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Hope Highlights stories from the Ranch

Hope Ranch Newsletter • Vol. 1, No. 4

The Winter Games shatter fundraising goals

T

he torch didn’t come but the athletes did. Jackson Hole’s Hope Ranch lit the way to a cure for autism with an event of Olympic proportions last week. The inaugural Winter Games at Hope Ranch featured athletes in winter-sport events, all competing for one cause: finding a cure for autism. Apolo Ohno, Shaun White, Sasha Cohen and others used their talents to raise awareness and funds for autism research and treatment. When not competing, these athletes held workshops for the public and gave sports lessons to children with autism. Ticket packages and behind-the-scenes passes sold out in mere minutes after opening, quickly surpassing the event’s fundraising goal of $5 million. Anna Geary, president and founder of Hope Ranch, expected the Games to have life-changing results not only for the children but also for the competitors and observers. But the monetary results left her nearly speechless. “When I heard our fundraising total, my first reaction was that we had a typo,” Geary said. “One of the most devastating effects of autism is the void of despair and hopelessness it can leave in a family. I think the Winter Games proved how strong our community is here. I am grateful for every single person who are dedicated their

time, finances and talents to its success.” With ticket sales, donations and sponsorship combined, The Games raised nearly $20 million for Hope Ranch. These funds will allow 100 children and families to attend the residential treatment facility free of charge. That fact alone was enough to move eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno to tears.

“I’ve competed in numerous events and earned many humbling titles,” Ohno said. “But nothing will ever compare to this experience. Seeing the smiles on these kids faces and the hope in their parents’ eyes is worth more than any trophy.”

•A look inside• Winter Games success............1

Snapshots from The Games............2

Upcoming Events............................3

A letter from our founder.......2

Family Victories................................3

Volunteer Spotlight.........................4


Snapshots of The Games

Hope Highlights is published monthly for the Hope Ranch community. Address all comments to: Alistar McCann Communications specialist alistar@hope.com 405.315.2084

Notes from our founder To my dear friends and family who make up this Hope Ranch community: thank you. To every spectator, competitor and participant in the Winter Games: thank you. To every tenderhearted person who has loved and accepted a child with autism: thank you. To the parents who fight on the front lines of autism every day: thank you. Thank you for making this year at Hope Ranch an unbelievable success. Your continual support makes it possible for us to cure autism, life-by-life, day by day. In 2012, Hope Ranch hosted 30 children and their families in intensive yearlong, residential treatment programs for autism. We saw these children take steps toward recovery every day, and we saw a renewed sense of hope and peace in their families. Our outstanding staff of 30 licensed therapists designed programs for each child’s needs, and I cannot contain my tears when I think of the outcomes. It is with a joyful heart I now tell you all of Hope Ranch’s 2012 students are now functioning at a “normal” grade

level for their age. They are in school for the first time, their families can function as a unit again, and they walk in hope every day. Some of our students have entered the workforce, and others are utilizing their creative gifts. None of this, not one of these changed lives, would be possible without you. Your support, encouragement and commitment to our mission is the lifeblood of Hope Ranch. We just celebrated the completion of our first Winter Games, an Olympic-style fundraising competition that attracted competitors like Apolo Ohno and Shaun White. The Games were equal parts fun and effective, raising more than $20 million. This far exceeded our $5 million goal, and I am gratefully humbled. This funding will allow 100 families to attend Hope Ranch free of charge this year, as well as fund the building of a state-of-the-art aquatic center on our grounds. Even as we continue to grow, Hope Ranch’s mission will hold true: to cure autism, one child at a time. Hopefully yours,

Hope Highlights • 3

Hope Highlights • 2

Hope Ranch family finds a solution to its puzzle

The words were broken and mispronounced, but it was a Hope found the Hoovers through a Google search for autism sentence: “I want juice, please.” treatment centers five years after Zack’s diagnosis. Among the Penny Hoover stared at her 9-year-old son in disbelief. results was a news release about the opening of Hope Ranch, a Zack had a voice, he could think, and he was thirsty. residential treatment facility for children and families affected March 7, 2011, marked the first time Penny heard her by autism. The center’s location in Jackson Hole, Wyo., was son speak. Zack was diagnosed with autism at age 3, after his far from the Hoover’s home in Oklahoma, but logistics didn’t developmental progress stopped. Doctors told Penny and her stop Penny from calling. The number connected her to Hope husband, Travis, that Zack might never speak more than a few Ranch’s director of nutritional therapy, Sam McKinney. mumbles. They tested his hearing and offered their sympathy. “I remember the first time I talked to Penny,” Sam said. But, they couldn’t give the Hoovers the one thing they wanted: “She didn’t need words because the utter exhaustion in her answers. voice said it all.” “All I remember from the first years after Zack’s diagnosis The Hoovers worked with Sam and the Hope Ranch team was a feeling of complete darkness,” Hoover said. “When to formulate a treatment plan tailored to Zack’s needs. He something robs your child of life, it takes spent hours in occupational therapy, speech away yours.” therapy and other programs before that day in “Hope means to have March when he first spoke. From there, the Autism did just that: it took away Zack’s life. He seemed lost in his own world, and the grounds for believing pieces continued to fall together as Zack not Hoovers couldn’t even break in. His autism only reached developmental milestones – he something good will surpassed them. In a year, Zack’s autism was changed each day. One moment he’d giggle while watching his favorite movie scene on happen. At Hope Ranch, undone. repeat, the next he’d bite the wood headboard At age 10, Zack just entered the fifth grade. that’s what we give.” of his bed in a screaming rage. His “normal” life wouldn’t be possible without Autism affects one in 88 children in the the place he and his family found hope. United States alone, according to the Centers Hope Ranch aims to give every child’s story for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, a beginning. Staff members, like Sam, work to That’s a 200 percent increase in prevalence since 2002. The restore and heal children and families broken by autism. To vexing thing about autism is that there’s no cure, or even a learn about other families changed by Hope Ranch, visit hope. standard treatment plan. com. “I think all families of a child with autism know the “So many people see autism as an end, something they’ll struggle and confusion of not knowing where to turn,” Penny never recover from,” Sam said. “But, hope means to have said. “You live in the trenches, fighting each day to cling to grounds for believing something good will happen. At Hope whatever sliver of hope you find.” Ranch, that’s what we give.”

Feb. 20

Upcoming Events

March 3

Winter Games recap and recognition banquet

Feb. 14

Feb. 27

Valentine's Day Party

Autsim Awareness dinner at the Mangy Moose

March 12-18

March 19

March 22

March 30

Spring Break at The Ranch

Free ski day at Rendezvous Mountain

Allergen-free baking workshop

Student Art Fair

Mid-semester evaluations and progress reports


Hope Highlights • 4

Volunteer Spotlight: Ashley Duvall I’m not tempted to punch the snooze button in the mornings anymore. The 6:30 a.m. alarm is a welcome sound now. When I wake up, the sun taps me on the shoulder, and I know, like the sun, hope is rising. I’ve volunteered in Hope Ranch’s therapeutic riding center for a year, and I can say without a doubt it has changed my life. Even better, I know I’ve played a part in changing lives. A typical day in the barn starts at 7 a.m., where a dedicated team of 15 volunteers prepares to teach our students. We take the Ranch’s 10 beautiful horses out to pasture for exercise and watch the sun climb over the tops of the Grand Tetons. Every day, I am abundantly thankful for this view. At 8 a.m., we welcome our first class of Hope Ranch students. Each child is paired with a horse to feed, groom and

saddle for riding that day. We help when necessary, but this small taste of responsibility is tantalizing for our kids. Many authors have written of the mystical bond between a horse and rider, but I can say I’ve seen its power with my own eyes. When the riders are ready, we help them mount and enter the ring. This is where I have seen change happen. The volunteers split into teams paired with a rider. One leads the horse and the other walks alongside the horse, holding the rider’s hand when necessary, or relaying instructions. We lead the horse-andrider teams through a series of obstacles strategically designed to teach communication and muscle coordination. The progress each student makes throughout the year makes every early morning, every tear and every difficult moment disappear. On the back of those horses, I’ve heard first words, complete

sentences and triumph over fears. I could recount story after story of the victories we’ve witnessed in the Barn, but I think author Toni Robinson described it best. “Horses change lives. They give our young people confidence and self-esteem. They provide peace and tranquility to troubled souls. They give us hope!”

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