One of the major tenets of our program is that we operate under a family model. Our cottages are run by a mom and pop and the youth in the cottage have a structured, dependable daily schedule. They get up, eat breakfast and go to school. When they get home, they do their chores, work on homework and eat dinner as a family.
By using this traditional family structure, our programs can keep siblings together under one roof. Siblings like Maddie and Jeremiah, who needed a safe place to grow up. They’ve been at the Ranch for five years, and the steady routine is now familiar.
Jeremiah, 14, is all about sports. His favorite is soccer, and he is excited about joining the team at his school this upcoming year.
“Everybody’s encouraging me to,” he said, smiling. “So this year I will.”
Before he came to the Ranch, Jeremiah wasn’t a fan of school and had started to fall behind. Now, his cottage parents and other staff members have found a customized curriculum that encourages Jeremiah to study and learn everything he can.
His sister, 11-year-old Maddie, is athletic like her brother. She recently discovered softball and joined a local team with the other girls in her cottage. A new passion of hers is watching wrestling. Her grandparents are big wrestling fans, and Maddie has plastered her walls with posters of her favorite wrestlers.
“My favorite is John Cena, and my other favorite is Roman Reigns,” she said. “He calls himself the Big Dog.” A grin stretched across her face as she talked about watching wrestling on Friday nights with her grandparents.
Maddie has a lot of love for her family and is extremely grateful to be able to grow up in the same home as her brother. They have been through a lot together, and they watch out for one another. When they arrived at the Ranch, these two siblings had a lot to learn about what life was like in a home. Their cottage parents showed patience and love, and Jeremiah and Maddie were quick to learn.
One of the most important lessons that Jeremiah has carried with him from his cottage parents is the suggestion to “try new things.”
“Ever since I decided to try new things, it was awesome,” Jeremiah said. He’s had the opportunity to do lots of new things at the Ranch, including going to summer camp, trying out for sports and learning to paddleboard.
Maddie has also branched out and discovered a passion for art. She loves to draw and paint, and has participated in the Young Artists program through the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg.
When not playing outside, drawing, or doing homework, Maddie and Jeremiah do their part to help keep their cottage running smooth. Part of their daily routine involves doing a chore around the house.
This helps them learn responsibility and how to take pride in a job. Maddie remembers when her cottage parents first taught her how to load a dishwasher, and now it’s easy. Jeremiah has recently been helping in the kitchen as well.
“I take my turn doing kitchen chores,” he said. “I make sure things that aren’t supposed to be out are put away.”
While some of these tasks and discoveries may seem simple, for some of our youth, it’s a whole new experience. Because of your generosity, boys and girls like Maddie and Jeremiah are able to know what it’s like to grow up in a traditional home with a family that loves them. Every day is a chance to “try new things” without worrying about basic necessities. They just
get to be kids.