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Rawhide History Overview

In 1965, John and Jan Gillespie had an idea to help at-risk youth and their families by introducing moral values, academics, and work experience in their lives. In need of a major endorsement, John and Jan contacted NFL champion Bart Starr, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, which is how Bart Starr became a large part of Rawhide history.

Bart and his wife Cherry showed interest in the idea of a ranch that helped troubled teens and decided to support John and Jan, allowing them to purchase a 714-acre parcel of property along the scenic Wolf River in New London, Wisconsin. That same year, John and Jan were able to help eight young men; and Rawhide was born.

John & Jan Gillespie

John Gillespie met his wife, Jan, when he was in 2nd grade at the same one-room school, north of Appleton, his father and grandfather attended. They married in 1947 and John went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Wisconsin.

In 1965, they answered a calling to help struggling young men and founded Rawhide.

Jan passed in January of 2017 and John continues as a voice for Rawhide and kids across Wisconsin. John enjoys spending time with his two sons and grandchildren.

Bart and Cherry Starr

At the time the Gillespies approached Bart Starr and his wife Cherry with their vision for Rawhide, Bart was very popular and his time was in great demand. In 1965, Bart Starr, along with coach Vince Lombardi, would lead the Green Bay Packers to become World Champions and Super Bowl I champions one year later.

When the Starrs agreed to join the Gillespies, Rawhide gained instant credibility. Bart would later offer to raffle off the Corvette he received as MVP from Super Bowl II to complete the down payment on the Rawhide property.

Bart and Cherry have been wonderful role models for hundreds of boys who have gone through Rawhide’s programs since 1965. They have donated countless hours sharing the Rawhide story, helping raise funds, visiting with the boys, and producing dozens of public service announcements for radio and TV.

Bart passed in May of 2019. Cherry and Bart Jr. continue to be spokespersons for Rawhide and are in communication with Rawhide on a frequent basis.