Written by Public Relations Intern Morgan Tuss
Fourteen-year-old Avery* was struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, anger, and sadness. In desperate need of help, her family decided the best place for her to find hope was 3,000 miles away at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch in Montana.
“I’m a long ways from home,” she said, thinking of her 5,000-person hometown in Alaska.
When Avery first arrived on Yellowstone’s campus, she felt overwhelmed.
“At first it was kind of scary being in a new place. But you get the feeling that people care about you.”
Avery had a warm and cozy treat when she first checked into YBGR. She was able to choose a hand-made quilt to keep her company during her stay at Yellowstone.
“I was actually really surprised,” she said. “I thought, ‘That’s really cool.’”
Avery chose a quilt that is scattered with earthy tones, moose, and trails like the Iditarod.
“When I’m missing home, I can see it and it makes me feel better.”
Avery’s quilt was made with love by three quilters from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Harlowton, Mont. They make dozens of quilts each year for the youth of Yellowstone.
“Those kids, some of them come with absolutely nothing,” said Sue Fortune, one of the quilters. “It really just tugs at your heart.”
Fortune estimates their quilting group has made more than 1,300 quilts for Yellowstone’s kids since 2005. However, keeping up with the amount of quilts needed for incoming YBGR kids is tough. The group started with 22 volunteers, but now just three ladies participate.
“It takes a lot for the three of us to turn out the quilts we do,” Fortune said.
They also rely on donations for materials from generous church members and others in the community. Fortune said she wouldn’t want a YBGR kid to go without one.
For Avery, receiving a quilt helped her settle into her life at the Ranch and heal from wounds of the past. Starting at age seven, Avery endured abuse. She was then diagnosed with posttraumatic stress, major depressive, and generalized anxiety disorders.
“I thought that I would never want to live or enjoy living.”
But the Ranch has given her life again. She has found purpose with various work crews on campus. She earns money by cleaning dishes and tables in the dining hall. She also works by tagging, branding, feeding, doctoring, and cuddling the Ranch’s calves.
“It’s really fun,” she said.
Her time at the Ranch has changed her.
“I’ve been able to do things for myself and helping myself allowed me to help others,” she said. “It’s gotten better since I’ve been at the Ranch, which I never thought I’d get to say.”
And as for Avery’s quilt, you won’t find it bundled in a corner or strewn on the floor. It is proudly displayed across her bed in the lodge, ready to keep her warm at night.
Please call Sue Fortune at 406-632-4204 if you are interested in quilting with or donating to the volunteers at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
*Name changed to protect client confidentiality