COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Since first opening its doors in 1961, the mission of The Buckeye Ranch has been to restore hope and provide healing for at-risk children, youth, and families in central Ohio.
The Buckeye Ranch was founded by a group of volunteers devoted to making an impact on children in the community. At the age of 99, Rosie Lewis now lives in a retirement community, but she is very proud of being an original founder of what was then called The Buckeye Boys Ranch.
“Well, it was a good cause, for one thing,” said Lewis when asked about what first motivated her to start the organization.
The Buckeye Ranch opened as a treatment center for 10 young men, whom Lewis says she remembers fondly.
“We got to know them pretty well, some of them came back by the way. It was successful,” said Lewis.
Her friend, Ann Rarey, joined Lewis in a volunteer effort to raise funds for the nonprofit organization.
“He says you’re the DNA of the ranch,” said Rarey, when talking about the original leaders of The Buckeye Ranch.
The two women spearheaded the fundraising by planning elaborate Balloon Balls that featured famous performers like Nat King Cole and Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. They also hosted a fundraising tennis tournament that featured Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors.
“We had to have some good entertainment if they’re going to ask for money,” said Lewis.
During the 1980’s, the organization opened its outpatient services for girls and became known as simply The Buckeye Ranch.
Today, they serve over 5,000 families in central Ohio.
At age 90, Rarey still volunteers for the charity by sending out newsletters and informational updates to sustaining board members.
“I feel pretty good; I’ll keep doing it as long as I can physically do it,” said Rarey.
Caidyn Bearfield suffered from severe, suicidal depression at age 15. She spent a year at The Buckeye Ranch. Now, she has graduated high school and works two jobs while attending classes at Columbus State Community College.
“I care about my future, I am no longer suicidal, I want a good life for me and a good future for me,” said Bearfield.
As The Buckeye Ranch celebrates six decades of helping children and families achieve their goals, organizers say they hope to expand into more preventative care in the future.
“I would love a day when kids are not in such a severe state of mental health need that we have less demand for our residential treatment center,” said Vickie Thompson-Sandy, CEO of The Buckeye Ranch.
Lewis hopes to see even more children lead healthy and happy lives after leaving The Buckeye Ranch.
“I stand in awe, you know, when they graduate out there, they have a big bell, and they get to ring it when they leave, and I hope they keep ringing it for many, many years,” said Lewis.
To learn more information about the services of The Buckeye Ranch, visit: https://www.buckeyeranch.org/