Tucked away in a corner of Ramsey’s rural community is a new ranch founded on helping children connect with horses and getting a handle on life’s challenges.
At the 2nd Chance Youth Ranch, kids and their families can find a relaxing haven or a healing retreat, said founder Robin Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald and her husband Scott officially opened the ranch, located at 7202 181st Ave. N.W., June 2.
“We are a faith-based program (and) our goal is to love on people. To bring people to a safe environment and let them take a breath, let them relax,” said Scott.
It also gives them time to let God speak to them, he said.
It has been her dream for nearly 10 years and buying the ranch two years ago gave them the perfect set up, said Robin, who works at Osseo High School in food service.
Growing up around horses and training horses, Robin said she has seen the healing power of animals.
With six horses, including a Welsh pony, five dogs and cats, the Fitzgeralds opened their ranch to children age eight and older as well as adults as a place they can connect with animals, God and caring people.
When asked to describe their program, both Fitzgeralds had a hard time.
The program depends on who is participating, Robin said.
When the children came out from the Ronald McDonald House, the program was modified because they were four to nine years old, younger than most of the children who take part, she said.
Normally, the program has the children doing some chores, like weeding and barn chores, for 40 minutes and then they have time with the horses.
Although the children did some age appropriate chores, their time with the horses included painting them with their hand prints, Robin said.
In addition to charitable and youth organizations, the ranch also is a getaway for home schooled students and kids from youth groups.
Coming out to the ranch gives her a chance to work with the horses and learn how to care for them, said 14-year-old Kinsey Mohs of Ramsey.
Kyanna Roland of Dayton comes to the ranch twice a week.
“I like coming out to the ranch because of the animals. There is always something to do,” said the 15-year-old girl.
During their outings at the ranch, kids can also spend time in the music room, the arts and craft area, work on building projects in the shop or work on gardening projects.
The ranch also offers equine-assisted therapy.
According to the website, 2nd Chance has programs for children of returning military veterans, who have recently been through juvenile detention, have parents in the adult corrections system or are going through a divorce or custody dispute situation.
Some come to relax from the stresses of life, while others are coming to the ranch to work on issues they are having with trust, anger and relationship issues, said Robin.
The ranch is also open to church, school and civic groups as well as adults who want to work on their leadership skills, she said.
Using equine-assisted therapy with couples can be very thought provoking, said Scott.
Other programs are still forming.
One of the mothers coming to the ranch inspired Robin to start a women’s group.
Moms Night Out offers moms a chance to come out and talk about their issues, she said.
“It is just an unstructured day for people to come and get away from their stuff,” Robin said.
The ranch is also open for special events.
Speakers, like Charles Shaw of Cowboy Ministries and musical programs, have been brought in.
This fall the ranch will host a teen event with Miss Black Minnesota Brittany Lynch.
The cost depends on the event, Robin said.
On Sept. 30, the ranch will be holding a fall round up with live country and contemporary music.
Volunteers are always needed at the 2nd Chance Ranch.
They need people willing to work with the kids in the music and art rooms as well as ranch chores and projects.
With the coffee shop, they also need someone to tend the counter who enjoys listening when people need someone to listen to their problems, Robin said.
For Ali Clark, volunteering at the ranch for her Anoka High School government class has developed into a retreat for her and her mom.
Her mom joins her out at the ranch and helps set up and groom the horses, said the Coon Rapids resident.
Robin is hoping Clark will join the ranch’s youth advisory board.
As a start up 501c3 organization, the 2nd Chance Ranch relies on donations and fund-raisers, Robin said.
The biggest need right now is for cowboy boots of all sizes.
The kids are coming out in sneakers and flip-flops, which are very dangerous as their feet could slip through the stirrups, Robin said.
Operating the ranch is expensive so is allowing people to come out at little cost, she said.
Donations of gift cards for lumber, equine bug stray and Anoka Independent Grain and Feed would be appreciated and keep the program low cost, Robin said.
For more information on the 2nd Chance Ranch, go to the website http://2ndchanceyouthranch.org/.
Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]