Gabriel Rasmussen has not had an easy life.
He became an orphan at two and a half years old through tragic circumstances.
He bounced around from foster home to foster home after that tragic incident.
“I’ve lived in 21 cities, towns, and villages,” he said. “It was so hard as a kid without a sense of belonging.”
Gabriel ran away from every placement he had. He became a permanent ward of the province when he was 11 years old. In 1999 he ended up at Ranch Ehrlo. A place he didn’t want to run from.
“When you go to the Ranch Ehrlo Society it’s very structured, which is excellent. If you didn’t come from a structured home, you’ll learn that at the Ranch,” he explained.
He was at the Ranch for two and a half years.
Gabriel explained that the youth care workers had such a positive impact on his life. They were mother and father figures to him. He knows they loved their jobs; they loved helping people.
“You pick up different things from different staff. For example, Cam Huberdeau was always clean, always washing his hands, cleaning up, and tidying things. I learned from Cam and now I make my bed every morning and keep everything really clean,” Gabriel said.
He also learned from direct care staff Richard, Nicole, Dane, and Colin.
Gabriel added, “There was also this Ranch teacher at the elementary school I went to in Regina. She taught me how to sew. I am always tearing my pants with the work I do, and I still use those skills she taught me.”
Caseworkers and group therapy also taught Gabriel many skills too, including empathy, listening skills, and understanding and dealing with emotions.
“If you’re never taught empathy, how would you know? A lot of kids who come in there don’t know how to deal with their emotions, or how to do anything, really. Having groups where you sit down and learn about different things, that’s stuff that sticks with you forever,” Gabriel stated.
He also raved about the therapeutic camping trips he went on where he learned to fish, fillet a fish, how to make tea and spruce gum, and how to camp.
“Those were such great experiences for me. I want my son to have those same memories, so I take him to many of the same places I went to with the Ranch.”
Staff were role models to him in many different circumstances. He stated that knowledgeable and empathetic staff members make a big difference in someone’s life.
“I remember the first year I was there I went to Awards Night with my grandma. We watched as kids’ names were called. The kids were always excited, ran up to get their awards, and ran back to their families if they were there. As it went on, they still weren’t calling my name, so grandma and I thought I wouldn’t win anything. Then they called my name for the big overall development award! I was so excited! My grandma was so proud of me,” he recalled.
He is still in contact with staff even after more than twenty years since he was at the Ranch.
“It was so hard being thrown into the system at two and a half years old, and not having a sense of belonging. It means so much to me that (the staff) still care about me, want to see how I’m doing, and want me to succeed. They’re like my family now,” he said.
Gabriel is a certified tree faller and certified faller tutor, and he loves his job. He recently came back to the Pilot Butte campus to take care of some of the trees on the property.
After all the time that has passed, he still thinks things are still the same at the Ranch.
“From where I was high in the trees, I could see and hear everything. I could hear the staff talking to the kids, and I could see them hugging kids when the kids were upset,” he concluded.