

A Really Good Day

A few weeks ago, I was at my desk when I heard a familiar voice in the lobby. "Look! I'm being adopted!" As I came around the corner to confirm my suspicions, a handsome boy came running at me with arms outstretched for a hug. "Joy, did you hear? I'm being adopted!"…

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