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Rawhide Boys Ranch mourns the loss of co-founder Jan Gillespie

Rawhide Boys Ranch, founded by John and Jan Gillespie in 1965, was informed that Jan has passed away at their home with John by her side on Wednesday January 25, 2017.  Jan Gillespie was 82 years old and married to her husband and best friend John for 59 years.

The entire family is comforted knowing she is in the arms of her beloved savior Jesus, having accumulated such a great reward through a life completely given to serving Rawhide youth, her family, and others.

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Jan Gillespie Memorial Infographic

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

Janice (Krull) Gillespie met John Gillespie in the fall of 1941 in grade school. John was a grade younger, and Jan had no idea the impact a simple seating arrangement would make.

Little did I know the second-grade guy assigned a seat behind me would play a significant role in my life for the next 70 years. His name was John Gillespie and we instantly became best friends.

This verse laid the foundation for 59 years of marriage and the founding of Rawhide Boys Ranch.

How Jan Gillespie helped start our mission

Over 50 years ago, a 13-year-old boy approached the Gillespie’s at their church and told them about the struggles he was facing at home. He asked to spend the afternoon with them; they were more than happy to welcome him into their home. That afternoon turned into a week, which turned into a month, and 2 years later John and Jan were still overjoyed to have this boy as a part of their family. From then on, John and Jan Gillespie felt called to open their home to more at-risk youth. However, they needed a bigger facility to accommodate additional young men and they needed partners.

Jan was instrumental in securing Bart Starr’s support by encouraging John to cold call him. John was hesitant, but Jan, always an optimist, told him, “How do you know if you don’t try?”

Jan left a lasting legacy

Jan Gillespie was a housemother to over 350 boys together with her husband John as house-father for over 27 years at Rawhide. She was instrumental in providing care and direction to teens in need of the unconditional love that she provided to them. Jan would frequently say about the boys at Rawhide she parented, “they’re like your children and even though they weren’t born into your family, you treat them like your children and you love them unconditionally.” She remained active with Rawhide even after retirement. She attended many fish fry’s over the past dozen years at Rawhide and loved spending time with Rawhide guys, young and old, whenever she could.

Jan Gillespie was an avid horsewoman who utilized her love for horseback riding to work with young men residing at Rawhide.  In the early days of Rawhide she would pair up a youth with a horse and give him the responsibility to care for the horse.  Youth would then learn to ride and could saddle up a horse and utilize area trails to ride the horses with staff.  Rawhide is unique in the field of residential care due to the family living model that is utilized. To this day, houseparent couples live in each of the seven youth homes at Rawhide and provide a family living structure while supervising and caring for boys aged 13 – 18 years of age. One youth in particular Dave Clause in 1972 was paired with Smokey and he credits that relationship with his horse and John and Jan Gillespie with redirecting his life.  In fact just two months ago Dave Claus wrote, recorded and released a music video entitled “I’m a Rawhide Guy” as a tribute to John and Jan Gillespie and the three years he was a resident at Rawhide. You may listen to the song below.

Please keep John Gillespie and his family in your prayers as they grieve the loss of Jan, and celebrate her life.

Funeral arrangements will include visitation from 9 – 11 am, memorial service at 11 am, and lunch following at 12 pm on Monday, January 30th at Appleton Alliance Church. The family has asked that those interested, in lieu of flowers, can support a memorial to Jan Gillespie that has been established at Rawhide Boys Ranch to support the building of a home on the grounds at Rawhide, contributions can be made online by clicking the button below,  or mailed to Rawhide, E7475 Rawhide Road, New London, WI 54961.

Growing illicit drug use in all 50 states

Illicit drug use comes in various shapes that impact the lives of hundreds of thousands every year. Heroin and other opiates, such as prescription pain killers and fentanyl, combined to kill 33,091 people in 2015, but they are not the fastest growing illicit drug used in each of the 50 states. In a November 2016 report, the Drug Enforcement Administration pinpointed prescription drugs, heroin, and fentanyl as the most significant drug-related threats in the United States.

While alcohol and marijuana are the most commonly abused drugs across the nation as a whole, opioids, heroin, fentanyl, crystal meth, and cocaine abuse is growing. What drug is your state struggling with most?

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Illicit Drug Use in United States

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Prescription Opioid abuse a common problem

Prescription opiate abuse has become more common due to an interesting reason. Doctors have been instructed to limit opioid prescriptions, causing many patients to go cold turkey. These patients, having developed an addiction to the prescription opioids, then turned to other methods to continue using the opioids.

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Illicit Drug Use - Prescription Drugs

Prescription opiate abuse is the fastest growing drug related issue in these states:

OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Hydrocodone, and Demerol are commonly abused prescription opioids. Every day, more than 1000 people are treated in emergency departments for not using prescription opioids as directed.

The most recent data from the CDC showed West Virginia had the highest rates of death due to drug overdose with 41.5% of all deaths. In some areas of West Virginia, an estimated 1 in 4 residents are dealing with opiate addiction. Alabama ranks #1 in the nation with the most opioid prescriptions in the state.

Heroin issues are widespread

Heroin abuse is growing fast, due in large part to prescription opiate addiction. Among new heroin users, approximately 3 out of 4 admitted to abusing prescription opioids first. Often, when an addict can no longer find or afford prescription opioids, they’ll turn to the much more affordable and accessible opiate based drug: heroin.

Heroin related deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010, and heroin overdose death rates increased by 20.6% from 2014 to 2015, claiming the lives of almost 13,000 people.

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Illicit Drug Use - Heroin

States with the fastest growing heroin use are:

In Illinois, much of the problem stems from drug cartels’ easy access to Chicago. New Jersey also has significant heroin issues. Since 2004, more than 6,000 people have died from heroin in New Jersey and an investigation revealed that there were at least 128,000 people actively using heroin.

Fentanyl grows in Midwest and Northeast

Many heroin users and dealers are switching to a different product: Fentanyl. Fentanyl is easy to transport, hard to detect, and an estimated 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. While the video above focuses on Canada’s Fentanyl problem, it does provide valuable insight on overall abuse of the drug.

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Illicit Drug Use - Fentanyl

The following states had 500 or more reported law enforcement fentanyl encounters in 2015:

Ohio has the most heroin related deaths of any state, with 1,444 in 2015, but users are quickly switching to Fentanyl for a more powerful high.

Fentanyl is the top cause of drug deaths in New Hampshire and claims the lives of hundreds in New York, but many users don’t even realize they’re taking it. Fentanyl is often mixed in heroin or in pills without the user knowing. This is considered a contributing factor to the death of musician Prince.

Fentanyl is the fastest growing abused drug in the United States; the number of encounters has more than doubled from 5,343 in 2014 to 13,882 in 2015.

Crystal Meth popular in West

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While opioids such as prescription pain killers, heroin, and fentanyl are raising concerns across the nation, crystal meth is still the drug of choice in the following states:

More than 90% of drug offenses in Hawaii and Montana are for crystal meth. Meth is a large issue in North Dakota as well, due to the recent influx of jobs created by the oil boom. Meth is easy to mass manufacture in rural areas, making it easy to find for lonely, secluded employees.

The meth problem in California is largely due to Mexican cartels ramping up mass production and finding easy routes into Southern California. California had the most drug related deaths of any other state in 2015, with 4,659.

Cocaine use rising again

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Illicit Drug Use - Cocaine

Cocaine was a significant problem in the 80s, but deaths from overdose are climbing yet again. These states have seen rising usage of cocaine:

Colorado residents across all demographics have experienced a rise in cocaine use. New Mexico is seeing a spike in cocaine use in their high school students. Globally, cocaine production is highest in Colombia and Peru.

Fighting illicit drug use

These are just some of the rising illicit drug use issues in the United States and this map is in no way an exhaustive list of drug use by region. Prescription opioids, heroin, fentanyl, crystal meth, and cocaine are an issue across the United States. They all need your attention, regardless of location, as any family member could become or may already be addicted.

Drugs don’t discriminate by wealth, gender, or location. They can infect anyone and pull them into a spiral that often has fatal consequences.

33 end of winter bucket list items

The impending end of winter stirs up a multitude of feelings. Joy for some. Angst for others. But before the last snow pile melts and your winter coat is stored away, relive those cherished snow days you prayed for as a kid. Because whether you like to admit it or not, you’ll miss some of those  winter activities when they’re gone.  You will.

Stay at home end of winter items

Winter means more indoor time. A glass half-full point of view might see it as an excuse to crawl under some warm blankets and relax, but for many staying indoors is often plain boring. But there really are some exciting things to do inside that might not be as enticing when the weather warms. Try some of these if you are looking for something to do:

  1. Make homemade hot chocolate
  2. Host a game night
  3. Did someone say movie night?
  4. Cook up some indoor s’mores
  5. Test your cooking skills and make a fancy dinner
  6. Take an online class
  7. Take up knitting
  8. Read a book
  9. Write a story
  10. Start a small business (Try selling what you created )
  11. Build a blanket fort
  12. Catch up on a TV series
  13. Reminisce with old photos
  14. Make apple cider
  15. Make a bird feeder

These are sure to test your creativity and provide countless hours of fun while the thermometer slowly creeps up.

Visit a new indoor area

If the weather is still a little too brisk to spend a significant amount of time outside, take a road trip to a new, indoor activity:

  1. Visit a museum
  2. Go to a hockey game
  3. Try an escape room
  4. Try new coffee shops (You don’t have to drink coffee)
  5. Visit a haunted house (Yes, many are still open in winter. Especially around Valentine’s Day)

These interactive trips range from educational to thrilling, and all offer unexplored adventures to awaken some excitement on even the most gloomy of days.

To the outdoors!

The end of winter carries some whacky weather. It can snow one day and call for shorts the next. If the weather outside is delightful rather than frightful, consider these options:

  1. Ice skating
  2. Ice fishing
  3. Skiing
  4. Snowboarding
  5. Sledding or snow tubing
  6. Do a polar plunge
  7. Winter hiking
  8. Follow animal tracks (A fun activity for kids)
  9. Ice boating
  10. Geocaching

Be sure to bundle up. 50 degrees and sunny in Wisconsin could turn to snow an hour later. It’s always advisable to overdress and shed layers if need be.

Help a good cause

The end of winter is also a great time to support a charity. Here are a few ways you can help those in need:

  1. Donate food
  2. Donate warm clothes to a good cause
  3. Volunteer your time

Rawhide Boys Ranch is always looking for support. If you would like to make the end of winter a good time for spring cleaning, consider choosing Rawhide. Rawhide accepts cash, cars, boats, motorcycles, or other vehicle donations. All funds are used to change the lives of at-risk and troubled youth. Kick off changing weather by changing a life today.

29 tips to hold quality conversation

How are your conversation skills? Do you find it easier to text than to have a face-to-face conversation? We’re here to help! Face-to-face conversations are tricky, but they’re a great way to truly connect with someone on a personal level. Our 29 tips to hold quality conversation will help you start conversations better than a candy heart ever could.

Start quality conversation

Opening a conversation can be as easy as saying, “How about this weather?”. But will the conversation go much further than next week’s forecast? Unless the other person is extremely passionate about the weather, the answer is no.

Instead, start with an engaging question focusing on your environment. If you’re at an event, ask what the other person thought of:

  • The speaker
  • The food
  • The event venue

If it’s just a random encounter, focus on something you can easily identify first. Maybe they’re wearing a fun shirt or cool shoes. Ask them where they purchased them and discuss your favorite places to shop. A few ideas for random conversation starters are:

  • How should success be measured? By that measurement, who is the most successful person you know?
  • How often do you help others? Who do you help? How do you help?
  • If you could bring back one TV show that was cancelled, which one would it be?

Once the conversation begins:

  • Jump into more detailed questions regarding favorites or opinions.
  • Keep things positive and bubbly to create a warm atmosphere that generates healthy conversation.

Unless you’re at a religious or political event, it is wise to avoid those topics. They may come off as combative and often make people feel uncomfortable.

Continue quality conversation

How do you keep the conversation going? First, gauge if the other person actually wants the conversation to continue. If they keep breaking eye contact or fail to ask questions of their own, consider moving on to another person. Forcing conversation creates an uncomfortable situation for everyone.

To keep conversation flowing:

  • Continue asking open ended questions that allow the other person to express their interests
  • Be an active listener, ask follow-up questions
  • Avoid giving one word answers
  • Understand the conversation might hit bumps along the way

A few question prompts to consider are:

  • “Tell me more about…”
  • “What’s the best part of…”
  • “What started your interest in…”

Different personalities enjoy talking about themselves to varying degrees, so make sure there’s an equal give and take in the conversation.

Search for free information

Good conversations often have free information passed along that provides opportunity for extended conversation. The trick is to listen. Often, people will mention minor details when answering a question that can lead to new topics and more detailed, engaging conversation. Here’s an example:

You: Wow, I really love the pattern of that shirt.

Other person: Thank you! I just bought it at the mall.

In this situation, you could ask:

  • What’s your favorite store at the mall?
  • What store did you purchase the shirt from?
  • What’s your favorite mall?
  • What food court item would you have as your last meal?

Just from that little piece of information, the opportunities are endless.

Consider exchanging information

If you’ve genuinely enjoyed the conversation, let the other person know. Consider exchanging phone numbers or add them on Facebook or Twitter. This could form a new friendship and lead to many adventures.

Let us know how these work!

Valentine’s Day is coming up (hint, hint). Give these starters a try and let us know if they work for you. Remember: stay positive, project confidence, and remain interested in the conversation. You don’t have to be the most interesting person; you just have to be the most interested.

23 indoor family fun ideas

Has cabin fever plagued your home? Are your kids restless, listless, and looking for something to do? Are you fresh out of family fun ideas? This isn’t a fever you just sweat out!

We’ve compiled a list of family fun ideas to beat the indoor blues and help kick start some good times. Be sure to comment below with things you plan to try, or let others know your favorite family activity. Here’s to some family fun!

DIY craft time!

There are many do-it-yourself craft ideas out there on the internet (over 31 million on Google alone). It’s what keeps “pinners” filling their boards on Pinterest! Good Housekeeping offers a variety of fun and interactive craft projects for all ages. Some of our favorite creations:

Buzzfeed also has wonderful craft ideas including:

  • Glow-in-the-dark play dough
  • Rainbow fan blades
  • Confetti paint
  • Sand slime

*Not everything has to be gooey, sticky, or silly (though it is preferred).

Heat up a cold day with games

If your kids refer to board games as “bored” games, spice it up! Today’s Parent compiled an impressive list:

  • Building games
  • Card games
  • Puzzles
  • Treasure hunts

Or get really wild and combine DIY time with game time. Kids’ Activities Blog provides exciting DIY games such as:

One of these board games is sure to generate hours of fun family time. You could even incorporate a craft by creating trophies or ribbons for the winners.

Thinking outside the box

Think digital for some creative family fun. These parents made headlines by getting creative with Photoshop or video editing software.

A dad in Utah Photoshopped his son as a flying superhero.

Daniel Hashimoto turned his son’s playtime into magic by using video editing software.

Though Daniel is a professional (he’s The After Effects artist for DreamWorks Studios after all), he does provide walk-through videos for other parents looking to give their children the movie star treatment.

Other unique, family fun ideas:

Add your own family fun ideas

Are there family fun ideas we may have missed? Let us know by leaving a comment below. We’d love to share them to encourage unity and family fun. Our houseparents might find use from your ideas as well.

Another option is to visit the Go Valley Kids Family Fun Expo Sunday, January 29th from 11 am to 3 pm. Many participants will be on hand to share creative, family friendly ideas. Rawhide will be there too! Come race cars with us! Hope to see you there.

Heroin use in Wisconsin skyrockets [INFOGRAPHIC]

Much like heroin use across the nation, heroin use in Wisconsin has become a significant problem. Heroin addicts in Wisconsin are often introduced to opiates through prescription painkillers. Once the painkiller prescription runs out, addicts look for a more affordable option: heroin. The following post will show the prevalence of heroin abuse in Wisconsin and how to spot signs of heroin abuse in a loved one. Heroin can affect anyone, and the odds are higher every day.

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Heroin Use in Wisconsin Skyrockets Infographic

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Heroin use in Wisconsin skyrockets

Many addictions heroin begin through prescription painkillers. As the addict looks to continue the fix, they often turn to heroin because it’s affordable and accessible. In fact, heroin is most accessible in the Northeast and Midwest. Heroin is cheaper than any other drug in many parts of Chicago. But the affordability brings with it dangerous strains that may be cut with rat poison, laundry detergent, or other harmful chemicals.

Heroin use in Wisconsin

Heroin availability is highest in the Northeast and areas of the Midwest. Chicago is a big reason why, as it provides a convenient location for drug cartels to disperse their product throughout the Midwest.

In Wisconsin, heroin-related drug deaths have drastically increased in the last decade. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services:

4 out of 5 heroin addicts in Wisconsin are introduced to opiates through prescription painkillers.

Heroin accounts for 80% of drug addiction treatments in parts of Wisconsin. Milwaukee County experienced a 500% increase in heroin and other opioid overdoses between 2005 and 2015, with 888 overdoses in 2015 alone.

Signs of Heroin abuse

Heroin users often leave behind specific items like:

  • Tiny baggies
  • Syringes
  • Small glass pipes
  • Rubber tubing
  • Burnt spoons

There are also numerous physical signs such as constant runny nose, slow breathing, flushed skin, tiny pupils, as well as:

  • Slurred speech
  • Failure to eat
  • Vomiting
  • Covering arms with sleeves

Find treatment for Heroin use in Wisconsin

Rawhide Boys Ranch offers numerous outpatient counselling options across Wisconsin for those struggling with heroin use and heroin abuse. Please consider Rawhide or another organization for help with heroin addiction. Heroin abuse can lead to one of two things if not treated: incarceration or death. Please help your loved ones avoid these outcomes by finding help.


Thousands affected as heroin use skyrockets [INFOGRAPHIC]

Heroin use in America is an epidemic. Heroin abuse, and subsequent heroin overdoses, have risen higher than any other drug and grow exponentially every day. The only tragedy comparable to the explosion of heroin abuse is the HIV epidemic in the late 1980s.

Images of parents passed out in their vehicle while their children watch in horror is now everyday news. And it could happen to anyone.

There is no longer a “typical heroin user.” With heroin’s availability higher than ever, users come from every race, ethnicity, age, tax bracket, etc. The following infographic is meant to start a conversation and inform you of the rising heroin problem and the steps to take if you know or suspect a loved one is using heroin.

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Heroin Use Skyrockets Infographic

Heroin use Twittericon Click to Tweet Infographic

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The History of Heroin Addiction

Heroin was first synthesized in Germany in 1874, and introduced as a “safe, non-addictive” substitute for morphine. First produced commercially in 1898, heroin was considered a wonder drug and became widely available for over-the-counter use.

It wasn’t until 1920 that congress realized the dangers of heroin and enacted the Dangerous Drug Act, making heroin illegal. It was too late for many. By 1925, there were an estimated 200,000 heroin addicts in the country.

Heroin Use Skyrockets

The heroin addiction rate fluctuated over the ensuing decades, but the rate of abuse often remained low and localized. In the 1970s and 80s, heroin use rose again, though it was largely confined to urban populations. Then the emergence of AIDS made heroin users switch to a different drug of choice (one without the use of needles): cocaine.

Around 1999, heroin abuse climbed yet again and deaths from heroin overdoses increased over 562% between 1999 and 2015. In 2015 alone, 12990 individuals died from heroin overdose.

Today, heroin use is at its highest level in 20 years. Many feel the re-emergence of heroin started with doctors prescribing less opiate painkillers. For recovering heroin addict James Fata, heroin was a solution after his doctors cut back on his pain pills.

“The pills were hard to get. They got to be very expensive. Heroin is cheap. Almost everyone that I was close to, anybody that was doing pills with me, typically they would at least get to the point where pills were not an option. You were either snorting heroin or shooting heroin.”

James is part of a younger group of heroin users. Use has more than doubled among young adults aged 18-25. Though there are trends, identifying a typical heroin user is almost impossible.

Nearly half a million Americans are addicted to heroin. More Americans now die from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes or gun related homicides.

Effects of Heroin

The first use of heroin releases an overwhelming amount of the feel good chemical dopamine. This can start a compulsive cycle and lead to addiction. The first use may cause sickness, but after a short period of time, the user will crave more and quickly develop tolerance.

Heroin acts as a central nervous system depressant, which produces sedation. Heroin is fatal.

Heroin also causes:

  • Permanent chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Deterioration in cognitive skills such as decision making and memory
  • Chronic heart and lung problems
  • Frequent illness and infection
  • Exposure to blood borne diseases
  • Infections or abscesses

In recent years, numerous cases of parents overdosing in their vehicles while their children are present made headlines.

There is an increase of needles left in parks and other public areas. This causes unsuspecting individuals to accidentally stick themselves with dirty needles, a problem over 850,000 people experience every year.

Signs of Heroin Use

Heroin users often have distinguishing traits or possess specific items related to heroin abuse. Many heroin users will have on them:

  • Burnt spoons
  • Tiny baggies
  • Small glass pipes
  • Syringes
  • Rubber  tubing

Heroin users often display common physical traits such as:

  • Tiny pupils
  • Sleepy eyes
  • Tendency to nod off
  • Slow breathing
  • Flushed skin
  • Runny nose

They may also act in certain ways such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Scratching
  • Slurred speech
  • Complaints of constipation
  • Complaints of nausea
  • Neglect of grooming
  • Failure to eat
  • Covering arms with long sleeves

5 Tips for Helping a Heroin User

Helping a heroin addict isn’t easy, but there are ways to show heroin addicts that their behavior is destructive.

1. No “negative enabling”

Don’t give a heroin addict money or resources that allows them to feed their addiction.

2. Make other family members and friends aware of the situation

Inform all loved ones that they can offer help. Encourage them not to negatively enable, but rather use their time to search for treatment methods and ways to support the loved one to overcome the addiction.

3. Offer an opiate addict the opportunity to change

Let your loved one know you care about them, but that you cannot continue to contribute to their addiction. Let them know your desire for a change, and that you’ll help them find treatment.

4. Understand the risks of incarceration, overdose, and death

Many addicts will go to great lengths to get another dose, often putting themselves at risk of incarceration, overdose, and possibly death. Family and friends need to be aware of the four stages of addiction:

  • 1st stage: Experimentation
  • 2nd stage: Social and/or regular use
  • 3rd stage: Problematic use
  • 4th stage: Addiction/chemical dependency

5. Seek outside support

Family and friends should seek outside, professional support from qualified individuals such as therapists, or support groups like Al-Anon.

The average life span of a heroin addict is considerably less than that of a healthy person.

There is help for Heroin Addiction

If you are worried that a loved one has a heroin addiction, there is help. Contacting a professional who specializes in treating drug addiction can help. American Addiction Centers will answer questions you may have. Heroin.net provides a wealth of information to help understand possible rehab programs and the heroin withdrawal and detox process.

Heroin is a dangerous drug, but with the resources provided, you can find light in seemingly deafening darkness. If you know someone in the state of Wisconsin who is struggle with heroin use, consider Rawhide’s Outpatient Counseling or some other form of treatment. Please find some kind of treatment for your loved one before it’s too late.

Rawhide alumnus records tribute song, I’m a Rawhide Guy

Download “I’m a Rawhide Guy”

Download “I’m a Rawhide Guy” lyrics

David Claus spent two years growing up at Rawhide Boys Ranch in the mid 1970’s and has never forgotten the impact the program and experiences had on the future direction of his life. To acknowledge the program and people he credits for his full and productive life, including a cherished wife of 31 years and their two children, he put his heart and soul on paper, writing and recording a song he’s proudly entitled “I’m a Rawhide Guy”.

The band’s all here

David dedicates this song to Rawhide Founders John and Jan Gillespie, Bart and Cherry Starr and his horse at Rawhide, “Smokey”. David reached out to noted local artists and recorded the song at Rock Garden Studio in Appleton, all of whom donated their talent and services. He lined up:

“I had already lined up one of the best studios and producers in the Midwest, Rock Garden Studio in Appleton, and now to hear the song is beyond my wildest dreams,” stated Claus.

I’m a Rawhide Guy music video

In true Rawhide fashion, members of the ranch went to the recording of “I’m a Rawhide Guy,” creating a music video for David. We encourage you to like the video and share it with your friends. Dave has put a lot of time into this song, as has the team at Rawhide.

We would love to see this go viral!

Stream or download I’m a Rawhide Guy

Rawhide and David Claus have made this newly recorded song available for local radio stations to play.  You can stream and download the song below. Please share it with friends as well!

Contact Dave for an interview

David Claus and Rawhide Founder John Gillespie will be available for phone interviews to share details of David’s s song and his childhood as a boy at Rawhide. David Claus can be reached at (920) 922-2473 between the hours of 10 AM and 12 PM. John Gillespie, Rawhide Founder and the man who raised David while at Rawhide, can be reached at 920-427-9000. Rawhide Executive Director John Solberg can also be reached at 920-470-4250.

Happy Birthday Bart Starr!

When you think of Bart Starr, “America’s Quarterback” or “Super Bowl MVP” likely comes to mind. And on January 9th, you can add birthday boy to the list! That’s right. Bart Starr is turning 83, and to celebrate we’d like to give him a special surprise. But we need your help! So can you help us out and either…

  1. Record a video wishing Bart a happy birthday and post it on our Facebook Page
  2. Leave a comment below wishing Bart a very happy birthday

Together, we can make this an extra special birthday for one of the greatest Quarterbacks in Green Bay Packers history!

What Bart Means to All of Us

For some, Bart Starr personifies football in its grittiest years, captaining the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowl victories and five NFL Championships. For others, he represents a kind soul that would do anything for anyone. Bart Starr is a one-of-a-kind person who has impacted the world in so many amazing ways and for that, Rawhide Boys Ranch and thousands of impacted lives are forever grateful.

What Bart Means to Rawhide

Without Bart Starr, there would not be a Rawhide Boys Ranch, at least not the one that stands today. During Rawhide’s formative years, John and Jan Gillespie recognized a glaring issue: Rawhide needed funding and an iconic face to help raise awareness.  John, on Jan’s insistence, took a chance and called Bart Starr. This wasn’t before Bart became famous either. This was right after Bart’s third NFL Championship. Imagine calling Aaron Rodgers right after Super Bowl XLV and asking for his support!

To John’s delight, and astonishment, Bart invited him to dinner. The Gillespie’s laid out their detailed plan to help at-risk youth and Bart and Cherry Starr agreed to support Rawhide on the spot. And not just for one year, but for 50+ years. In that time, he’s supported numerous fundraising efforts and donated his Super Bowl II MVP prize: a Chevy Corvette.

Happy Birthday Bart Starr!

Bart has helped Rawhide help thousands of at-risk youth over the last 50+ years, and for that, we are incredibly grateful. Please wish Bart a happy birthday and thank him for everything he’s done.

We’d love if you recorded yourself saying (or even singing) happy birthday to Mr. Starr. For the camera shy, comment below with a personalized birthday message. Let’s make Bart Starr’s 83rd birthday his best one yet! Happy birthday Bart Starr!

Schneider National plays Santa for Rawhide Christmas


For the guys at Rawhide, Santa’s “sleigh” looks a little different, setting aside the traditional red with orange instead. It’s because our Rawhide Christmas has been blessed by Schneider National for the fifth consecutive year.

For many Rawhide guys, this will be the first time they ever open a Christmas gift due to challenging situations. Thanks to Schneider National of Green Bay, the guys will receive a Christmas surprise that many Rawhide alumni call their favorite Christmas memory ever.

Hundreds of gifts for Rawhide guys

This year, Schneider brought hundreds of gifts for our young men, ranging from sports equipment, warm clothes, delicious sweets, and a variety of gifts from each young man’s wish list. The presents billowed out of a Schneider delivery truck with enough Christmas spirit to power Santa’s sleigh. WLUK Fox 11 and WBAY NBC 26 were even on hand to share the event.

The Schneider employees, proud to bring so many gifts to Rawhide, were greeted by Rawhide Executive Director John Solberg, who told the Schneider employees how much the gifts mean to the guys:

This is the first Christmas for many of our guys. This is the first time many will ever open a wrapped gift.

Schneider calls Rawhide family

The Schneider-Rawhide Christmas gift tradition began with what Schneider is best known for… trucks. Rawhide needed a truck and Schneider was proud to donate one. A few Schneider employees visited Rawhide to see how the truck was working, and like many before them, fell in love with Rawhide’s mission.

Schneider employees wanted to do more for the boys and chose Rawhide through their adopt-a-family program. A Christmas tree soon appeared in the Schneider lobby decorated with ornaments, featuring names of the Rawhide guys along with their interests. It didn’t take long for employees to gather gifts for all the guys, exceeding, their needs and wishes.

Gift Rawhide Christmas through The Plentiful Project

The Christmas gifts don’t need to stop with Schneider. You can make Christmas complete with the creature comforts of home for our guys through The Plentiful Project. A $75 donation provides a full week of healthy meals and two changes of clothes for one Rawhide student. You will also receive Bart Starr’s book: My Life in Football.

We need your help. Your gift will help feed our young men and give them plenty of warm, comfortable clothes. Please click below to help gift the basic needs many take for granted this Christmas season.


16 tips for beating holiday blues

We sing carols of happiness, love, and joy during the holiday season, but for some people it can be quite the opposite. This time of year can be a time of loneliness and sadness for many. When others are joyfully anticipating the celebrations and being with loved ones, how do you beat the blues when you don’t have such festivities or family time on your calendar? Here are a few tips for beating holiday blues pooled from friends and staff when they’ve needed to beat the holiday blues.

Step outside of yourself

“It is more blessed to give than receive.” – Jesus (Acts 20:35)

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We think Jesus and Ralph have it right. What better way to overcome holiday blues than to help someone else? Our first tip is to step outside of yourself and consider what you can do for others this time of year. Here are a few ideas:

        1. Volunteer to serve a Christmas dinner to the homeless.
          Look for local churches or soup kitchens that need your help doing this. It’s very rewarding and humbling. Spend some time conversing with the people you serve—show that you care by listening. You’ll be surprised at how grateful you’ll feel for all that you DO have instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
        2. Make Christmas cards for children in the hospital.
          Imagine bringing a smile to an ill child’s face who is spending Christmas in a hospital room. Add a little whimsy, glitter, sparkle, and love to the card. It will mean the world to them.
        3. Join or organize a group to go Christmas caroling at a nursing home, hospital, or senior center.
          Not only will music lift your spirit, but your audiences’ as well. And remember to give hugs, lots of hugs.
        4. Volunteer at the local animal shelter or humane society. 
          Even some animals have to spend the holidays alone, and they sure wouldn’t mind some extra snuggling and a walk! Besides, do you know a better source of unconditional love, besides God?
        5. Host an “orphans” dinner.
          Invite others who would otherwise be alone over for a holiday meal and a little cheer. Sing carols or play games.
        6. Perform an anonymous act of kindness
          Consider making an anonymous donation to a non-profit. Rawhide’s Plentiful Project is a great campaign to donate to!
        7. Do something you wouldn’t normally do
          Step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Maybe take your family ice skating or snow tubing! Embrace your inner child.
        8. Limit your time online
          Extended time online can cause social media users to compare their life to others. Instead of spending so much time online, make memories in person.
        9. Be with loved ones
          Surround yourself with loved ones to remind yourself what the holiday season is truly about.

Focusing on others will give you a different perspective. You’ll get a taste of what the holidays are like for them and even be able to share a few moments together. When you help someone else, you’ll also be helping yourself get past those holiday blues. We have found that it is in giving that we receive. This is true of giving love to others as well.

Treat yourself like a best friend

In giving to others during the holiday season, remember to give to yourself as well. That can be done in numerous ways—from making time to do things you love to cooking yourself a festive dinner. Here are some ideas:

      1. Splurge on a tasty treat What’s your favorite cheat day treat? Is it a frosty glass of Mug root beer? A fancy drink from the coffee shop down the street? Whatever it is, treat yourself to it this holiday season.
      2. Put up the Christmas tree or decorations anyway.
        No need for you to miss out on the beautiful sights just because you have time alone. Turn off all lights except the tree lights and have a Christmas movie marathon or listen to Christmas music that warms your heart.
      3. Purchase a special gift for yourself, wrap it, and put it under the tree.
        You still ought to have a present to unwrap, even if it is from yourself.
      4. Cook a holiday meal for yourself.
        It might seem strange to make a special holiday meal like a turkey for yourself, but you deserve the fabulous left overs too! Share the bounty with a neighbor or co-workers.
      5. Recharge your battery.
        Since you’re spending the holidays alone, you might be tempted to work extra hours. Be careful—don’t get burnt out. Make resting and unwinding a priority.
      6. Read a literary classic 
        Have you just not had time to read a novel everybody has been talking about? Curl up on the couch and start reading! There are few greater joys than a nice, warm drin and a good book while the snow falls outside.
      7. Plan a vacation or an easy trip
        Start planning your next vacation! It’ll help make the cold days more bearable and the holiday season less stressful

What are your yips for beating holiday blues?

We hope these tips for beating holiday blues help you experience some Christmas joy. If you have a tip we didn’t mention, we’d love to hear it! Let us know in the comment section.

What are youth at-risk and what can you do to help?

You’ve heard the term “youth at-risk”, but what does it mean? In the broadest sense, a youth at-risk is a child or adolescent who faces extreme threats to a successful transition into adulthood. Characteristics of at-risk youth include truancy, lack of interest in academics, and disconnection from the school environment.  When at-risk and troubled youth can’t transfer successfully into adulthood, local communities and businesses suffer, costing both millions of dollars.

How teens become at-risk

A variety of factors can contribute to a youth falling in the at-risk category.

The above issues can create feelings of isolation and estrangement from peers and cause children to act out. Lack of a stable financial situation or unstable family dynamics such as broken homes or absent parental figures can also create instability and cause development issues for youth.

Adulthood issues for at-risk youth

The longer an at-risk youth goes without receiving help, the more prone they are to a life full of other issues. Ignoring the warning signs an at-risk youth displays may lead to future problems, including:

  • Addiction
  • Violence
  • Self-Harm
  • Substance abuse

At-risk youth have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and incarceration. Without help, the future of a youth displaying at-risk effects may be in danger.

Helping youth at-risk

But how can someone help an at-risk or troubled youth? If you are worried a teen is headed down a dangerous path, consider these steps:

1. Communicate

Open communication with the teen and get to the root of what’s going on. But don’t pressure them if they’d rather not talk; let them know you’re always available if they want to discuss later on.

2. Take an interest

Familiarize yourself with things teens are interested in. If they play a certain video game, ask them about it. Ask them how school or extra-curricular activities are going. Find talking points to show genuine interest and you will build a trusting and genuine relationship.

3. Relate to teachers or family members

If there are issues at school, listen to both the teacher and student. Allow parents to share what they see and encourage collaboration to help figure out a way to help an at-risk teen overcome problems.

4. Relate to teen’s friends

If possible, communicate with the teen’s friends. Find out if the teen is hanging out with a different crowd and what they do with their friends. Build a trusting relationship with some of the teen’s friends, so if they notice troubling behavior, they feel comfortable sharing their concerns with you.

Rawhide Boys Ranch helps youth at-risk

Rawhide Boys Ranch has over half-a-century of experience helping youth at risk. Our experienced team uses state-of-the-art treatment to help at-risk and troubled youth gain a future. You can help Rawhide continue to make a difference in the local community please by donating below. Every donation helps us impact a change in the Wisconsin community.