Just minutes outside the hustle and bustle of the city there is a peaceful place that provides hope while changing the lives of children. It is place where neglected and abused horses are rescued, loved, rehabilitated, and trained to impact lives. It is a place where these four-legged creatures are the teachers and the lessons they teach are memorable and sustaining. Fourteen horses and a caring group of volunteers make this ten-acre ranch a special place. Children who visit gain confidence and self-esteem, experience accountability and responsibility, and are introduced to horses and proper horse care. Dare to Dream Youth Ranch is helping children grow mentally, physically, and spiritually. The ranch is positively impacting our community and we saw the impact firsthand during our volunteer experience.
This week we had a special guest volunteer with us. Brandon is a thirteen year old boy is who is on the waiting list for a Big Brother at Big Brothers Big Sisters. He is faced with many challenges in his life. His family is struggling to make ends meet which creates tension and stress in the home. I had only known Brandon a few minutes when we invited him to come with us. He was quick to say yes forfeiting his chance to go to a Tincaps baseball game. I know that he doesn’t care much for baseball, but I also believe that he didn’t want to go home. During lunch, he shared his story. It is a story that no thirteen year old should be telling. When we arrived at the ranch, Brandon was very hesitant. As we toured the grounds, he stayed in the back away from the horses. This was the first time he had ever been around horses and it was obvious that he was uncomfortable. I empathize with this feeling. I am still not totally comfortable around an animal that is bigger and stronger than me. During the tour we learned a lot about the horses, their stories, and the great organization that is Dare to Dream Youth Ranch. It was obvious how passionate all involved are with the mission. The ranch was filled with love and it could be felt as we interacted with those volunteering on this day. We helped perform some of the daily chores at the ranch. We shoveled manure and helped feed and groom the horses. With each passing minute I watched Brandon’s confidence grow. He was becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable and he was doing it with a smile.
After our chores were completed, we had the opportunity to learn to ride. I think Erica was the only one who was excited about getting on a horse. Brandon and the girls initially said no to riding, but that quickly changed. Brandon was first to climb aboard Thunder, a beautiful Clydesdale. He rode him around the arena and the huge, bright smile never left his face. It was the face of a completely different child. His demeanor was different. He was confident and proud. Kelsi and Kenna were the next to ride and the scene was the same. They were both hesitant at first, but quickly gained confidence in themselves that they could do it. Erica and I also took time to ride Thunder. I was inspired to ride by Brandon and girls. It was another opportunity for me to embrace the uncomfortable. I had never been on a horse and I am glad that I decided to do it. As for Erica, she looked like an equestrian professional as she and Thunder trotted around the arena without assistance. She, like everyone else, was smiling from ear to ear.
Dare to Dream Youth Ranch is an organization that is helping children, especially those at-risk, to reach their potential. Brandon falls into that category. There are many negative influences in his life and he can take the wrong path. In the three hours we were at the ranch, he was able to get away from life and enjoy learning new things and finding himself. He was able to be a child. We had a great time volunteering at Dare to Dream. I want to thank Michelle, ranch manager, for welcoming us and making us feel valued. It is people like Michelle who make organizations great. It is people like Michelle who inspire us to become invested in organizations. Dare to Dream Youth Ranch is a treasure to our community and they need your help. You can visit www.daretodreamyouthranch.org to see how you can get involved. Say a prayer, donate some hay, or volunteer to scoop some poop. Just do something to help this organization that helps horses and children in our community.