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At 16, Joe decided he was a loser.
"Both of my parents were in prison. I figured I'd join a gang like them and wind up in prison one day, too."
At Hays Shelter Home in Boise, Joe got a chance to change his future. Through Hays' recreation program, a part of treatment, Joe found a real passion for swimming at the YMCA. He learned diving and lifesaving skills. Hays Shelter sent Joe to complete extra classes in First Aid and CPR. He trained successfully to become a lifeguard.
Joe found a job as a lifeguard and continues to be successful.
Recreation has helped many other kids just like Joe. It is more than play. Healthy recreation helps kids gain self-esteem, get along with others, solve problems and handle negative emotions.
Recreation at the YMCA is a routine part of the schedule and a key part of treatment for the kids at Hays. Through a partnership with the Organization to Assist the Homeless Student and the Treasure Valley YMCA, all of the kids who live at Hays Shelter are qualified to receive free membership to the YMCA when they leave Hays.
Mitch met his match at the Idaho Youth Ranch. It was a young steer with a nasty attitude.
"He would fight anyone who tried to work with him," Mitch said.
Mitch received the young steer to raise as a 4-H project at the Ranch program near Rupert. The program uses animals as part of treatment, which is called "animal assisted therapy." When a kid forms a bond with an animal, he or she begins to heal. The animal can be a bridge for learning how to form relationships with people.
Mitch perhaps understood the steer because, like the steer, he was angry, too. Mitch used his anger to push people away so that he didn't have to deal with all the emotions he was going through.
"I soon learned that getting angry with the steer didn't work," Mitch said. "By staying calm I built a trust with the steer and learned to read its body language. We were partners."
Mitch talked with IYR's professional and caring counselors about what he learned in handling the steer. They helped Mitch understand how he can use the same skills to build relationships with adults and other children.
Mitch's self-esteem and confidence grew. He became emotionally stronger and better able to handle what life throws at him.
"I raised a steer that no one else could handle," Mitch said. "I'll never forget this place."
This was our first time visiting the Idaho Youth Ranch. We were so impressed with the efficiency of the facility and the thought that goes into the programs that you run. Well done!
Amy Bartoo, community and public relations director for North Idaho Home Health in Coeur d'Alene, joined the Idaho Youth Ranch Board of Directors in April.
"Amy brings to the board 20 years of experience in the fields of nonprofits and drug and alcohol prevention," said Steve Woodworth, IYR president and CEO. "She also has served on several state, regional and community boards and committees focusing on the work of preventing substance abuse, addiction and on recovery."
Bartoo said she wanted to be a part of the Idaho Youth Ranch because "I believe in the mission, the people and the vision that was cast by the Rev. James Crowe. I am inspired by the programs that focus on the whole child."
Bartoo and her husband, Gary, have a 15-year-old son, Trey. She enjoys spending time with her family, and her activities include golf, figure skating, triathlons, camping and gardening.
Jeff Myers, a former marketing and media executive with Meredith Corporation, has been appointed vice president of Business Enterprise at the Idaho Youth Ranch. Myers replaces Neal Jones, who will retire in August after four years with IYR.
"Jeff possesses the qualities, skills and abilities that we hoped to find in our new vice president," said Steve Woodworth, IYR president and CEO. "Jeff is the right kind of person to continue the great progress we have made in the Business Enterprise Department during Neal's tenure."
Myers officially took over as vice president on May 23. Jones will serve as a consultant to Myers during the remainder of his time with IYR.
"My experience with the Idaho Youth Ranch and its employees is something I will always cherish and without a doubt has been the highlight of my career," Jones said. "Thanks to everyone for your support over the years. I salute our mission and everyone who works so hard in making that mission the success that it is."
As leader of Business Enterprise, Myers will oversee a chain of 27 Thrift Stores, an E-Commerce business and a vehicle sales operation. These businesses play an essential role in funding IYR's work to rescue children who face dangerous situations in our communities.
Some nonprofits rely only on fundraising to pay for their programs. But IYR's business activities provide a number of sources to help fund our programs. They are a way we ensure a source of stable funding even during tough financial times.
The program uses animals as part of treatment, what is called "animal assisted therapy." For abused children, such therapy can be very powerful. The animal can be a bridge for learning how to form relationships with people.
Through 4-H, each kid learns how to feed, care and raise his or her animal. The boys and girls also learn about costs and finances. After the animal is sold at the 4-H Fair in August, the expenses are deducted and each kid keeps the profit. Each kid puts 20 percent into a savings account for when they leave the Ranch. The rest can be spent at trips to buy clothes, at outings and other events.
Children in our Ranch program near Rupert had a chance to find this out for themselves during the annual Golf Teaching Program during the first two weeks in June. Professional golfers from around the state volunteered to teach them the game.
Golf tests the kids' perseverance, impulse control and their ability to accept disappointment in healthy ways. The program also gives the kids a new skill and a positive way to spend their free time.
All recreation activities begin with a recreation specialist talking with the kids about the goal of the activity and what the kids will learn. After each activity the kids talk about the activity and what they learned that can help them lead successful lives.
The Food Bank also helps the kids at Hays by donating some food items used to cook healthy meals and provide snacks at the shelter home.
Kids who are involved with their communities show more respect for others, build self-confidence and personal skills and are less likely to use their free time in negative ways. Volunteering and giving back are a regular part of Idaho Youth Ranch recreational programs.
The activities are part of the Hays' Recreation, Education and Community Service (RECS) program. RECS works with Boise City Parks and Recreation and Treasure Valley YMCA to introduce the kids to the great programs available at community centers, parks and Y facilities.
RECS emphasizes activities and projects that children at the shelter can continue after they leave our care and return home.
The Adoption program also helped families adopt older children with special needs. These children came from the state child welfare system, and several families adopted infants through private adoptions.