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Healing Horses, Helping Children: Dare to Dream Youth Ranch

Featured, Social GoodAudrey Whetstone

Let me just start with this: people who keep non-profits running are saints.

These selfless men and women (directors, managers, social workers, volunteer coordinators, therapists, counselors, volunteers, the list goes on and on) dedicate their time and energy to the sole purpose of helping others. They selflessly work long, hard hours, doing their best to help the most people, with the smallest budget imaginable. And their motivation is never for their paycheck (if they wanted to make the big bucks, they got into the wrong business!). Their motivation is as saintly as it gets: to help others when life has got them down.

For most of my life, I never thought this deeply about non-profits and the men and women who work there. I did some volunteer work in high school, but even then I didn’t consider the rewards and the difficulties that non-profits face every day.

That is, until I interned at a non-profit.

I took on a writing internship at Mental Health America in Allen County, and there I saw firsthand both the selflessness, and struggles, of non-profits. The work non-profits do truly is amazing.

So, to help showcase some local non-profits that deserve your attention, I am writing a series of articles featuring these benevolent organizations. The non-profit I would like to start with is Dare to Dream Youth Ranch, a wonderful little non-profit just outside of the city with a focus on helping children, and helping horses.

A quick fact sheet about Dare to Dream before we begin.

A quick fact sheet about Dare to Dream before we begin.

I visited Dare to Dream on a beautiful fall day, seeing the ranch how I hope most of the children who visit get to experience it. The ranch is located on Wallen Road just off 33, close enough to the city to not be out of the way, but far enough to still provide immersion into the countryside, allowing for an even more authentic ranch feel.

Like I said, beautiful day. The best of both worlds: the beauty of fall with a warm summer sun against my back.

Like I said, beautiful day. The best of both worlds: the beauty of fall with a warm summer sun against my back.

That authentic feeling of visiting a ranch is what Dare to Dream hopes to provide to disadvantaged or disabled children. These are children who otherwise would never have a chance to experience a ranch or get anywhere near a horse. I spoke to Jim Buck, the Communications Director at Dare to Dream, while visiting the ranch and he told me, sharing the experience of a ranch was founder Bret Procise's intention. "That's what Bret’s vision was, to make the good times of a ranch accessible to more kids."

The complete ranch experience, right down to the barn cats. I even had to protect my voice recorder from one very social barn cat during my interview with Jim.

The complete ranch experience, right down to the barn cats. I even had to protect my voice recorder from one very social barn cat during my interview with Jim.

The ranch was founded in 2006 with this vision in mind. Jim shared the mission statement during our interview:

"Encourage the child, heal the horses, strengthen the family, and spread the message of hope."

Originally, the land that the ranch now sits on used to be a landfill— in order to build the ranch, dirt had to be brought in to make the land functional again. Dare to Dream has humble beginnings, no doubt about it. The ranch covers 10 acres and currently houses 10 horses. These horses have been donated by families unable to care for them, rescued due to neglect, or are retired racehorses.

One of the beautiful horses I met while visiting the ranch.

One of the beautiful horses I met while visiting the ranch.

Jobie, the resident escape artist. He's supposed to be on the other side of that fence. Maybe Houdini is a more appropriate name?

Jobie, the resident escape artist. He's supposed to be on the other side of that fence. Maybe Houdini is a more appropriate name?

Of course all children are welcome at the ranch, but the ranch's main focus is exposing inner city children and disabled children to horses. Jim explained the benefit of exposure to horses for both children without disabilities, and those with disabilities during our interview. For children without disabilities, being exposed to horses for the first time can help shape who they will become.

Almost everybody has a horse story. The first time they either got on a horse, got near a horse, or saw a horse, and yet, a large segment of our society may never have that experience ... The chance for those kinds of character shaping experiences is a positive thing in any kid’s life.

For children with disabilities, seeing, touching, and connecting with a horse can instigate breakthroughs. Jim shared that some autistic children who visit the ranch are happy to simply stand beside one of the horses, resting his or her hand on the horse's side, and enjoying the tactile sensation of the horse's fur and his slow, steady breathing. It has become a common occurrence for non-verbal autistic children to make their first sounds in a long time, or ever, while at the ranch. There is no denying it, the connection between horse and child is special, and lifelong bonds can be fostered.

A new handicapped-accessible ramp Dare to Dream built to make the corral more accessible to children in wheelchairs.

A new handicapped-accessible ramp Dare to Dream built to make the corral more accessible to children in wheelchairs.

In addition to the normal programs offered at the ranch, Dare to Dream also considers itself a "charity to charities," in that it also offers its services to other non-profits. For instance, when a non-profit holds an event to thank donors, Dare to Dream will bring some of the horses to the event and let children pet and ride the horses, for no charge to the non-profit. This is another way that they help the community and support other non-profits.

Since Dare to Dream has no staff, they rely heavily on volunteers to keep the grounds, care for the horses, work with the children, and anything else that needs to be done at the ranch. Therefore, any donations made to the non-profit goes directly towards keeping the ranch going.

When you give to this place, you know it’s not going to be absorbed into administrative cost. It’s going to be in hay, it’s going to be in feed, it’s going to be in programs, it’s going to be in making this place nicer and improving experience every time.
The entrance to the barn, with Dare to Dream Youth Ranch above the door.

The entrance to the barn, with Dare to Dream Youth Ranch above the door.

Right now, Dare to Dream is primed for growth, but they need community support to help make it happen. If you like horses, children, or just working outside, please visit Dare to Dream's website and fill out the volunteer form. Monetary or other donations to the ranch can be made through the website as well.

You can also check out their Facebook page to learn more. They would love the help!

 

 

Das Fort has covered non-profits before:

NeighborLink: More Than Just a Cup of Sugar, and Raise the Roof; as well as Respect 360.

 

(Photos by the author unless otherwise stated.)