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Archives for June 2015

Rawhide’s Summer School Embraces the Great Outdoors

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast in Wisconsin, your home might contain a “Gone Fishing” decoration. Outdoor activities are entrenched in our state culture, and our lives tend to revolve around the outdoor adventures. We visit cottages or take camping pilgrimages “Up North.” We have secret fishing spots and even count the days before our next outdoor adventure.

Some Rawhide guys grew up with fishing or outdoor adventures. Others may have been eager to experience those activities but never had the opportunity. Thanks to Rawhide summer school, they can learn about fishing and outdoor recreation while earning school credits.

Making Learning Fun: “Gone Fishing”

The first ten weeks of the Fishing and Outdoors elective is devoted to fishing. Jeff Schillinger, the class instructor, begins the course with a week of rules, fundamentals, and tips on which lures will catch which fish. rawhide's summer school teaches fishingDuring these 10 weeks, students will learn about and try to catch three fish species:

  1. Walleye
  2. White Bass
  3. Trout

Soon after the elective starts, the walleye run down the Wolf River that passes along the ranch grounds. Therefore, you might say that fishing at the ranch is as convenient as walking to the end of your own backyard. We are blessed.

After the walleye run slows, the white bass take their turn. During the next three weeks the students learn the differences between the two fish and focus on catching white bass.

When the walleyes and white bass are done running, the students tour the local Wild Rose fish hatchery before learning how to fish for trout. You may recall the Oscar-winning movie “A River Runs Through It” that centered on trout fishing while fly casting in the middle of a river. Our students learn those basic techniques and then migrate to fishing from a boat. For many of our students, this will be the first time ever being in a boat.

The fishing elective teaches our guys:

  1. Respect for nature
  2. Biology of fish
  3. Boating safety
  4. Different fishing etiquette and rules
  5. How to catch different fish

These are all skills Jeff hopes the guys pass on to friends or family of their own one day.

More Fun in the Great Outdoors

The second 10-week section of this elective involves other healthy outdoor activities such as bike rides, canoe trips, hiking, and skateboarding. The instructor says the “bike rides and skateboarding activities are the most popular because it’s something the guys don’t get to do every day and allows them to relax and just be a kid.”

Outdoor Survival Skillsrawhide's summer school

To ensure we pass along valuable life skills in this class, the students will also learn emergency outdoor survival techniques. They will learn how to start a fire in an emergency, the proper way to build a tent, poisonous plants to avoid, and other helpful skills in emergency situations. And as always, the guys learn to take personal responsibility and treat others with respect.

How You Can Help

When people learn about the work we do at the ranch, they often wonder how they can help us help troubled youth. Rawhide accepts donations in the form of cars, boat, RVs, motorcycles, cash, life insurance, and other types of financial giving. Learn about the different ways to give by clicking the button. All proceeds give at-risk youth a second chance in life.

4,300 Miles Roundtrip to Rawhide for eBay Purchase

How far would you travel for a valued treasure? For Ned McMahon, a Woody Brown Catamaran was well worth a 4,300-mile round trip to pick up. Ned found the catamaran on Rawhide’s ebay store and could not believe his good luck. Ned considers finding this boat equivalent to finding a classic car hidden away in someone’s barn. Traveling the distance to pick up his treasure was a non-issue for him.

Ned resides in San Diego, California as well as Hawaii and has always admired Woody Brown Catamarans—what many deem to be the first modern catamarans crafted.

roundtrip rawhide ebay purchase

A Legend Who Inspired

Woody Brown was a legendary surfer and boat designer who lived in Hawaii and designed the first modern catamaran, branded the Manu Kai, in 1947.

Woody Brown’s boats eventually inspired a Hawaiian cultural change that included the Hokule’a (Pronounced HHOWKuw-LEH-ah). The Hokule’a is a large boat first constructed by the Polynesian Voyaging Society in 1975 to honor the Hawaiian culture. The society wanted to replicate the tremendous travels the people had made in hopes of discovering new land.

Ned had always been partial to the Hokule’a because of what it represented and the boat’s beautiful wooden curves, simplicity, and speed. He decided to search for his very own Woody Brown Manu Kai (meaning Sea Bird in Hawaiian). He came across a 38-foot model on the Big Island near Hilo, but the rot and poor maintenance from the previous owner made it undesirable.”

From Good to Great

Since Woody did not craft many boats, Ned’s search proved difficult until he landed on Rawhide’s eBay store. He found a 20’ Manu Kai and made the purchase without hesitating. Some generous person donated the boat to Rawhide to help troubled youth. Good thing all the way around!

round trip rawhide ebay purchase

While getting the boat was special enough, it just kept getting better

  1. The boat had been originally purchased directly from Woody Brown himself (supporting documents came with the boat)
  2. The boat is in remarkable condition
  3. It is an original Manu Kai
  4. Duke Kahanamoku, a five-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, surfing champion, and “Ambassador of Aloha” represented the boat. (Determined by a brochure that came with the boat.)
    a. Coincidentally, in 1997 Ned became the minority owner in the business brand Duke Kahanamoku started, becoming friends with Duke’s family members along the way. Ned says once he saw the pamphlet, the whole thing came together for him.

Rawhide’s mission also spoke to Ned. He has spent much of his time taking at-risk youth on sailing adventures and has spent the last two years living in and managing a “House of Hospitality,” a shelter for homeless men.

Smooth Sailing Ahead

After a safe trip to Rawhide and back, Ned moved the catamaran to a local San Diego boat yard and began sanding and repairing spots in the fiberglass. He then repainted the entire boat and re-varnished the natural finished wood on the mast, boom, and other areas of the boat. The process took some time, but the hard work paid off. Ned was able to get the boat on the water and says that it sails remarkably well. You’ll even notice that Ned designed the catamaran to look like one of the boats from the 1950s picture above. He still has a few things to fine tune to get the catamaran up to full speed, but he said the first sail was great. Ned believes that it may have been the first time the boat has been in its natural environment: the salt water of the Pacific.

round trip rawhide eBay purchase

Rawhide’s eBay Store: Home to Collectibles and Special Finds

Ned’s story shows that no matter where you live or what your interests, Rawhide might have what you’re looking for. Ned considers the 4,300 mile trip well worth the find. We might have some treasure that’s worth a trip for you!

9 Tips for Communicating with Teenagers

Parenting and communicating with teenagers can be challenging. Tense conversations and emotionally-charged reactions often lead to estranged family relationships. To help relieve the tension at home and improve your relationship, here are nine tips for communicating with teenagers in your home or extended family:

  1. Be available
    Teens are more likely to talk during the casual, in-between times, such as driving to and from school and activities. Pay attention to when your teen is most prone to open up and be there.
  2. Seek to understand
    Put yourself in your teen’s shoes, and try to understand their point of view. Let them finish before you respond, and if you’re not sure you understand, ask them to clarify. Observe how your teen talks and responds to you, and try to adapt to it.
  3. Get involved
    Know what’s going on with your teen. Learn about their hobbies and show interest in them. Pay attention to your teen’s actions and feelings, and ask about them.
  4. Be curious, not intrusive
    Share something you’ve been thinking about rather than always asking questions. Teens aren’t always responsive to endless, meddlesome questions. “At dinner, grill the food, not your children”.
  5. Pay attention
    Teens long to be heard and understood, so let your teen know you’re listening. If your child approaches you to talk, put away the phone, tablet, computer, etc. Give them your full attention, and express interest in what they’re saying. Also, notice the details. The heart of the issue often comes through the trivial details. Pay attention to the little things, and you might find out what’s really going on with your teen.
  6. Be a person
    Talk to your teen—don’t lecture them. Speak with them openly, honestly, and respectfully.
  7. Keep a level head
    Soften your reaction, and respond in a way your teen will hear—teens don’t react well to anger. Respond with real emotion but don’t go over the top. Stay calm and collected even when you disagree. It’s okay to disagree—let your teen know that.
  8. Be a conversation role model
    Children, even teens, learn from their parents, so be a noble role model. Show your teen how to handle anger, solve problems, and work through tough issues.
  9. Give advice
    Offer assistance to your teen. Draw from your life wisdom but also understand your experience might be different from your child’s situation. Guide your teen, but in the end, let them make their own decision as long as the consequences aren’t dangerous.

Let Us Know!

What techniques have you used to communicate with your teenage child?

Rawhide Housefathers Stand in as Father Figures

What’s your best “Dad joke?” Is it the one about how you had a dream that you were a muffler last night and woke up exhausted? Or was it the knock, knock joke about ‘orange you glad I didn’t ask again…’? These jokes might make you roll your eyes or shake your head, but a lot of the Rawhide guys haven’t had this kind of fun with a father or father figure before arriving at Rawhide. Thanks to our residential care program, our guys experience the reliability and comfort of consistently having a father around, bad jokes and all.

Parenting Style Creates Sense of Safety

Rawhide Housefathers provide order, stability, and consistency. This parenting style creates a feeling of safety for the guys and eventually helps them relax knowing there won’t be any unpleasant drama or surprises. Housefather Ed Dedmon sits in the same kitchen chair in the Smith Home every morning, drinking his coffee, reading his newspaper, and providing a sense of security by letting the guys know they can count on him being there. He’s even spotted some guys peeking around the corner in the morning to make sure Ed is there as expected—every morning.

Ken Solberg, housefather of the ABC House, enjoys always “being there” for his guys. He provides a listening ear and hopes to make them feel understood. He feels this is the most rewarding task he has. “Talking to a guy when they are struggling, helping them recognize unproductive behavior, and watching them grow is very rewarding.”

Cyril Socha of the Carriage House, home of the About Face Service Corp program, does the same. “A lot of the guys like to go for a walk with a staff member to talk things out. Each guy gets along with certain staff members better than others, so I make sure to pair them up and let them talk.” He says the best way to handle a challenging situation with a guy is to get on his level and understand who or what might benefit him most. These guys need to feel understood, and Cyril makes sure to give them the understanding they need.

Expanding Their Horizons

Cyril enjoys canoeing and sharing his canoeing experience with the guys. “My favorite thing to do is introduce the guys to new experiences—activities they never had the chance to do before.” Canoeing is just one of the new activities, and the guys in the Carriage House seem to love it. Cyril also takes his guys hiking, snow shoeing, and walking at Mosquito Hill in New London.

Fond Memories With Dad

When Dan Birr worked as a housefather during his first months at Rawhide, he also took his guys on new adventures to broaden their horizons. One of those trips created some lifelong memories for everyone involved.

Due to an ambitious spirit, Dan and the guys ended up getting lost. Dan explained: “Those meandering lines on a map sure are hard to judge for time and distance sometimes!” Dan has kept in touch with many of those guys, and they often reminisce about the time a three-hour canoe trip turned into an all-day “survival test.” Even though they were cold, wet, tired, and hungry, it was a memory they created together and still fondly reminisce about today.

7 Benefits of Having a Father Figure Around

Rawhide housefathers play an important role in our guys’ lives. A Swedish study found that children who had active involvement with some type of father figure were:

  1. Less likely to smoke or do drugs
  2. Less likely to get in trouble with police
  3. Do better in school
  4. Develop healthy friendships with both genders
  5. Increase intelligence
  6. Increase reasoning
  7. Faster language development

These are just a few of the many benefits of having a father or father figure around to guide youth. And in honor of Father’s Day—thank you to all father figures who make a difference in the lives of young people. We are grateful for all you do.

Wish Them a Happy Father’s Day

Help us honor our housefathers for the tremendous work they do by writing a quick “Happy Father’s Day” message in the comments section below. Thank you!


25 Years on the Job and Going Strong

Rawhide Facilities Manager by day and pastor of a local small-town church by night, Brendan Ganser does it all. He’s humble and uncomfortable talking about his impact on the ranch. So we’ll do it for him! Brendan has worked at Rawhide for 25 years and has viewed the ranch from many different angles.

What Can Be Learned by Shoveling Manure?

Brendan‘s journey at Rawhide started in the work experience program. He taught Rawhide guys about horse care and barn maintenance while supervising their work. When the guys got tired of cleaning manure, they expressed frustration that the things they were learning and the tasks they were doing wouldn’t help them in the “real world.” They stated that they didn’t want to have careers working in a barn—their aspirations were higher than that. So Brendan asked, “What do you think I’m doing here?” He explained, “Sometimes you do what you have to do to take care of your family regardless of the job and your abilities.”

Brendan worked in the horse barn for three years. He enjoyed working closely with the guys and teaching them life lessons. He taught them that sometimes you have to veer from your “plans” if it means making a living. Brendan believes God placed him in the barn those first years for a reason.

Starting a Foster Care Program

Working in the barn, Brendan gained experience working side-by-side with troubled youth—experience he previously lacked. As a result, Rawhide founders, John and Jan Gillespie, noticed something special in him. So one day in 1991 John called Brendan to set up a meeting with him and his wife, Vicky, about starting a foster care program for Rawhide guys.

Brendan and Vicky were honored and decided to become foster parents. In retrospect, Brendan recalls it as a very fulfilling journey. The Gansers had two to four guys in their home at any given time, with a total of 21 guys over the course of their 5½ years as Rawhide foster parents.

Expanding the Ranch to Serve More Youth25 Years on the Job

While serving as a foster parent, Brendan moved from working in the barn to a construction and carpentry role on the ranch. He remodeled existing buildings and built new ones. In fact, Brendan has built or remodeled every single building that currently stands on the ranch!

In the maps below, you can see what the Rawhide grounds looked like in 1994, shortly after Brendan started, compared to what Rawhide looked like in 2010. The colored circles highlight the buildings in the list.

  1. Horse barns for Rawhide’s Equine Assisted Program
  2. The Starr Academy building
  3. New group homes for the guys

Where is Brendan Now?

Brendan continues to practice hard work and dedication to Rawhide in his current position as the Facilities Manager. In the Facilities department, every day is different. Each team member has their role, and they work together to keep the ranch running effectively. If something breaks, a facilities worker is there to fix it.

During the course of Brendan’s 25 years on the job at Rawhide, his mindset remains the same—he is here for the guys. Whether working in the barn, remodeling buildings, or making sure everything is running smoothly, Brendan has made a great impact on Rawhide. “It’s not about me. It’s not about what I do. It’s all of us working together for a common cause. We just want to be in the background taking care of what needs to be done.”

Visit Our Ranch

We invite you to schedule a tour of our ranch, located on the Wolf River just south of New London. You can view Brendan’s building contributions over the years, the scenic landscape, and the famous Wolf River. You will be amazed at the wonderful facilities Rawhide has to offer to the young men in our care.

We take pride in what we do and would love for you to come see why. Please contact us to set up a tour.

Cancer Survivor Donates Green Bay Packer Car to Rawhide

Many of our vehicle donations come with touching, personal stories. To these donors, the gift is much more than a transfer of ownership. Such is the case with a recent unique car donation. It’s unique because of the “customized” appearance and the story behind it.

Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic

In 1994, Ken Smith was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer. Mayo Clinic doctors estimated that he had only six months to live. Ken refused to accept this prediction and followed up on a friend’s suggestion to contact the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic. The clinic took on his case immediately.

A New Treatment

The Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic started Ken on a brand new, experimental procedure called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy fights cancer by stimulating certain parts of a person’s immune system to work harder or smarter against cancer cells. It can also give an individual’s immune system components they need such as man-made immune system proteins. Immunotherapy was experimental at the time. In fact, this treatment was so new that Ken was the first person in the United States to ever receive it.

The immunotherapy worked. Twenty years later Ken is alive and cancer-free, all thanks to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic providing treatment and hope for a long life.

Paths Cross

Bart Starr signs Packer Car

During his time at the clinic, Ken met Bart Starr, Rawhide co-founder and one of his heroes.. Naturally, Ken asked Mr. Starr to sign his car. You read that right, his car. And Bart did.

Ken is such a loyal Green Bay Packers fan that he customized his 1992 Ford Escort GT with green trim, a gold spoiler, Packer stickers on the windows, Packers logos on the hood and doors, and hand painted caricatures of Mike Holmgren, Brett Favre, Chris Jacke, and Reggie White on both sides.

Green Bay Packers Autograph Packer Car

Bart was the first of 39 NFL players to autograph the car. The list includes 18 Super Bowl champions, 11 Packer Hall of Famers, and 4 NFL Hall of Famers. Some of the more notable players that provided their ‘Gold Paint’ signatures for Ken’s car are:

  1. Hall of Fame Quarterback Bart Starr
  2. Hall of Fame Defensive Lineman Reggie White
  3. Hall of Fame Kicker Jan Stenerud
  4. Hall of Fame Receiver James Lofton
  5. Receiver Robert Brooks
  6. Coach Mike Holmgren
  7. Lineman and Radio Announcer Larry McCarren
  8. Receiver Antonio Freeman
  9. Cornerback Willie Buchanon
  10. Linebacker George Koonce
  11. Linebacker John Anderson
  12. Lineman Ken Reuttgers
  13. Linebacker Brian Noble

Green Bay Packer car

Packer Car Donation Helps At-Risk Youth

Ken recently donated the 1992 Ford Escort ‘Packer Car’ to Rawhide. While the autographs and customizations are enough to make any Packer or sports fan salivate, the car also has only 52,000 original miles on it! This car and other collectible vehicles are sold on our eBay store. Proceeds fund Rawhide programs that give at-risk youth and families a second chance in life.

If you would like to be part of the solution for helping at-risk youth, we accept many types of vehicle donations including boats, motorcycles, campers, trucks, and RVs.

Or you may make a financial contribution.


7 Benefits of Volunteering – Opportunities at Rawhide

You may have heard that “it is more blessed to give than receive,” Acts 20:35. Every wonder what that means? It has nothing to do with material goods and everything to do with physical, mental, and spiritual health. And Rawhide offers plenty of opportunities for people who wish to volunteer. Here are 7 personal benefits of volunteering:

  1. Experience a Mental Pick-Me-Up
    Studies have shown that a good cure for the blues is to do something for someone else. We get a natural mood boost when we give without expecting anything in return. And it gets you “outside of yourself.”
  2. Improve Health
    Altruism has been shown to boost health—even adding a few years to life expectancy! What a simple (and free) way to improve your health. Note: motivation must be genuine for health benefits to accrue.
  3. Meet New People
    Volunteering allows you to be a part of the community and interact with people from various walks of life. It can serve as a source of inspiration. Plus, meeting new people may mean making new friends.
  4. Break Away from Your Routine
    Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. You may discover new interests or develop talents you already have. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Learning is a lifelong endeavor.
  5. Make a Difference
    Helping people can benefit the whole community in which you live and help create a brighter future for your loved ones in that community. Even the smallest gestures can make a difference for someone. Remember the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart? Yeah.
  6. Teach Skills To Others
    Pass your wisdom and experience onto others. We all have valuable talents and abilities to share with others, and volunteering gives us an opportunity to pass on what we know.
  7. Be An Inspiration To Others
    Volunteering illustrates a willingness to serve others and may inspire those around you to follow suit.

With these 7 key benefits in mind, Rawhide has many volunteer opportunities for you.

Volunteer Opportunities at Rawhide

Our mission is to inspire and equip at-risk youth and families to lead healthy and responsible lives through family-centered care, treatment, and education. Rawhide thrives on help from our wonderful volunteers, so we wanted to share 7 areas where you can volunteer in Wisconsin:

  1. Tutoring
  2. Friday Fish Fries
  3. Special Events
  4. Alumni Transition Program
  5. Co-Op Work Opportunities
  6. Other Gifts of Time or Talent
  7. Friends of Rawhide Volunteer Groups
    Volunteer groups that help fulfill Rawhide’s mission through community-based volunteer opportunities.

Learn more about how you can volunteer for Rawhide.