Dale’s trouble began when he was in grade school. He had watched his father habitually drink for years and followed suit at 7 years of age. Soon, Dale and his friends drank every day. By his freshman year of high school, Dale rarely attended class, choosing to pick fights instead. He wound up in the juvenile system and eventually at Rawhide.

Dale Gets an Attitude Adjustment

Dale moved into the Lodge Home when he arrived at Rawhide. Unlike most guys who dread being made to go anywhere against their will, Dale was excited because:

  1. He loved cars (Rawhide accepts car donations)
  2. He thought he could fool everyone at the ranch – much like ALL the guys that come to Rawhide

Dale figured he’d skate through Rawhide and be roaming the streets in no time.

The Lodge Residential Home for Young Men

A few weeks into the program however, he started to change his attitude. He found people really listened to and cared about him.  He had not experienced that with his parents. Suddenly, he wanted more of the family nurturing and less of his plan to skate by.

“I was never judged or ridiculed. For the first time in my life I felt unconditionally loved.”

How Do You Melt a Hardened Heart?

As time went on, Dale felt the walls around his heart start to crumble. The love and acceptance he felt from his houseparents and youth care workers filled a need that went unmet for too long. He became open about his feelings and more willing to talk about God.

One day in the Lodge’s basement, a warm, peaceful feeling suddenly overcame Dale. He said it felt almost like he was floating. That moment was when he accepted Christ into his life.

Eventually, Dale grew close to everyone in The Lodge. He loved having a team of individuals to talk to and help him.

Rawhide’s impact was evident. Dale’s mother wrote that she was very impressed with the change in him and proud of what he had become.

“Behold, I am with you always…”

Shortly after Dale left Rawhide, his mother passed away. In his grief, Dale reverted back to old behaviors—the same behaviors that landed him at Rawhide.

Dale’s old friends wanted to help him feel better with a night on the town. Dale remembers noticing the snowy roads from the car’s back seat. He looked down for a moment and when he looked up; he saw the car heading for a ditch.

The car rolled, and the sound of crunching glass and metal surrounded Dale. When the car came to a halt, he and his friends emerged without a scratch. That’s when Dale knew, even in his lowest moments, God would be with him.

Life’s Ups and Downs

Dale proceeded to help other people in any way he could. Whenever he saw someone in need, he’d stop and talk to them and see what he could do. Dale also:

  1. Volunteered with youth groups
  2. Joined a search and rescue team
  3. Helped out strangers in need

During this time of his life, Dale married and had a son. However, the marriage did not work and Dale faced challenges with his career, housing, and family—yet God continued to show up for Dale. When Dale went through a custody battle with his ex-wife, God blessed Dale with full custody of his son.

Dale’s charitable heart and passion for youth groups impressed the judge and convinced him that Dale would provide the best atmosphere for his son.

History Repeats Itself

With his son under his roof now, Dale saw his son struggling and was concerned he might make the same mistakes. He turned to Rawhide for help again.  He thought “Rawhide changes lives. If Rawhide helped me, they can surely help my son, too.”

Rawhide Adventure Camp

Dale signed up his son for Rawhide’s Adventure Camp—an outdoor, week-long adventure-based therapy program during summer months. When Dale returned to pick up his son after camp, he noticed two things:

  1. His son didn’t want to leave
  2. Rawhide had the same positive, loving spirit it had when he was there

“When I showed up 25 years later, the names have changed, the faces have changed, but the people haven’t, and it’s God. It’s all God.”

Adventure Camp was a great experience for Dale’s son. He made new friends and learned what he needed to do to turn his life around. When he returned home, Dale’s son started respecting his step-mother and began making better choices in activities, friends, and behaviors.

Rawhide’s Long-lasting Impact

Much of what Dale learned at Rawhide has stayed with him, especially two things:

  1. Work Hard
  2. Grow Your Faith

The joy of hard work is what kept his life in order after Rawhide. When he was asked to spread salt and sand for 12 hours in the bitter cold, he thought back to his time working in the Rawhide stables and was ready to go.

Dale’s faith has continued to grow through his many ups and downs. Recently, Dale was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, meaning he can no longer do physical labor to support his family. But Dale will be the first to tell you he’s doing great for one reason: “I got God.”

You Can Help Guys Like Dale

If Dale met someone going through what he did as a youth, he would ask them what is going on. If they didn’t want to talk, he wouldn’t push it. He’d just let them know he was there when they were ready.

He’d also like to offer this feedback to Rawhide Staff. “Your words are in there, that seed is planted. By the grace of God, those seeds will grow.” Rawhide changes lives.

Dale’s story is one of many examples of Rawhide’s success with at-risk youth. If you would like to help fund programs that have been giving at-risk youth second chances for over 50 years, consider making a charitable donation.