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Changes afoot at Idaho Youth Ranch

The Idaho Youth Ranch near Rupert is about to make some big changes. The ranch has been around for 60 years, and uses equine therapy to help at-risk kids. Steps are under way to possibly close the Rupert ranch, and create three new ranches in Idaho a little closer to populated areas.

Board members say more kids could be helped, and it will be easier for family members to visit them .

Some of these kids have experienced and seen things no child should have to see. How does the Idaho Youth Ranch help them?

“If you can teach a kid to make a 2,000-pound horse go where they want it to go, when they want it to go, that’s Step 1. Talk about a confidence builder,” says one riding coach.

“At first, they’re terrified because they’re dealing with something they’ve never imagined being involved with before,” said Liz Stewart, the animal manager. “Horses pose a bigger challenge because of the fear factor. They’re 2,000 pounds. Most people can push a dog around, but to take a horse and become one with a horse, you can’t do better when you’re teaching kids life lessons.”

Jim Stockberger is the program director of the Idaho Youth Ranch. He tells the story of one graduate named Chad.

“He’s been in a gang. When he came he was rough, had tattoos all over, and this was his last chance,” said Stockberger. “He totally straightened up. He was here for a year, and we had no major problems, and today he has a full-time job in the trucking industry. He totally credits the Youth Ranch with changing his life. ”

The communications director for the Youth Ranch says people might hear the facility in Rupert is closing. She said they’re not positive what they’ll do with the Rupert site, but the program itself is not closing. It’s growing.

“The Idaho Youth Ranch will be able to serve more kids in better ways in more parts of Idaho,” said Peggy Jordon.

Right now, the Youth Ranch is looking for ground in the Treasure Valley area. Once a youth ranch is set up there, it will expand to eastern Idaho,and then to the Twin Falls area.

The ranch is a nonprofit facility funded by donations and by the 28 thrift stores in Idaho.

Those stores will not be closing, so every time you donate goods, or make purchases at the Idaho Youth Ranch Thrift stores, you’re helping a program that has helped almost 26,000 Idaho kids in the last six decades.

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