Category: News

It Sure Makes a Difference When You Know Someone Cares

It Sure Makes a Difference When You Know Someone Cares

 (Billings, Mont.) May 17, 2018 – “It sure makes a difference when you know someone cares” has been Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) motto for over 60 years, devised by founder Franklin Robbie. Franklin used the motto to describe the work YBGR does for youth in need. Times have changed, but the need to help youth has not, and this motto still rings true today.

YBGR’s Community Based Services (CBS) provides many programs and services to help youth in communities around the state of Montana. I would like to introduce you to a charming and delightful young man named Benjaymn from Billings. Ben and his family are clients of CBS’s Case Management program. Ben who has autism and suffers from a medical condition that has caused a lot of stress and pain on his nine year old body. He has had six kidney surgeries already and the possibility of having more. Ben has poor circulation and is very apparent in his little feet, they are cold and purple. Due to his medical issues and surgeries it’s hard for Ben to get a good nights of sleep.

YBGR recently teamed up with two other local non-profits, Slumberland’s 40 Winks and Blankets & Bears to make a huge but simple difference in some YBGR children’s lives by providing new mattresses and bedding. Ben received a new Tempur-Pedic bed and special NFL bedding. The whole house was abuzz with excitement and joy that Ben was finally going to be able to rest peacefully and have a really cool comforter set with his favorite football team, the Minnesota Vikings!

There were so many tears of gratitude from Ben’s family, but the most touching moment was Ben’s concern when his mom began to cry. Ben grabbed his mother’s hand and looked deep into her eyes and asked her “Momma why are you crying?” and “Momma what’s wrong?” he didn’t realize that her tears were not tears of pain but of happiness. His mother Heather, explained gently to him “These are tears of happiness, momma is alright” as she hugged him to ease his fears and comfort him.  Benjaymn has the most emphatic soul you will ever meet. What an absolute joy he is.

If you would like to help children like Benjaymn, please contact YBGR Foundation at 406-656-8772 or visit  Blankets & Bears can be reached at 406-696-4308,, or visit their Facebook page


(Billings, MT) January 30, 2018− It doesn’t need to be Veterans Day to support and honor our brave heroes. Any day is a great day to show our gratitude to the men and women who selflessly defended our freedoms and liberties. Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) showed their appreciation of veterans by donating jams and jellies made by students in Yellowstone Academy’s Vocational Technology program. All fruit is grown on YBGR’s 410-acre campus on the west end of Billings. YBGR youth tend to the plants, harvest, clean and process all the fruit that they then turn into jams and jellies. The process teaches youth valuable life skills such as patience and dedication. It also gives youth the opportunity to learn about the significance of giving to others.

Yellowstone Academy’s vocational education teacher Jim Klempel and YA Para educator Robert Sipes teamed up recently with Chris Grudzinski, founder of Montana Veterans Meat Locker and current board member of Montana Wounded Warriors to distribute jams and jellies to veterans. For Robert Sipes this project is near and dear to his heart, he is a combat veteran of Desert Storm and understands the struggles that veterans face. “They are a lot like the struggles our kids face at YBGR and YA” Robert said.

Veterans Meat Locker, a non-profit organization provides free professionally processed meat for veterans and their families, was started by Chris and his wife in 2016. The meat is donated by Montana hunters and ranchers, then processed and package at a discount by 4th Ave Meat Market and stored in a walk-in freezer donated by the owners of Popeye’s Louisiana Chicken Restaurants for distribution to qualifying veterans.

Chris, being an Iraq and Afghan veteran himself, wanted to show his gratitude to his fellow veterans by providing what he calls “therapeutic food.” Chris travels around the state of Montana delivering ample free meat to veterans at their request, no questions asked about income. They simply provide a VA card, DD214, or any other valid proof of service. These trips will now include jams and jellies lovingly made by YBGR youth for the veterans to enjoy. Chris says, “I like to shake each veterans hand and thank them for their service”.

Before the sun set on the day these two non-profit joined forces, Chris delivered meat and jam to a Vietnam Veteran named David. David recently finished chemotherapy treatment and was excited to enjoy some toast with the jam.  He said this was perfect since he had lost a lot of his taste for anything during his treatment, but jam was something he could still enjoy.  Chris said of YBGR’s donation “I want everyone to know that they are a part of something so big yet so secret, the appreciation for so many Veterans that have never felt that their service mattered or was appreciated.  This small, yet huge gesture of food as the jam represents is one of the three basic necessities in live.  This precious gift has warmed David’s heart and gave him something he has been needing.”

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch has been providing services for emotional troubled youth and their families for over 60 years. YBGR youth feel so blessed and proud to be able to give back to communities and veterans. “We wanted to give back for what they all (veterans) did and what they have sacrificed and show appreciation for them and their families” said Jim Klempel.

For more information and how you can help the Montana Veterans Meat Locker visit

For more information on Montana Wounded Warriors visit

YBGR Chemical Dependency Expansion

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) has announced the expansion of its Chemical Dependency (CD) Program after receiving licensure from the State of Montana. YBGR will be providing additional programs in Montana to include: Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient Chemical Dependency Treatment, Chemical Dependency Screenings and Evaluations, Family Chemical Dependency Counseling, and Prevention Education services for youth. According to Walter Shore, Director of Chemical Dependency at YBGR, “Our youth deserve the opportunity to experience life without being under the influence of alcohol and drugs and know that someone is there to help.”

Shore further explains that “youth are starting at an alarmingly younger age abusing substances and Montana’s current treatment services are not able to address the high rates of children and adolescent alcohol and drug use.”  YBGR has seen an increase in youth dually diagnosed with both Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Disorders. Early intervention of both disorders is key to preventing higher levels of treatment interventions later in life.

YBGR currently offers CSCT (Comprehensive School and Community Treatment) along with CD services in the Laurel School District and at Medicine Crow and Riverside Junior High Schools in Billings.  The CD services include Chemical Dependency Screenings and Evaluations, along with ongoing Chemical Dependency Therapy Services. Youth placed at YBGR’s Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) in Billings receive Chemical Dependency Evaluations, Substance Abuse Screenings, and Early Intervention/Education Services. Youth also participate in Chemical Dependency Counseling that includes Group (including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), Individual, and Family Therapy Services.

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch is a multi-service organization providing a broad spectrum of services including Psychiatric Residential Treatment, Case Management Services, Care Coordination, Home Support Services, Therapeutic Youth Mentors, Therapeutic Foster Care, Chemical Dependency, CSCT, Supported Employment, Outpatient Therapy Services, Psychological Testing and Day Treatment.

For additional information on Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch visit its website at or call 800-726-6755.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch is honored to welcome our newest board members Wendy Keating and Gary Tognoni to YBGR’s Board of Directors. They are in great company with board members Bob Carr, Chip Youlden, Perry McNeese, Terry Moore, Bill Goodwin and Bob Wilmouth. Wendy Keating who is presently in Washington was able to join the meeting via Zoom, pictured center on a tablet.

YBGR’s 60th year serving troubled Montana kids

Billings Gazette December 25th, 2017

Christmas for emotionally troubled youth served by Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch on campus, in 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 and Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch this year with your time, talents and treasure.

This year marked YBGR’s 60th year of serving emotionally troubled children in our community. Each day, YBGR serves more than 650 emotionally troubled children. Its residential program hosts children on the original 410-acre working ranch between Billings and Laurel. YBGR’s community programs are based out of Garfield School on Billings’ Southside, 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 treatment students from our community and surrounding communities.


As we head into YBGR’s 61st year, we are also thankful for the board members, volunteers, and more than 325 employees of YBGR and Yellowstone Academy who selflessly help these emotionally troubled children day in and day out — and especially at Christmas.

Bill Hritsco, president

YBGR Foundation

Mike Chavers, CEO

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch


Swing Kidz dance to prevent suicide






Swing Kidz dance group performers rehearse at Broadwater Elementary on Monday.

Larry Mayer Gazette Staff

Billings Gazette 11/29/17 by Jaci Webb

They call themselves the Swing Kidz, a name that fits their dance style and personalities.

The Billings dance company primarily performs West Coast Swing, but they also like to throw in some hip hop and modern interpretative dance styles. They are such a tight-knit bunch that they call their dance instructors Mom and Dad, even though Patricia Lambert and her husband Jarrett Lambert are in their mid-20s.

The family atmosphere at dance practice helps boost spirits when a member is having a bad day. That spirit of caring helped them come up with the theme of suicide prevention and depression awareness for their upcoming dance performance, Swing Kidz Extravaganza.

The performance will be held on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 310 N. 27th St. Proceeds from the auction and raffle will go to the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch and a representative from the facility, which helps youths struggling with emotional issues, will speak during the event. Tickets are $15.

It begins with a swing dance lesson and finishes with a dance party after the performance. Patricia Lambert said dance makes a difference in kids’ lives and she can attest to that because she was once that shy kid.

“I went from not being able to speak in public to starting my own business. Dance did that for me,” Lambert said.

Swing Kidz is open to youths between age 6 and 24. The program currently has six students from age 6 to 18. The youngest member is 6-year-old Gabi Spatzier, who has been dancing since she was 2.

Gabi’s mother, Sam, said dance helps Gabi cope with her anxiety.

“I’ve never seen her more excited than she was the first day she started dancing with this group,” Sam Spatzier said.

Beverly-Ruth Laci, an 18-year-old music education major at Montana State University Billings, has been in the group since August. Laci thought raising money to help the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch was an excellent idea.

“The message I want to get across is, ‘It’s OK to get help,’ ” Laci said.

Laci said she struggled with depression and anxiety because she was reluctant to reach out for help. She doesn’t want others to suffer.

An Oregon dance instructor that Lambert and two of her students worked with committed suicide earlier this year. That was a wake-up call for them.

“All of the kids have either experienced depression or someone they know has,” Lambert said.

As she worked with students at rehearsal Monday night, Lambert kept things lively. The music was loud and the pace was steady. Girls dance with other girls since there is only one male member of Swing Kidz.

Alex Hunnes, a 17-year-old Senior High student, said even though he’s the only boy in the group, the other members are some of his closest friends.

“It’s like a family. If anyone in the group is having a problem, we’re always there for each other. Today, Beverly got a flat tire and everyone in the group was wondering how we could help.”

Hunnes discovered dance two years ago when he was at a fiddle camp. He started watching YouTube videos and then saw the Lamberts perform during a John Roberts Y Pan Blanco concert featuring Latin music at St. John’s Lutheran Home.

Earlier this year, Hunnes competed in a swing dance competition in Boston, making finals in the Jack and Jill division, which has dancers rotate partners.

Hunnes believes dance helps relieve stress, which is important to people in his age group.

“People feel super connected in the virtual world, but not in the real world,” Hunnes said.