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Archives for June 2014

Hoofbeats: Our Very Own Eeyore

No ranch is complete without a donkey, or at least that’s what we like to think. We also like to think that our donkey, Eeyore, is pretty special.  He has been part of our equine therapy program known as R.E.A.P. (Rawhide Equine Assisted Program) for the past two decades. He is one of our more colorful animals in this program and for good reason.

Mischievous From the Beginning

Eeyore is a 20 year-old donkey who has been at Rawhide since he was five months old. He was donated to us and from the very beginning, Eeyore was mischievous. Brendan, our Facilities Manager recalls what happened when he picked up Eeyore from the donor. “I was driving with Eeyore down Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton and at each stoplight he would stick his nose out of the topper of my truck and belt out a loud, long bray. I couldn’t believe that something the size of an Irish Setter could make a noise so loud!”

Immediately upon arrival, Eeyore started to cause a ruckus. He ran free on the ranch with some other small animals, and started to get into trouble. Many times he was caught eating flowers and pestering staff members for food as they walked past him. He also decided to try his luck at being a racehorse. He attempted to race any vehicle that came onto our grounds; running beside the vehicle and then cutting off the driver, forcing them to slam on their breaks to avoid hitting him.

Needless to say, Eeyore was soon given a pen so he could stay out of trouble, but like any mischievous donkey he found another way to cause ruckus–even in the pen. He began running circles around the horses and biting them until they took chase. He shared his pen with a small pony, whom he encouraged to run with him once the horses started chasing him.. However, Eeyore is cunning. He knew just when to duck out of the fence, leaving the pony to fend for himself against the other horses. “He is very intelligent and always watching what you are doing. If you don’t lock a gate, he’s going to escape and let the other animals escape too,” states Gretchen our Animal Care Specialist.

An Asset to our Equine Therapy Program

While his racing days are behind him, Eeyore is still causing a ruckus, but in different ways. He tends to plant his feet and refuses to move– this stubbornness is an asset in our R.E.A.P. program sessions. “Our goal is to fit the client to the animal that will challenge them the most,” says Gretchen. She continues, “When clients have a non-compliant personality or are stubborn, we tend to match them with Eeyore to show them how hard it is to work with a non-compliant person, like themselves.”

Eeyore is adept at understanding personalities, knows when to be stubborn, and yet knows who just needs a friend. “When you want him to be stubborn, he is as sweet as pie.  He is very aware of people’s personalities and knows who he can and cannot take advantage of,” Gretchen says.

For the last 20 years, our Eeyore has been helping our clients to learn more about themselves, relationships, and build confidence. While he isn’t escaping from his pen anymore, you can still hear him bray loudly in the mornings. We are truly grateful that we have a stubborn donkey who is happy to help change a life.


About REAP

Our R.E.A.P. program consists of five horses, three miniature horses and a donkey. It is offered to our clients who come to Rawhide seeking support and guidance.  This program uses horses, ponies, and donkeys as therapeutic tools to help with issues like anger management, faulty thinking, alcohol and substance abuse, relationship building, and boundaries. Eeyore is just one of many animals that are a part of our equine therapy program.  To learn more about this program, please visit our Who We Help pages.

Eeyore is helping the guys and patients of our R.E.A.P. program to grow into loving and respectful men. Donations to this program are greatly appreciated. There is specific criterion for the animals donated; however feed and supplement donations are welcome at any time.

Rawhide is Still Home after 22 Years – Alumni Story

“Once a Rawhide guy, always a Rawhide guy.”

This statement demonstrates the Rawhide commitment to supporting our alumni. Rawhide staff are truly grateful when alumni choose to come back to visit and share their life stories with us. Recently, a former Rawhide Guy, Dale, traveled from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with his wife, Kris Ann, to attend one of our monthly fish fries. The Rawhide Fish Fries, are a fundraiser with the proceeds benefiting our tuition assistance program. However, for many like Dale, these events have become an opportunity to revisit the Ranch with their families.

Dale was very pleased with his visit and the kindness he received. He was genuinely surprised when current Executive Director, John Solberg, took a half hour out of the night to give him and his wife a personal tour of The Lodge, Dale’s home while he was a student, allowing them to take pictures. “Rawhide is still home…The buildings have changed, but the people, their hearts, are still the same.” Dale explained. This experience inspired him to share his story with us.

How Rawhide Helped Dale

Dale’s father had left his family while Dale was quite young, forcing his mother and grandmother to raise him and his siblings. Due to his mother’s work schedule, it was hard for her to spend time with her family and Dale’s older brother began getting into trouble at a young age as well. Dale chose to come to Rawhide in 1989 after getting into a considerable amount of trouble. We became his first choice of treatment after learning of the opportunities he’d have to work on cars while here. Automobiles and mechanical work had always been a passion for Dale. It didn’t take him long to see, however, that Rawhide had even more to offer him.

After his first month residing on the ranch, Dale opened up and allowed God into his life and into his heart. He embraced what Rawhide had to offer and began to see and believe that God had a different plan for him. He praises his houseparents, Tom and Jean Bair, for helping him to find God and change his life around.

One of Dale’s favorite aspects of Rawhide is the way the homes are structured on the family living model. For him and for many other youth like him, it was the first time he experienced a mom and a dad, and the interaction between them. This provided him an example of what a functioning, stable family can provide. It is because of our family-living model that Dale and others, are able to receive guidance, discipline, and support.

The same support and respect was given to Dale, as he quickly moved up the rank system that Rawhide residents are able to achieve for themselves. This was one of the first experiences he had of being a leader and gaining genuine respect from his peers, and he liked it.

Work Experience Program

The vocational training was another feature Dale appreciated. There are many options provided for our residents: the equine assisted program, woodworking, auto shop, community projects, and voluntary religious activities, among many others. Giving our guys a chance to acquire a skill set, discover new interests, and find what they excel in, is important to the Rawhide mission.

Leaving Rawhide after his ten-month stay was the hardest thing Dale ever had to do. Each day he carries with him the lessons learned and he reminisces about the countless fun and educational experiences he had while here. Over the years, Dale has been back to visit Rawhide on four separate occasions. Two years ago, he and his wife were able to travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma to visit Mr. and Mrs. Bair, and thank them for the difference they made in his life during their time as his houseparents.

Now as a grown man with a wife and three sons in Eau Claire and a career as a railroad engineer, Dale still considers Rawhide home after 22 years. With all the struggles that life has thrown at him, he still credits Rawhide and God’s grace for where he is now. One constant source of comfort in his life is knowing that he never walks alone; something he came to realize through his time at Rawhide.

Words to Live By

To this day, Dale remembers a saying his house-father always quoted, “Experience is very expensive, don’t buy it twice.” There are many things he looks back on, many aspects of his life before Rawhide, that he is thankful he has not chosen to repeat. He considers today where many of his classmates, who were also troublesome kids are today. Many are either incarcerated or deceased due to repeatedly making bad choices. Dale realizes he would be in the same place if it were not for the help he received at Rawhide.

Dale has some advice for the current and future youth at Rawhide: “To succeed at Rawhide is the first step to succeeding in life… it’s not a game, this is life, and there will be life after Rawhide… Now you have the opportunity to live a new life. ” Dale has done just that. He took Rawhide as his a chance to start over. Although he still comes upon hard times, he puts trust in God and has confidence that he will find his place in God’s plan. It has taken time, but he’s built up his support system and he still acknowledges that Rawhide will always be there for him.

Your Donations Change Lives

Dale is just one of our many alumni, whose lives have been profoundly changed by their experiences at Rawhide.

We would like to thank all those who have donated their time, used vehicles, and money to support our mission and making it possible for Rawhide to continue to inspire and equip at-risk youth and families to lead healthy and responsible lives. Without your help, stories like Dale’s would not exist.

Wall-E’s Life After Rawhide

Wall-E became popular at Rawhide. Soon he found himself doing other jobs around the ranch. He helped the guys of About Face chop wood, so they could bring it to the families in need of wood for their burners. He even volunteered to work for Rawhide’s Friday Fish Fries that are held seasonally from the months of May through October. Wall-E also helped out with a luncheon when Bart Starr and his wife came back to Rawhide for a visit. Wall-E helped in the kitchen making the food for the luncheon.

Wall-E continued to help others while he worked at Rawhide. He gave advice to any student asked him for insight.

College Bound

Wall-E enjoyed working for Rawhide, but his time there was coming to an end. He knew that he had to start applying for colleges if he wanted to pursue his dream of becoming an auto mechanic. When the day finally came, Wall-E said good-bye to all of his friends at Rawhide. He had gotten so much out of his experiences that he knew he was ready to take on anything. He left for college with great ambition and dedication.

When he walked through the door of his dorm room the first day of school, Wall-E fell onto his bed unable to believe he was actually there. Three years ago he would have never thought he would be at the college of his dreams, pursuing a degree in auto mechanics. He knew that he owed much of his success to Rawhide. If it wasn’t for their help, Wall-E had no idea where he would be today. Probably in the scrap piles of a junk yard somewhere close to his home, but instead, Wall-E was on the path of success.

Wall-E worked as hard as he could in college. He did great in all of his courses, making the Dean’s List every semester. The day he graduated from college was one of the happiest days of his life; a day he would never forget. His family was so proud of him, and he was proud if himself too. Wall-E often thinks about where he was a few years back and if he wouldn’t have gone to Rawhide, how different his life might have been.

Life After College

Several years after he graduated from college, Wall-E owned his own auto repair shop called “Wall-E’s Fix-It Wagon.” One day while he was busy working on the transmission of a 2004 Chevy Malibu, he received a letter in the mail from Rawhide. The letter explained that he was invited back to the ranch to speak to their students about his success for their St8Up Program. Wall-E was honored to be given the opportunity, so he immediately called Rawhide to let them know he would be there to speak.

Wall-E Returns to Rawhide

When the day finally arrived, Wall-E was nervous to speak in front of a crowd. He wasn’t used to giving public speeches. In fact, it wasn’t one of his favorite things to do while he was taking courses in college. But once he got to Rawhide, he remembered how safe and happy it had made him feel when he was younger. Wall-E knew that the speech would go well if he just believed in himself. When he walked into the auditorium, all of the students were already seated in their places. Wall-E took a hard gulp and walked to the stage, taking his place behind the podium. As soon as he started talking, his voice sounded distant to him. He kept speaking, and soon he felt better. He watched all of the students as he talked. They were all giving him their undivided attention; they were interested in what Wall-E had to say. This made him feel much better. He told our students about how all of the love and care he received at Rawhide encouraged him to lead a better life. He told them about the day he gave his friend Robert advice to keep trying to better himself. He also told them about how Rawhide made it possible for him to pursue his dream of going to college.

Soon enough, Wall-E was finished with his speech and asked the students if they had any questions. He answered every student’s question and when there weren’t any more questions, he left the students with one last bit of advice. “If you believe in yourself and the idea that you can change, it will happen. Everyone makes mistakes, but there is always time to change,” Wall-E explained. “Take advantage of the help you are receiving at Rawhide because everyone here cares about you and wants to see you succeed.”

Wall-E can still be found at Rawhide every now and then. He enjoys popping in to check up on current students and see if he can offer anyone advice or help students with any problem they may be facing. Everyone is happy to see him whenever he comes around, and Wall-E loves that he is still able to be a part of Rawhide. After all, Rawhide has always been home to him.

House Mothers of At Risk Youth Find Fulfillment

All through the year, and especially on Mother’s Day, Rawhide recognizes the importance of mothers and mother figures in young lives. Young men that are struggling with life need to be cared for and nurtured in ways only a mother figure in their life can do. This is one secret to the success of Rawhide and something that makes Rawhide a special place. In honor of Mother’s Day, we have asked four Rawhide house mothers of at risk youth to provide a glimpse into their daily lives, and the satisfaction they receive from supporting the boys in their residential-care home.

Patti Dedmon, a house mother at the Smith Home enjoys when the guys come to her to talk about a difficult topic or seek advice. This is especially true when they need a mother figure to go with them and seek to make things right with a peer, staff, or even the house father. Patti made it clear, “Though some days can be very trying as a house mother, it’s when you hear from alumni wanting to come back to visit or just get some advice that makes it all worth it.” Besides being a housemother Patti is training her second therapy dog Angel to become a certified therapy dog, canine good citizen, and a Rawhide family pet. Patti explained that she wanted to do something not just for Rawhide but for the surrounding community. Patti and Angel plan to visit the surrounding area’s nursing homes, young children with disabilities, and hospice centers.

Rose Solberg, a house mother in the ABC Home admitted working in the house is like a roller coaster ride every day. She explained her responsibility is to teach and train the guys to do their chores properly and responsibly (sweeping and mopping the floor, doing laundry, folding clothes, ironing, etc.). This is very important in the structure and routine for the home. Rose stated that she has “learned to be flexible; be ready to listen, cry, laugh or pray with a guy whenever the need arises. I enjoy the sense of humor and creativity of each guy.” She appreciates that Rawhide staff want to help each young man recognize his strengths and weaknesses and realize their purpose in life.

Cathy Johnson is a house mother in the Carriage Home. “The opportunity to become part of someone’s life who isn’t family is a challenging yet rewarding experience. The one thing we can bring to their life is consistency. This can be displayed through daily routine, dependability, and sometimes a quick hug.” Cathy reiterated that sometimes just being there and listening is what they need after a tough day. “I don’t try to be their ‘mom’, because they have one. I work to gain their trust,” she concluded. She wants them to know and understand that they are special and God has great plans for them!

Deb Tews, the newest house mother of the Gillespie home expresses how much she enjoys being a mom. She confessed that ever since she was young all she ever wanted to be was a mother and a teacher and here at Rawhide she gets to do both, “I get to be a mom always teaching, always encouraging.” Deb stresses how speaking the truth in love to the guys when they need to hear the truth is very important in creating a healthy home environment. While speaking the truth in love Deb also strives to introduce Christ in the hearts and lives of the guys who come to stay at Rawhide because, “When Christ does his work lives change.”

Alumnus Making a Difference for Disabled Youth

Roger, an alumnus of Rawhide is making dreams come true for a very special population. In 1992, Roger and his wife purchased a thousand acres of land in Northern Wisconsin and developed it into one of the finest white tail hunting preserves in North America. For 15 years they donated lodging, meals and hunts for numerous disabled, disadvantaged and terminally ill youth. Their successful Three Lakes Preserve was sold in 2007, and they now devote their time to providing adventure experiences for disabled youth and veterans.

One recent trip involved a young man named Alex who nearly lost his life in a car accident.  He severed his spinal cord and spent two months in the hospital. Doctors said there was a zero percent chance of walking and that he was going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Against all odds, Alex is back on his feet. He credits part of his amazing recovery to the help of this special charity and a member of his favorite team.

Green Bay Packer, A.J. Hawk accompanied Alex to the Three Lakes Preserve and has been involved ever since. Hawk is a spokesperson and volunteer for The Way Outfitters program. The Way Outfitters program has started to showcase these amazing adventures on television. Starting last December, a half hour TV show airs on the Sportsman channel. For Alex, his outfitters experience gave him hope. These trips are completely funded by donations.