Our History & 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 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.
HOW WE BEGAN
KIDS RANCH connects at-risk youth, ages 6-11, with caring community members to build self-esteem and self-respect through educational and recreational programs. Kids Ranch provides free or reduced-rate early intervention and prevention programs within four Wisconsin school districts—Baraboo, Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells, and Sauk Prairie. Each year, over 160 children participate in some or all of the following Kids Ranch programs:
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.
Literacy Program (September-May)
The Kids Ranch school-year program provides free or low-cost literacy tutoring and mental wellness counseling. Students are paired with volunteer tutors 1-2 times a week. The tutors, trained by our licensed education coordinator, utilize an alternative reading curriculum that engages kids who aren’t thriving in the classroom.
Mental Wellness Program (Year-round)
Our retired family therapist counsels struggling children and, when possible, their parents on a weekly basis. She seeks to teach resiliency skills and to repair damaged self-esteem. She also assists families in securing medical diagnoses and treatment if needed.
Summer Day Camp Program (June-August)
Celebrating childhood and connecting children with nature, the Kids Ranch summer day camp program provides a peaceful break for struggling kids. Located in rural Rock Springs, Wisconsin, campers engage in activities that focus on literacy development, team-building exercises, arts and crafts, mental wellness, nature hikes, gardening, and horseback riding.