Category: News

YBGR Spiritual Life Kids’ Camp Back Again

(Billings, Mont.) February 11, 2017 – Thanks to generous donors of the Yellowstone Foundation, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch’s (YBGR) Young Life kids’ camp is back again! Kicking the day off with Club worship, Billings Young Life youth ministry had begun the first day of a three-day winter camp for YBGR youth. Close to 55 of the 65 residents in treatment at YBGR had attended the spiritual-based camp on the first day.

“This is the second time Young Life has been out to host a camp with our kids… and to see the kind of participation where nearly all of our kids want to be here… it’s awesome,” said John Dailey, YBGR’s Director of Spiritual Life.

Young Life volunteers providing entertainment for outside activities

The day began in chapel worship with Billings’ Young Life volunteer, worship team. Staff and kids sat, stood, danced, hugged, sang, and watched as the Young Life performers poured melodious, Christ-centered hymns and songs into the room.

“It’s amazing to see some of the most shy kids open up. Our kids have such diverse pasts of trauma, depression, anxiety, and just situational obstacles. To see them dancing and swinging around – just being kids— that’s the gift that the Spiritual Life program and this camp brings,” said Dailey.

The camp included evening entertainment from Dailey, Keith Dow (Billings Young Life Area Director), and camp volunteers. With weather in the 40’s, the kids participated in outdoor games like playing with a giant “Zorb” ball, knocking over giant “Jenga” blocks, and running in sled relays. They also participated in the rock wall, bowling, and much more. Sunday evening will end with an opportunity for youth to express personal devotion to Christ and an outdoor bonfire.

“As always, our partnership with Young Life is a blessing,” said Dailey. “The community involvement and growth in these kids’ personal relationships with individuals in the community and with Christ is what this is all about.”


YBGR upgrades staff training room equipment

(Billings, Mont.) February 9, 2017 – Yellowstone’s staff Training Center is up and running with new office equipment. A portion of a Cognitive Behavior Therapy grant provided in late 2016 by PacificSource Health Plans funded the new upgrades for the two staff on-boarding and training rooms. Totaling nearly $10,000, the new tables, chairs, and two televisions are needed upgrades for the rooms that were ready for new equipment.

Jennifer Scilley, YBGR’s Community Based Services Administrative Assistant, works on training modules in the computer lab.

“As the training coordinator for YBGR, I am thrilled to have new office equipment for staff to use,” said Jessica Rouix, YBGR’s Training Coordinator. “Having an environment that people want to spend time learning in makes the process much more enjoyable.”

All YBGR staff given sixty-year sweatshirts

(Billings, Mont.) February 3, 2017 – All staff of Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, Yellowstone Academy, and the Yellowstone Foundation received employee appreciation sweatshirts for the meaningful work they do for the youth of YBGR, living the mission each day. With over 220 staff members facilitating mental health services in Montana, staff work to provide youth, families, and communities we impact with a variety of treatment options.

“We are proud to ‘live the legacy’ of sixty years of caring,” said Mike Chavers, YBGR’s CEO.


Billings Symphony to Play at YBGR

(BILLINGS, Mont.) January 9, 2017 – The Robbie Chapel at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) will fill with the vibrant sound of music during a visit from the Billings Symphony. January 9, Monday afternoon from 1-2:30 p.m., YBGR kids will experience the symphony’s sophisticated classics, familiar Disney songs, and melodious tunes.

Candy Holzer of the Billings Symphony said that through the Explore Music program that the Billings Symphony receives grants for, they are able to visit schools and seniors in the community.

“Of course, our whole reason is to hope that maybe they will try out music and take advantage of their school band, choir or orchestra program,” she said.

The Ranch is no stranger to strings. Pictured above are members of the Yellowstone Bluegrass Association, playing for a crowd in the Ranch’s Chapel last fall.

The symphony has visited YBGR in the past for similar concerts. Ron O’Leary, YBGR’s music and art teacher has enjoyed their visits.

“I think it’s great to expose students to unfamiliar forms of music,” he said. “It helps to expand their idea of what’s out there in the world.”

Both O’Leary and Holzer said that the experience is unique for many of the kids because they may have never heard a professional live quartet or musical group before.

“It’s really a rewarding experience for so many of the kids,” said O’Leary.

One law enforcement officer is taking the spirit of giving to the next level

By Kolby Crossley of SWX Right Now Fox news station

BOZEMAN – One Law Enforcement Officer is taking the spirit of giving to the next level. Deputy Sheriff Dean DuVall out of Park County has created Operation Christmas Lights, it’s an operation to help families in need this Christmas by donating hundreds of presents.

In its first year of operation, Operation Christmas Lights will be delivering presents to 102 kids this Christmas.

Deputy Sheriff Dean DuVall says, “One of the things I wanted to see with this operation was bridging the gap between the public and the police.”

Deputy Sheriff DuVall went to the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch with the idea of donating presents to those in need on Christmas. He says this operation has become bigger than everyone involved in it.

“It exploded once they got excited about, about doing a team project and then we ended up locating 102 kids within the county,” says DuVall.

In its first year of operation, close to five thousand dollars has been donated to purchase 400 gifts.

“One of the main things that officers are going to do on this night is demonstrate to others that simple acts of kindness can actually crush hatred,” DuVall continues.

Joshua Bigner, Case Manager at the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch says DuVall stepping up like this is an incredible act.

Bigner says, “I think it’s a great thing, I think it’s just great that Dean DuVall was willing enough and brave enough to promote this project to us.”

DuVall with the help of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch put this operation together in just ten days. He now wants to challenge the rest of the nation.

DuVall says, “This is going to be contagious, acts of kindness are becoming contagious when people see this. And I challenge leaders across Montana and across our nation to come up with a better operation and better ideas to better their communities.”

Deputy Sheriff DuVall says you never know what the future holds but he hopes to continue operation Christmas lights next year.

Click here to watch the video segment by Bozeman, Montana’s SWX Right Now news station.


A Message of Thanks

Christmas for emotionally troubled youth served by Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch on campus, in group homes and foster homes, and even living at home, can be a lonely time.  We want to give our heartfelt thanks to all our friends in the community who supported Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation this year with your time, talents and treasure.

Next year, YBGR will celebrate 60 years of serving emotionally troubled children in our community!  Each day, YBGR serves more than 600 emotionally troubled children.  Its residential program hosts children on the original 410 acre working ranch between Billings and Laurel.  Its community programs are based out of Garfield School on Billings’ south side, providing therapeutic foster homes, school based therapy, and family therapy and support throughout southern and eastern Montana.  Yellowstone Academy, an accredited public K-8 and private high school, provides special education to YBGR’s residential children and day school students from our community and surrounding communities.

As we head into YBGR’s 60th year, we are also thankful for the board members, volunteers, and 325 employees of YBGR and Yellowstone Academy who selflessly help these emotionally troubled children day in and day out . . . and especially at Christmas.


Kurt Alme, President Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation
Mike Chavers, CEO Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch

Warming Up Kids with Blankets and Bears

(BILLINGS, Mont.) December 7, 2016 – This holiday season, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) has much to be thankful for, especially when it comes to gifts provided by Billings area partners and businesses. Nonprofit organization Blankets and Bears, founded by Sandy McCaffrey, is just one of the businesses who’ve supported YBGR in years past. The Ranch is excited to see the organization back again this year.

Blankets and Bears LogoBlue“For the past 9 years, Pillows, Blankets, and Bears has provided a number of youth with a unique gift at Christmas,” Rick Hamblin, Director of Community Based Services, said. “The children are all smiles when they receive their bundles.”

For YBGR’s Community Based Services (CBS) kids and families, they get to be a part of a special kind of giving… guaranteed to be cozy and warm. In an event which lasts from 3:30 – 5 p.m. on Dec. 19, at Garfield Center in Downtown Billings, nonprofit organization Blankets and Bears will donate enough bundles which include a new pillow and pillow case, a blanket, and a stuffed animal for nearly 60 YBGR CBS youth and other children in the community. In years past, volunteers have dressed in Christmas outfits and presented each child a gift.

“Deliveries to YBGR have captured me because this is what caused us to grow,” McCaffrey said. “I am just blessed to be able to have our community rally around the children that need us here in Yellowstone County and beyond.” McCaffree said that, in 2005, Blankets and Bears delivered only seven bundles in total, but expects that this year they will deliver nearly 800 bundles. “All of the children have my heart. They’re my first priority,” she said.

Halloween Tricks and Treats at YBGR Annual Harvest Party

By Morgan Tuss

One step, two step, three step… Stop! Justin Bieber’s famous tunes cut short by the swift finger-press of the contest moderator, Vanessa Grossman. Pause! The kids halted to a hop and stumble, each landing on a numbered square. Eyes looked left and right and torsos wobbled as they waited for their fate.


…And then there were nine. Survivors of the elimination sighed a breath of relief and stood by for the “go-ahead” to walk the circle again. The finger pressed play and Bieber belted on.

Trays of Rice Crispy treats and brownies; baskets of candies, bags of cookies, and plastic encasings of cupcakes agonizingly delicious looking, but all unmistakably overshadowed by mouthwatering rows of colorful, green, orange, and brown cakes topped with marshmallows, chocolates, Gummy Worms, and technicolored candy sprinkles.

dsc03369Certainly enough cake for a cake walk… or a cavity.

In the midst of a fall evening, the dining hall glowed from the outside in, lit with bustling activity from all sides of the room. Kids hurried from station to station testing out each game and competing with their peers. In costume and garb, staff and guardians watched-on, attending to the party-goers needs and encouraging Halloween spirit.


The youth toiled over who was next in line and how many turns the person had in front of them. Gladly, they accepted candy as a satisfactory reward for each finished game.

Moving on from one station to the next, the youth looked for opportunities to high-five friends and steal successful techniques.


John Dailey’s “Just Dance” with the Wii attracted the kind of partiers who weren’t afraid to bust a move. They watched the screen closely, flicking their wrists, waving their arms, dipping and kicking their legs out, and shuffling their feet—buoyant with the rhythm of the on-screen dancer. If focus could be measured, this game would take the win.



At different stations, party-goers took turns throwing footballs into holes, mowing down towers of red SOLO cups and monster bowling “pins,” blindfolding each other and pinning the wart on the witch, tossing bean bags into a coffin-shaped Cornhole game, and participating in other carnival games decked-out in spooky, orange and black decor. It was clear that each lodge put a lot of thought into their station, making each of them the engaging and inviting booths that they were.


The hall was hung with jack o lanterns, ghosts, ghouls, spiders, and skeletons and featured a traditional centerpiece with straw bales, corn, pumpkins, a rooster, and a scarecrow.

Some staff brought their spouses and kids, and wore costumes to match the fun. Anya Mohr dressed as the Victorian Queen Anne and served punch until the ladle ran dry. Rishay Watson, PRTF Executive Director,  and Dr. Chandra Perez, YBGR’s clinical director, brought over their kiddos and Jeff Seeley brought his son too.


Every person eyed the cakes, treats, and goodies on the way in and out—even the youngest of us.

A Halloween Poem

Without a doubt, the ghouls, goblins, and ghosts galore would’ve been dancing in their skeletons to be at our door.

But, the biggest scare is yet to come. Not Halloween, the presidential election, or your mum…

Lurking in the backdrop of one of these photos is the iconic reminder of the day that comes only but once a year: The holiday that children dream of and the one that parents fear—Christmas!


‘It Takes a Village’ to Treat Mental Illness

By Morgan Tuss

The Billings Police Department (BPD) has reported an increase in calls that involve mental illness, within the last two years. The latest report showed that crime involving mental illness cases are up 9.35% from 984 reports, in 2014, to 1076 reports, in 2015. These statistics do not include incidents involving individuals with undetermined illnesses, which BPD said could significantly add to those numbers.

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week – an appropriate time to take a closer look at mental health issues and treatment in our community.

Increasing Incidents

Lieutenant Neil Lawrence of the BPD offered insight into how the department handles mental illness. He said that Billings officers regularly encounter individuals who struggle with mental illness.

“At least on a daily basis, you’re going to have contact with someone who is attached to a mental illness,” said Lawrence.

He said that police awareness and capability to handle mental illness has increased since the time that he was hired by the department, 22 years ago. He explained that each officer undergoes Crisis Intervention Training which incorporates scenarios of common disturbances and skills on how to deescalate situations. He also said that officers often work with local agencies like Tumbleweed to help find placement and treatment for troubled individuals.

“If we can get them the help they need then we’re certainly going to try to help,” said Lawrence.

Treating Those in Need

There are a number of organizations in Billings which treat individuals struggling with psychiatric and mental health needs. Two of them are Tumbleweed and Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR).

Tumbleweed provides overnight, drop-in care; outpatient and crisis counseling for families and individuals; and counseling services within two of the Billings high schools. Jamie Rettig, the Lead Counselor at Tumbleweed, reported that during the fiscal year of 2015, they impacted 482 individuals through their drop-in care and 558 individuals through crisis counseling and family mediation. They also average 227 calls per month on their crisis line.

“The need has increased. I definitely have seen that,” she said. “I think there are some great gaps that can be filled.”

She also recognized the importance of reaching youth and families sooner in their life rather than later.

“We need to be catching kids earlier… By the time they see these places their issues are usually much more compounded,” said Rettig.

Like Tumbleweed, YBGR offers care within schools as well as outpatient child and family counseling, but also offers other services such as residential treatment, Home Support Services, Targeted Case Management, school-based Behavior Support Specialists, Supported Employment for youth seeking jobs, and Therapeutic Foster Care.

“We are committed to building new solutions, adapting existing services, and partnering with others to address these growing needs,” said Mike Chavers, CEO of YBGR.

Chandra Perez, the Clinical Director for YBGR, said that one of the difficulties of treating mentally ill patients is trying to find the balance of properly treating them in their environment of choice.

Perez said, “When kids move to a different environment, there’s a sense of trauma, anxiety—stress for the kids. Because of that research, people want to try everything they can to keep the child in the home.”

She said that while in-home treatment is the first choice, it may not always be the right approach.

Tumbleweed and YBGR both treat many kids suffering from past trauma.

“Many of our kids come from a background of trauma, either in their home of origin or throughout the foster care system. So, them staying in that trauma and chaos isn’t necessarily the most healthy,” said Perez.

Perez also said that the problems associated with individuals’ unwillingness to seek treatment for mental illness are the stigmas attached to them and a lack of education.
“More than half of the population at some time throughout their life has some diagnosis of mental illness, so chances are that other people won’t be judging you. The nice part, also, about mental health services is that they’re typically confidential,” said Perez.

Billings-native and graduate psychology student Alexa Huschka is trying to combat that exact issue—a lack of education. Huschka studies school psychology at the University of Oregon and said that erasing the stigma behind mental illness comes from being informed and understanding.

“It’s really important for people to learn about mental illness and how sometimes, it’s something that can just happen. No one is less of a person because they have a mental illness,” she said.

Her education consists of identifying student learning disabilities, behavior support, and collaborating with parents and teachers to help the student succeed.

“For students struggling with a mental illness, receiving help in any form is taking control and fighting for a better life,” said Huschka.

Orchard Elementary is taking a charge on implementing positive thinking. YBGR Behavior Support Specialist, Breanna Maples said there is a motto that they use to encourage staff and students at the school—“It takes a village.”

And Billings is just that.

For more information about Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch visit, e-mail, or call 1-800-726-6755.
For more information about Tumbleweed visit or call their 24-hour crisis counseling hotline at 1-888-816-4702.

A Great Place to Grow Up

Donald Finch was used to being on his own. His mom was rarely home, working night shifts as a nurse in order to feed her eight children. His dad was an alcoholic. As the second oldest, Donald knew it was up to him to take care of himself and his siblings. But it wasn’t long until social services put them in the foster care system.

“I’d stay with one family for a little while and then they’d come and uproot me,” he said.

Donald felt stripped from his family. He was craving a home, and that’s what he found at Yellowstone.

df-001-web“I came out here in the fall of ’57.” He was caught stealing beer, cigars, and money. The judge gave him the choice between Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility and the Boys Ranch.

“I always liked the idea of a ranch,” he said. Donald was the 10th boy to stay at Yellowstone, where he lived for close to six years.

“It was a great place to grow up,” he said. “It was like a home. It was a good place to live. It felt like a big family.”

But Donald still yearned to connect with his biological family. This made the holidays tough.

“When Christmas rolled around, everyone at the Ranch here got to go home,” he said. “I was the only kid here. I had to do the chores, milk the cows, feed the hogs. I resented that because I was the only one here.” But his lodge parents made him feel at home and like he was a member of their family.

Donald’s days at the Ranch started at 3 or 4 a.m., when he would check the water. He would farm in the corn and wheat fields, garden, irrigate, and work with the horses. He helped build lodges on the ranch, as well. When he was done working, he knew he could go back to the lodge for a home-cooked meal.

df-004-web“Mrs. McNeal was a super good cook,” he said. “When she baked pies for dessert, you’d get about a quarter slice of pie. She didn’t skimp at all when it came time to feed you. She made darn sure you got fed well.”

It was those caring relationships with staff that Donald remembers most.

“They were positive role models,” he said. “They taught you a lot of values.”

And they gave him a family when he couldn’t be with his own.

“It was a great place,” he said. “It helped me grow up and gave me a lot of good direction in life. The Boys Ranch was the best thing that ever happened in my life.”