Girls Ranch presented with donation of $71,675

Published 6:03 am Friday, August 20, 2021

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CAMP HILL — This has been a difficult summer for the Alabama Sheriffs Girls Ranch in Tallapoosa County. Many tears have been shed following the loss of eight children in a multi-vehicle accident June 19 on I-65 south of Montgomery. Children with ties to the ranch were on their way back home following a fun week at the beach.

More tears were shed late Wednesday afternoon, but this time they were happy tears.

The girls, their house parents, ranch staff and Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches CEO Michael Smith were overwhelmed by a check they received for almost $72,000. The money was raised in a July 24th Motorcycle Ride and Family Fun Day between Reeltown High and the ranch. Alabama biker groups coming together to assist in the fundraiser included the Widows’ Sons, the Gunners and the Capital City Punishers. The Captain Jason Fuller Ride also made a big contribution.

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A big crowd gathered inside the ranch office for the presentation. They were asked to go outside to receive a large facsimile check in the parking lot. Ruben Garza and Jeff Hinkle held up the back of the check until everyone was assembled in front of them. When everyone was there they turned it around revealing a total of $71,675, There were some audible gasps following by applause and cheering. Smith and Ranch Director Candace Gulley had a tearful embrace.

“I don’t know any words I can express for what I feel right now,” Smith said. “It is amazing what you guys did for us. I am promising you that the ranch will be bigger and better for it. It will be better than ever with the money that’s been donated to us. I want the girls and their house parents to have the best homes we can provide them.”

Simply stated, the July 24th motorcycle ride was amazing to behold. The parade stretched more than 20 miles from one end to the other. It included over 500 motorcycles and a host of street-legal vehicles including antique cars and trucks. The parade started at Reeltown High and went to the girls ranch. “It was awesome,” said organizer Candy Miles.

“When we passed over Kawliga Bridge on Lake Martin there must have been 50 boats there watching the parade. Donations came from as far away as Las Vegas. Actors from ‘The Walking Dead’ TV show donated. Our goal was $50,000. We are so pleased we were able to do better than that.”

“We have a small community,” said Ranch Director Gulley, “but we can pull together in powerful ways to help each other. We take care of each other. We thank you for your support. Everyone here thanks you. We want you to know that our home is your home. You are welcome here any time you come. We want to say a special thank you to the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office. You have been so good to us. (Major) T.J. (Wood), you are one of our family.”

Gulley elicited a powerful response from her girls when she told them that youth from both the state’s girls and boys ranches will be in attendance at a fall Christian retreat that will be taking place later on this year. It’s a popular idea with the girls.

“What you guys are doing is what riding a motorcycle is all about,” Smith told the bikers present. “It’s why you call yourself an MC guy. You don’t have to know our girls to love them. Thank you for loving us without knowing it.”

A total of 34 young people have a good home in the Alabama Sheriff’s Youth Ranch Program. They are there through no fault of their own.

In most cases, they were abandoned or neglected by their parents. There are girls ranches in Tallapoosa and Colbert counties and a boys ranch in Baldwin County. A second boys ranch will soon open in St. Clair County.

“We want everyone to understand we are a Christian residential care facility,” Smith said. “We love God and our country. We will never back down from that. We recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day and we have devotionals every day. We are not going to change that.”

“Coming to the ranch changed my life,” one of the older girls told The Valley Times-News. “It was in the fall of 2019. Not long after I arrived I accepted Christ and was baptized. I want to continue bettering myself by going to college and earning a degree in wildlife management.”

Another one of the older girls commended her house parents for what they have done for her. “They mean a lot to me,” she said. “They have encouraged me to have a sense of community in living here. I love being here and getting to know people. It has given me the chance to learn who I am and what I’m all about.”