Sandra Bird was 13 when she came to Ranch Ehrlo Society after a tumultuous childhood. Abandoned by her mother when she was just an infant, Sandra was raised by the babysitter her mom left her with for the first years of her life.
“The babysitter kept me until I was 12 years old,” Sandra explained. “A lot of things happened in that home, so I was removed by social services.”
After bouncing around several foster homes, Sandy found herself at the Ranch.
“I remember they asked me if I wanted to go (to the Ranch), and it sounded like a place where everyone else was like me. I wasn’t ‘the foster kid’,” she said.
When she arrived at Ranch Ehrlo, Sandra described herself as a “little fireball”. She credits the Ranch’s dedicated staff for helping her turn her life around.
“Some of the best things were the workers. There’s a few I really, really love,” she said. “Things like group meetings and going out on the camping trips – that was the first time my life I’d ever went camping.”
While at the Ranch, Sandy learned to play guitar. She also learned about her First Nations heritage, taking part in the powwow club and working with elders to learn how to make dresses, mittens, and moccasins.
“The Ranch helped me deal with my issues. I had to learn how to confront them head-on, I couldn’t just not talk about them,” she said. “One of the first things I learned was that you can trust people.”
Sandra stayed at Ranch Ehrlo for two years, and upon discharge, moved out to Montreal Lake to live with her biological grandfather. She gave birth to a son while living there, and he was the driving force behind her deciding to finish school and get a diploma in resource and environmental law.
Over 20 years later, Sandra still has fond memories and a feeling of home connected to the Ranch.
“I was driving past Regina once, and it was so familiar. I just ended up turning, and I went out to the Ranch.”
Sandra is presently living in Saskatoon with her partner and raising her son, who is now in the 11th grade. She works as a building manager for nine apartment buildings.
In 2016, Ranch Ehrlo Society is commemorating 50 years of helping youth succeed like Sandy. A celebration event is planned for September 29th at the Queensbury Convention Centre in Regina.