Guest blog by Dan L’Heureux – Ranch youth, employee, and board member.
Of all of the house mothers, it was Vern Daniels who had the largest impact on me and my life. She treated each of us as one of her own; she went above the call of duty.
There are countless little moments and memories that made Vern special to me. I recall one day when I was living at Optimist House (as it was
then called); I had caught a jackfish from the waters of Wascana Lake. I brought that scaly, slimy thing home and put it in our bathtub. With no muss, no fuss, Vern took it out of the tub, cleaned it up, and cooked it for supper. While she didn’t always let me off the hook so easily, she was always there to support me.
As I neared the end of my Grade 12 year, Vern lent me her personal vehicle to drop off job applications throughout the city so I didn’t have to take the bus. It’s ironic— the sequence of events that transpired by her lending me her car has me employed today. Looking back, I realize that who I have become is largely influenced by the impact that Vern had on me.
One of my favourite memories of living at Ranch Ehrlo was the delicious food. There was always a stocked pantry, full fridge, and excellent meals. The camping trips were also something special, especially those to Chitek Lake. The 10-mile bus ride to the cabin from the town of Chitek Lake was the ride of our lives. The road was full of pot-holes and trenches at the best of times; no carnival ride could hold a candle to the ride to the cabin. We all fought for sitting rights to that coveted back seat, hoping for the biggest bounce and loudest laugh.
I racked my brain for special moments, delving into decades of memories. What I remember most was Ranch Ehrlo feeling like home, and not an institution. Ranch Ehrlo Society made my environment the closest thing to being my home. The staff treated each and every one of us like royalty. I had no idea what royalty was at the time, but I imagined I was a prince because I was always treated with the utmost dignity and respect.
I was proud to graduate Grade 12 at O’Neill High School in Regina, holding the torch and the record of living at Ranch Ehrlo the longest. Sometime after, when I turned 19, I was asked to work as a child care worker for the agency. I was honoured yet again, many years later, when founder Geoff Pawson requested me to become a member of the board of directors.
When asked, I always tell people of my life’s story and tell them of my wonderful childhood and adolescent years I had while growing up at Ranch Ehrlo. Sometimes I get a response of “You had a rough upbringing”; I always reply with, “No family could replace Ranch Ehrlo”.
Ranch Ehrlo Society inspired me to be a good and productive person, and to be proud of who I am.