Background & Mission
KIDS RANCH was founded in 1998 by the late Anne Rakos, a child and family therapist who saw a growing need for programs that support children who are at-risk due to poverty, abuse, death of family member, or learning difficulty. Her vision was to create an organization that used a combination of fun activities, contact with concerned community volunteers, and education to help children develop the skills they need to face life challenges and build respect for themselves and others. Rakos was intent on KIDS RANCH providing early intervention and prevention programs in an effort to reach children, ages 6-10, before the pattern of failure/trauma set-in too deeply. Rakos took note that many children she worked with in her clinical practice had low self-esteem due to struggling with learning to read.
In 1999, Rakos teamed up with Mary Bowers, a first-grade teacher at the time, and together they established tutoring programs for reading within four Wisconsin school districts. These literacy programs remain a major component of the KIDS RANCH mission to this day.
KIDS RANCH has always been a grassroots organization, relying heavily on an army of community volunteers. The beautiful KIDS RANCH facility in Rock Springs (where the summer day camp program takes place) was, in fact, built entirely by volunteers and donated materials over the course of three years. KIDS RANCH truly belongs to the community—they built it and they continue to take care of it by supporting it.
KIDS RANCH connects at-risk youth, ages 6-10, with caring community members, to build self-esteem and self-respect through educational and recreational programs. Since 1998, KIDS RANCH has provided free or reduced-rate early intervention and prevention programs within four Wisconsin school districts—Baraboo, Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells, and Sauk Prairie—that include parts or all of five counties (Sauk, Juneau, Columbia, Adams, and Marquette). Each year, over 100 children participate in one or both of the following KIDS RANCH programs:
Literacy Program (Sept-May)
Children, ages 6-10, receive explicit, phonics-based reading instruction from a trained volunteer reading instructor at an in-school or after-school literacy intervention program. The evidence-based reading instruction effectively helps children build strong foundational reading/decoding skills, which is the launching pad that allows them to progress from “basic” and “minimal” reading skills to “proficient” and even “advanced.”
Summer Day Camp Program (June-August)
Celebrating childhood and connecting children with nature, the KIDS RANCH summer day camp program serves children from four rural Wisconsin school districts, ages 7-10, who may be at-risk due to learning difficulties, poverty, low self-esteem, abuse, or other familial hardship. Located in rural Rock Springs, Wisconsin, campers engage in activities that focus on literacy development, team-building exercises, arts and crafts, computer skills, mental wellness, nature hikes, gardening, and horseback riding.