• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

Archives for February 2016

Once a Rawhide Guy Always a Rawhide Guy—50 Years Later

Jerry Monson is the reason that Rawhide Boys Ranch came to be in the early 1960s. Not wanting to return to his alcoholic home environment at age 13, Jerry asked John and Jan Gillespie if he could spend the night at their house. First Rawhide guyAll he wanted was one night away. He stayed for 2 years. When Jerry experienced a series of calamities some 50 years later, John and Jan Gillespie, Rawhide Founders, went to bat for him again. In doing so, they proved that Rawhide’s promise of “Once a Rawhide guy, always a Rawhide guy” is authentic.

How They Met

The Gillespies first met Jerry when he was 12. John and Jan had one child at the time and lived in a 2-bedroom home in the country. John had his own subdivision-design business and taught Sunday school on weekends.  He even drove a church bus, giving neighborhood kids a ride to Sunday school. Jerry was one of those kids.

Jerry welcomed any reason to not go home. His mother was an alcoholic and he had a new stepfather who wasn’t crazy about kids. One Sunday, Jerry asked John and Jan if he could stay overnight. The Gillespies told him he could if his mom approved.

Jerry’s mom eagerly approved – even brought over a sack of Jerry’s clothes. She expressed gratitude for the Gillespies taking in Jerry. She said her new husband would only let her keep 1 of her 3 children. That is not what Jan and John had intended, but they were more than willing to give Jerry a home.

Jan was shocked that people could give away a child. She remembers thinking “do people really do this?”

The Birth of Rawhide

Jerry became part of the family and a big brother to the Gillespie’s 3-yr-old son, Steve. Soon a second child was on the way and the Gillespies knew they needed a larger home.

As fate would have it, a client asked John for a subdivision-design estimate on his 700 acre property about 30 miles out of town. A large 11-bedroom house sat on the river-front property at the time. When John toured the house, he commented “this would make a great boys home.” His client’s eyes lit up. Rawhide was born.

 “Thanks to Jerry being used by God, there’s a Rawhide today.” John Gillespie

The Lodge, the first boys home

Rawhide Guy Ventures Out

Jerry as Army Helicopter Mechanic in the 1960sIn 1965, about the time the Gillespies moved to the new home, Jerry felt it was time to venture out into the world. He joined the Army and served as a combat Helicopter Mechanic in Vietnam. During his tour of duty, Jerry was exposed to Agent Orange and suffered a resulting leg rash for over 40 years.

Civilian Life Agrees with Jerry

Upon his return to civilian life, Jerry worked as a mechanic for a prominent auto dealership. One day a recurrent customer told Jerry that her husband passed away and she was going to sell her property with a mobile home already in place. “Would you be interested in it?” she asked Jerry. He didn’t need to think twice. He moved in, eventually started his own auto shop business and worked on some Bergstrom race cars. Jerry was living the American Dream. Everything was going well until health issues arose many years later.

Fast Forward 50 Years

Around 2008, Jerry was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), forcing him into an early retirement. Fortunately, he had paid his property and home mortgage in full by that time. Without working, his only means of support were monthly benefits of $750 Social Security and $407 Veterans Disability. His budget was tight but he managed.

In 2012, Jerry was diagnosed with cancer and needed surgery. While under anesthesia, Jerry suffered a stroke. It took six months of therapy to regain his speech ability. While recovering at home, he noticed leaks in his 40-year-old ceiling. His income level qualified him for free “help” from the county government. And that’s when his problems multiplied.

Poor Repairs Open Pandora’s Box

The “free” roof repair amounted to the county’s weatherization services team applying a liquid sealant to the roof. In the process, the roof was damaged. That spring was extremely rainy and the “fix” did not hold up. The heavy rain saturated the insulation, causing the roof to eventually cave and mold to grow throughout Jerry’s home. Jerry’s calls to the weatherization office went unanswered. When he finally reached someone, the person responded that they had no record of ever working on the roof.

Jerry stayed in the dilapidated home for 5 months and had to prop up his ceiling with wood beams and metal rods. In order to sleep without getting wet during storms, he attached plastic to the ceiling above his bed. He even ran a plastic hose from a ceiling fixture into a 5-gallon pail. During heavy storms he set an alarm just to wake up and empty the pail. Mold continued to spread and Jerry’s home became a serious health hazard. That’s when he reached out to Rawhide’s founder, John Gillespie.

Calling in the Big Guns

When Jerry finally reached out to John Gillespie—the only father figure Jerry had ever known—the wheels started turning. John called the weatherization services, but they wouldn’t respond to him either. So John contacted an investigative reporter who arrived on the scene with a camera crew.

The airing of Fox 11 News’ story regarding Jerry’s dilemma finally got the agency’s attention. The county agency even sent a crew out the day after the story aired and stated that Jerry simply “fell through the cracks.” They promised to make it better by buying Jerry a new trailer with the insurance money. Jerry thought the problem was solved. Wrong.

Is This Murphy’s Law in Action?

What people involved didn’t realize was that Appleton zoning laws had changed, meaning Jerry’s old mobile home could not be replaced with another one on that property. It looked like the only way Jerry could stay on the land he owned was if a traditional house was built from the ground up. However, after applying the insurance money, they were short about $35,000.

The Rawhide Magic at Work

John Gillespie was mad. After all Jerry had been through and now he didn’t have a home through no fault of his own.

“All I want is a place to live.” Jerry Monson

John reached out to his Rawhide connections and some former employees who went on to form their own businesses. The first one he called was Ross Giordana, former Rawhide employee who now owns Giordana Home Builders.

After John presented the problem, Ross promised to make some calls and get back to him in a week. One week later, John was bowled over with the news. Ross was able to enlist the help of enough companies to build a house for Jerry. In addition to donating labor, some companies donated the cost of materials as well. Ross and John secured a total of $60,000 in labor and materials. The project became known as the “Veteran’s Home Build Volunteer Team.”

 first Rawhide guy new home

The team consisted of 35 different contributors:

Thankfully, the Outagamie County Housing Authority provided Jerry with a rent-free apartment for nine months while his home was being built.

Jerry’s Coffee Shop

Once construction began, Jerry wanted to give back to those building his new home. He picked up coffee and cinnamon rolls each morning at the Machine Shed Restaurant  and turned his garage into a café of sorts for the building crew. One of the workers even made a sign that reads “Jerry’s Coffee Shop: Open 9 am usually.

First Rawhide guy and his coffee shop

Jerry serves coffee and rolls to construction crew each morning.


Construction of First Rawhide guy's new home

Construction crew in action on Jerry’s house

Finishing Touches

After the walls were up, tiles were laid, and appliances installed, it was time to transform it from a house into a home. John Gillespie wanted this to be especially cozy and inviting after all Jerry had been through. So he called upon his neighbor, Brenda Biese, who just happens to be an interior designer. She was happy to assist and reached out to an executive at the local Goodwill stores for help. Goodwill opened their hearts and their doors to let Brenda pick what she needed for Jerry’s home. Brenda sure has a gift, because she managed to make Jerry’s new home look model-perfect.

When he first saw his new home, all Jerry could think was: “Awesome, unbelievable, I can’t even believe it. This has actually happened.”

Moving Day

All the pieces were in place and Jerry was finally able to move in. Rawhide helped with that too. Guys in Rawhide’s About Face Program routinely help with community service projects and helping Jerry move was on their list. The guys arrived at Jerry’s apartment around 9:30 a.m. and started to pack up Jerry’s belongings. After a bite of lunch, they proceeded to unpack the truck at Jerry’s new home.

With everything moved in, Jerry couldn’t resist showing off his new home. He was like a kid in a candy store as he showed everyone his kitchen drawers that automatically closed and a toilet seat with the same feature. “Every square inch of this place is perfect. This is a perfect place. Wisconsin. Appleton. The people. This is it. It cannot be better.”

“I’ve been given a big responsibility. I owe it to everyone who helped build this to take care of this home because it really doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to each and every person who helped. You are all welcome here anytime. You are all angels.” Jerry Monson

Jerry is incredibly grateful for everyone that helped. “I want to thank them and give each one of them a big hug. For me, that would be awesome.”

Rawhide guys help Jerry move into his new home

Tour of Jerry’s New Home

See the finishing decorator touches after the boxes are unpacked and the volunteers have gone home.

Through It All

Jerry has been through a lot. He’s overcome family troubles, survived a war, and dealt with health issues doctors say many wouldn’t have survived.

And through it all, Rawhide has held true to its promise “Once a Rawhide guy, always a Rawhide guy.” Through every trial, Jerry has had the support of Rawhide and others. He is Rawhide’s first son “so to speak” and he always will be.

When things became especially difficult, Jerry thought back to what Jan Gillespie told him: “You have to remember you have a lot of prayers from a lot of people.”

Without Jerry, there would be no Rawhide, and thanks to the support Jerry has had, he can finally rest easy in what he calls the “nicest home in Appleton.”

New home of first Rawhide guy

Jerry Monson’s Home Sweet Home

Belated Veterans Day Surprise

On November 16th, 2016, Jerry’s home received a welcome surprise – an American flag that flew over the state Capitol in Madison on Veterans Day. State Senator Roger Roth presented the flag to Jerry, furthering the incredible outpouring of community support for the Vietnam veteran.


27 Vehicle Dashboard Symbols Deciphered [INFOGRAPHIC]

When you turn the key in you car’s ignition does the dashboard light up like a Christmas tree? Maybe you’re wondering what all those warnings mean. Symbols that have been around for decades are easily recognizable, but as cars become more computer-controlled, manufacturers are adding new dashboard symbols that may be puzzling. Did you know that warning lights may be color coded, with yellow advising to inspect and red meaning there’s a major problem? This list will  help you figure out what those dashboard symbols indicate when lit.

(click to enlarge graphic)

Vehicle Dashboard Symbols Infographic
Click to TweetClick to Tweet

Share this Image On Your Site

1. Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

Tire Pressure Monitoring System The Tread Act of 2000 requires all new cars as of 2007 have the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). So if your car predates 2007, you will not see this icon. When the TPMS warning light illuminates and stays on, one or more tires has low tire pressure. Inflate tires to the recommended pressure per square inch (PSI). Low tire pressure can cause tires to wear out quicker and create dangerous driving conditions.

2. Exterior Light Out Indicator

Exterior Light Out IndicatorThis symbol indicates that an exterior light on your vehicle is burnt out. A simple lamp replacement will take care of this problem. Review your vehicle’s owner’s manual for lamp size and how to access lamps in exterior lights.

3. Low Key Fob Battery Indicator

Low Key Fob Battery IndicatorThis indicates that the battery inside the key fob needs replacing. Open the key fob and check for the battery number to buy a replacement. Once you’ve installed the new battery, the car’s computer will see the higher voltage and remove the warning.

4. Electronic Stability Program (ESP) Fault Warning

Electronic Stability Program Fault Warning If your vehicle illuminates an ESP Fault light, the chassis system needs attention. The ESP Fault light might be on because of a simple wiring issue or it could be much more serious. A quick scan can reveal the computer error code that further explains the problem

5. Security Alert

Security Alert
A flashing security alert light often means something in the car’s anti-theft system wiring is failing. Have a mechanic check it out, especially if your vehicle is one of the most stolen.

6. Overdrive Light Indicator

Overdrive Light Indicator The overdrive mechanism enables a vehicle to maintain a constant speed while decreasing engine speed to reduce wear and tear, plus improve fuel economy.

If the overdrive light stays on consistently, it only means your vehicle’s overdrive is manually turned off. On the other hand, a blinking overdrive light indicates a possible transmission problem, and it could be one of many issues. Get the vehicle inspected ASAP.

7. Brake Pads Warning

Brake Pads Warning Not all vehicle manufacturers put this symbol on dashboards, but knowing when your brake pads are getting worn could save costly repairs later. If this lights up on your dashboard, have a mechanic check your brake pads for wear and tear.

8. Brake Fluid Warning

Brake Fluid Warning If the brake system light is flashing, your brake fluid level is getting low. If the brake system light stays lit, pump the brakes when stopping until you get somewhere safe because a consistent brake light means problems. Visit a trusted mechanic for an inspection ASAP.

9. Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) Light

Anti Lock Brake System Light Your Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) has an issue when this symbol is lit. Most often this is due to an electrical fault, such as a defective wheel speed sensor, defective power relay for the ABS module or pump, or a low fluid level in an ABS fluid reservoir.

10. Engine Temperature Warning

Coolant Temperature Warning A lit engine temperature symbol indicates that the engine’s temperature has risen above the ideal range. This may light up for a variety of reasons. Check coolant level, radiator cap, fan operation; and look for coolant leaks.

11. Transmission Temperature Warning

Transmission Temperature There’s a reason why this looks similar to the coolant temperature warning light. Careful! If this light is on, your transmission might be operating at a significantly higher temperature than is safe. Check your transmission fluid level as well as the engine coolant level.

12. Reduced Power Warning

Reduced Power Warning Is your vehicle skipping or moving slower as if it is losing power? This could signal a potential problem with a battery or power system. Replacing the battery, spark plugs or plug wires can restore much of the power that your vehicle is missing.

13. Battery Charging Alert

Battery Charging Alert If this light comes on while you are driving, turn off all the unnecessary electrical devices like A/C, radio, etc. and look for a suitable place to stop IMMEDIATELY. Your car may suddenly drain of energy and it’s best to be in a safe spot out of traffic. Call a tow truck and tow it to a repair shop.

If you’re in your own driveway when you notice this light, you may pop the hood and examine the battery terminals, alternator belt, and battery condition. The battery might not be charging right due to poor connection, or it might be time for a new battery altogether.

14. Check Engine Light

Check Engine Light The check engine light is one of the most common dashboard warnings. It is part of your car’s onboard diagnostics (OBD) system. When lit, it can mean something as minuscule as a loose gas cap to serious engine trouble.  Your mechanic can diagnose the cause with a professional scan tool. This light may be lit for one of these 6 reasons or others; most mean a date with a mechanic.

  1.  Oxygen Sensor needs replacing
  2.  Gas Cap is loose
  3.  Catalytic Converter needs replacing
  4.  Mass Airflow Sensor needs replacing
  5.  Spark Plugs or Plug Wires need replacing
  6.  Exhaust Gas Recirculating (EGR) Valve

15. Door Ajar

Door Ajar
Doors or trunk lids left ajar can drain batteries and possibly leave you stranded. Close the guilty culprit as soon as you notice the warning light.

16. Washer Fluid Level Low

Washer Fluid Reminder Certain times of the year, this is one feature you can’t live without especially when a large semi passes you on the highway, splashing dirty slush or road grime on your windshield that blocks your view. If this symbol is lit, refill your washer fluid as soon as possible. Just pop the hood, find the reservoir, and add fluid. Be sure to fill the correct reservoir. Look for the symbol on the cap.

17. Low Oil Pressure Warning

Low Oil Pressure Warning If this light comes on, STOP driving immediately and turn the engine off. The engine can be severely damaged in a matter of seconds if oil pressure is lost. Call a tow truck and let a mechanic check it out. Be sure to tell the mechanic that this light came on so the he can take proper safety precautions. If you are a DIYer, tow the car to a place where you can check the oil. You can follow these tips in this video for checking it yourself. But even if there is oil, there may be an issue with oil pressure, like an oil pump or sensor going bad.

18. Oil Change Reminder

Changing Oil
This light is a convenient reminder to change your oil every 3,000-10,000 miles. If you’re a DIY oil-changer, consider this helpful list of recommended oils from Popular Mechanics.

19. Service Vehicle Soon

Service Vehicle Soon The importance of this light depends on the other vehicle warning lights. If this light is coupled by another light such as the ABS Light or Battery Charging Alert, have that specific issue taken care of. If no other lights come on with this one, have your mechanic run a diagnostic scanning tool to determine the problem.

20. Gas Cap Needs Tightening

Gas Cap
If this light is on, your gas cap isn’t properly sealed. Fortunately, gas caps aren’t expensive and it happens to the best of us. That’s why many caps now come attached to the vehicle!

21. Cruise Control

Cruise Control A steady light indicates that you have activated the vehicle’s cruise control feature. A flashing cruise control error light is common in some Subaru models. If this occurs, bring it to a mechanic to check what’s going on.

22. Low Traction Indicator

Traction Control When lit, this symbol indicates that conditions are slippery and tire traction is low. Some vehicles incorporate the traction control warning with the ABS light, but others have a separate symbol for both. If this light is flashing, there might be a sensor issue.

23. Airbag Issues

Airbag Fault The Airbag Fault Light often comes on when the airbag control module senses an issue with one of the airbags. You can drive the vehicle with the airbag light on, but remember your car airbags won’t deploy if you get in an accident! Defective parts can be easily replaced and the airbag light can be reset.

24. Fog Lamp

Fog Lamp
This indicator simply tells you that your car’s fog lamps are on. It serves as a handy reminder to shut them off when you no longer need them.

25. Seat Belt Alert

Seat Belt Alert This is a familiar symbol, yet some people still choose to ignore it. This warning may be a combination of a blinking dashboard light and a repeating chime. Both indicate that someone isn’t wearing a seatbelt. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seatbelts have saved over 255,000 lives since 1975. Please buckle up. Seat belts save lives.

26. Convertible Roof Symbol

Convertible Roof
This means the convertible roof is either opening or closing. If this stays lit when the roof isn’t opening or closing, there’s a good chance there’s a fault in the system.

27. Dirty Air Filter

Dirty Air Filter Your car’s air filter is clogged when you see this symbol illuminate. This does not indicate an emergency, however, it’s best to change to a clean air filter when possible as your vehicle needs clean air to operate properly. If you are a do-it-yourself type, replacement air filters are relatively inexpensive. A clean air filter can improve:

  • Gas mileage
  • Acceleration
  • Engine life

When in Doubt

If your car has a dashboard symbol that is not on this list, consult your owner’s manual. Or if your car only has a handful of dashboard indicators, maybe it’s time for a more recent model. Check out our eBay car store.

11 Car Smells That Might Mean Stinky Repairs [INFOGRAPHIC]

Wondering why your car smells? It could be the gym bag you forgot in your back seat or the partially eaten egg salad sandwich that fell under your seat. But it could also be a mechanical issue with your car. If your car is giving off one of the following odors, you might need more than a deodorizer… visit a mechanic.

(click to enlarge graphic)

11 Car Smells that Might Mean Stinky Repairs Infographic

Share this Image On Your Site

11 Car Smells That Might Mean Stinky Repairs

Has your car been banned from the car pool list because your passengers can’t stand the smell? Maybe it’s time to take the gym bag out of your back seat or really search for that meatball that fell under your seat two or three months ago. That smell might also be an issue with your car ranging from bad brakes to mildew in your A/C. If your car is giving off one of the odors below, it might be time to stop buying air fresheners and schedule an appointment with a mechanic instead.

1. Burning Carpet

When would a burning carpet smell ever be considered normal? Believe it or not, a burning carpet smell is deemed normal if you just drove down a long mountain pass. However, if your car has that smell during normal driving conditions, it could mean brake issues. Schedule a brake inspection as soon as possible, especially before driving down a mountain pass of any length.

2. Rotten Eggs

A rotten egg smell brings to mind several sources, like an old lunch left under the seat or flatulence. If that’s the case, it’s an easy fix. Otherwise, it likely means a poorly running engine and/or catalytic converter issues. The poor running engine might be causing the catalytic converter to become overloaded. If this isn’t checked, your catalytic converter might breakdown. Repairing a catalytic converter can cost between $543 to $875.

3. Burning Rubber

If you smell burning rubber and you didn’t just squeal your tires, your drive belts might be slipping or a loose hose might be rubbing against rotating accessory-drive pulleys. Let your engine cool off before you examine it.

A plastic bag lodged underneath your engine or on your exhaust pipe could also be the culprit. A quick walk around your car and a look under the car will answer that question. Luckily, removing a lodged bag is an easy fix, but be careful as exhaust pipes may be hot!

If your inspection under the hood and engine yields nothing, take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic and relay as much detail as possible to help him pinpoint and fix the problem.

4. Hot or Burning Oil

This pungent smell may remind you of burnt dirt if you ever sat around an outdoor campfire. If your car smells like hot oil, the cause could be one of four reasons. Your vehicle may:

  • Need an oil change
  • Be leaking oil onto your exhaust manifold
  • Have an overheated engine and a broken temperature gauge
  • Have a faulty vacuum modulator which may erroneously feed transmission fluid to the engine. The fluid will burn when it comes in contact with the engine.

You can detect an oil leak by checking for spots on the ground under your car. You may fix this leak yourself or find a trusted mechanic. Auto parts stores sell “stop leak” additives that can help seal leaks. Check also for loose bolts, starting with the oil pan.

5. Car Smells like Gasoline

If your car was built before 1980, a gasoline odor after shutting off is normal and occurs from boiled fuel in the carburetor float bowl, also called float chamber. If you drive a car built after 1980, a gasoline smell could mean something problematic, such as:

  1. Fuel Tank Leak
  2. Fuel Line Leak
  3. Faulty Charcoal Canister
  4. Fuel Injector Leak
  5. Missing Gas Cap
  6. Fuel Pressure Regulator

If your car smells like gasoline and you aren’t missing your gas cap, do not start the car. Consult a mechanic as soon as possible.

6. Musty Gym Locker

If you turn on the heater/air-conditioner and start smelling something similar to your old gym socks, odds are you have mildew growing in the moisture condensing inside the evaporator of your air conditioner. You may consult a professional to fix the issue, or try the following: turn off the a/c and run the fan on high for at least a mile of driving to dry the system out.

If this doesn’t do the trick, look under your seat or in your trunk for a pair of gym socks that might have escaped your gym bag. You might even find your lunch from two months ago!

7. Sweet Syrup

If your car smells like maple syrup it might mean a coolant leak. The smell of leaking fluid attracts wild animals and is very poisonous, so make an appointment with your auto shop as soon as possible to take care of the issue.

It might also mean you missed your pancakes when you were pouring syrup. Check your clothes and consider stopping at a dry cleaner later in the day.

8. Burnt Toast

If your car smells like burnt toast and you didn’t accidentally scorch your breakfast, there might be an electrical short circuit or the insulation around certain wires might be burning or melting. Driving a car with wiring issues can be risky, even leading to fire. If your car consistently smells like a charred breakfast, take it to a mechanic to get inspected.

9. Exhaust from the Passenger or Glove Compartment

If the smell of exhaust is coming from the passenger compartment, your vehicle may have a faulty exhaust pipe causing a little exhaust to leak into the passenger compartment. Take your car to a mechanic immediately after noticing an exhaust smell. Breathing noxious exhaust can impair or kill you.

10. Burning Hair

If your car smells like burning hair and you didn’t scorch your own hair with a heated hair styler that morning, a rodent or piece of road kill might be near your engine. Examine the engine and see if something tried to make your car its new home or if you picked up some road kill along the way.

If this continues to be a problem, consider parking your car somewhere else. Cars parked next to trash bins or food sources are more likely to attract and house wildlife.

11. Moldy Car Smells

Spilled drinks and food stains might be causing your moldy car smell if it was left. Visit a professional cleaning service to have them clean the scent away or try removing it yourself.

Avoid food and drink stains smelling up your car by placing liners over your seats. If there is a spill, a quick wash can take care of the problem.

Not all car smells can be sprayed away. If your car smells like one of the above, consider visiting a mechanic or cleaning expert to breathe happy in your car again. Your nose, and your passengers will thank you.

Hope for Angry Teens: One Alumni’s Story

Pete admits “When I got to Rawhide, I was angry. Angry at the world, angry at society, and I was fighting the system.” Little did he know then that he would go on to be an ‘A’ student and letter in football after being mentored by none other than the legendary Bart Starr, NFL quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. And that was just the beginning of Pete’s second chance for a better life thanks to Rawhide and the dedicated people who help guys like Pete.

A Rocky Start in Life

Pete had spent a weekend in jail by the age of 11. By 12 years of age, he was in a gang. At 13 he had committed burglary. He was a self-described “parasite on society.” He knew he was smart and had leadership qualities but he was leading others and himself down a troubled path until he met John and Jan Gillespie, founders of Rawhide.

John Gillespie Sees Potential

Pete first came to Rawhide for summer Adventure camp. Shortly after leaving the week-long program, he landed back in jail for more bad choices. Authorities contacted John Gillespie to pick him up. Instead of sending Pete to a secured juvenile correctional facility, John brought Pete to Rawhide for the next four years.

“John Gillespie saw something in me and thought I had potential if I could just turn things around.”

Which Would You Rather Be?

John Gillespie















The early years at Rawhide weren’t easy.

“I’m stubborn. No one was going to force me to do anything unless I wanted to. No one was going to force me to do well in school or show up on a job if I dug in my heels. John and Jan knew that.”

John and Jan noticed how stubborn Pete was so they put it to him “flat out, plain and simple.”

“It’s up to you, Pete. Do you want to be a success, or do you want to be a loser? Which path do you choose?”

They knew that the only way Pete would change is if it were his decision. So they gave him the choice. Once Pete heard that it was up to him, he made his choice. He decided to actually read his school books and became an ‘A’ student. By the time he graduated from high school, he was the Senior Class President. Pete became a positive role model and used his natural leadership skills to lead the other guys.

Learning to Handle Strong Emotions

Pete was making progress but still had some trouble controlling his emotions. Remember that he arrived at Rawhide being angry at the world. That does not go away overnight. Legendary Bart Starr offered to mentor Pete in playing football if he was interested. Pete didn’t know much about football, but Bart took him under his wing, even bringing him to his very own Packers football camp. Bart Starr taught Pete the fine techniques of throwing a football and Pete learned how to channel his anger into energy on the field. Football gave Pete an outlet for his anger. He became a leader on the field and played both offense and defense. He went from a face in the crowd of angry teens to a football standout. Later on, he even earned a varsity letter!

“They Literally Saved My Life”

It was tough for Pete to leave Rawhide once he graduated from high school. Pete had grown to view everyone at Rawhide as family and Rawhide as a home.

“I grew up here. I was a child when I came here. Everything I needed to know, I learned at Rawhide. John and Jan Gillespie were the mom and dad I didn’t have. They were my family. They took me in, they trusted me, and they made me part of their family.”

“Leaving here was like leaving home.”

After graduating, Pete joined the Marine Corps. He got a meritorious promotion after boot camp and three more meritorious promotions for service above and beyond. Pete left the Marine Corps as a sergeant and went back to school, eventually finding a passion for electrical work. He is now a master electrician and enjoys the positive path he’s on.

Pete credits John and Jan with saving his life. If he were to come across them today, he would tell them:

“Thank you very much, John and Jan. I love you all. You’ve saved my life, more than once. Had it not been for John and Jan Gillespie, I would not be here today. They literally saved my life.”

You, Too, Can Save a Life and Help Angry Teens

John and Jan provided a home for Pete along with hundreds of other troubled youth over the years. If you would like to help continue the work, donate to Rawhide. We accept cars, trucks, motor homes, boats, cash, stock, life insurance, and other types of donations. Every charitable contribution gives troubled youth and families a second chance.