“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.