Ranch Ehrlo celebrates 25 years in the north

·3 min read

The Ranch Ehrlo Society recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of opening the doors to their Prince Albert campus by giving neighbouring community members an opportunity to learn more about the organization and the services they offer.

A wide variety of people were invited to the celebration, including Mayor Greg Dionne, staff from the Ministry of Social Services, the Children’s Advocate office, Indian Child Services, Ranch Ehrlo board members and past and present staff.

“We want to educate anyone in the Buckland or Prince Albert area that are not overly familiar with Ranch Ehrlo,” said Kevin Mugford, Prince Albert’s Director of Group Living. “They're coming to enjoy some burgers, some cake and some gestures from us, but more importantly for us to walk them through our group home, educate them on the work that we do and thank people for supporting us and making connections with other people that we're not familiar.”

The Canada-wide, multi-service, non-profit agency operates group living, clinical, family, community, cultural and educational programs for children ages 10 to 17 with mental health, behavioural, and addictions needs, adolescents with complex developmental disorders, and community recreation and sports programs for at-risk youth.

The 40-acre Buckland campus opened on July 1, 1997, and they celebrated their anniversary milestone on Thursday afternoon with a barbeque and tours of the facility.

“Today, we are celebrating not only the 25 years of service to youth and our impressive staff members that provide that service, but we’re also excited about the next 25 years,” Mugford said.

The Prince Albert/Buckland campus has an emergency receiving home for ages 11 and under, and two youth group homes. It is also home to the Hansen Education Centre, an outdoor hockey rink, basketball courts, a soccer field and walking trails.

The campus is located 20 minutes north of Prince Albert and borders the provincial forest and Sturgeon River. A third group home is located within the City of Prince Albert.

Mugford said one of the reasons that Ranch Ehrlo expanded to Prince Albert was for the northern, camp-like atmosphere that the location provides.

“Many of our children are from northern communities. When they were provided services and support and they were ready to move back home with family members, they transitioned to Prince Albert, which was much more comfortable for them,” he said. “I think that’s the uniqueness of the Buckland campus.”

Ranch Ehrlo was founded by the late Dr. Geoff Pawson in 1966 as a single home for six boys with significant complex needs. The organization grew to over 800 employees and now delivers services and support to both female and male youth all over Canada. Saskatchewan is home to three campuses in Pilot Butte, Corman Park, and Prince Albert.

“Our goal is to provide a family atmosphere and provide the support that the individual teenager is asking us for, so that they can successfully move home to their families in their home communities,” Mugford said.

Ranch Ehrlo recently announced that they will be building a small school on the Prince Albert campus, equipped with some classrooms and activity gym. While final details are still being discussed, Mugford confirmed the building will be opened in 18 to 24 months.

Director of clinical services for Ranch Ehrlo’s northern programs, Vance Heaney, said the campuses provide their own therapeutic educational services.

“It’s fairly intense and all-encompassing, we take kind of a holistic approach,” said Heaney.

While overall the services they provide are similar at all locations, the programming may be slightly tailored to suite the presenting needs of the individual youth.

According to Ranch Ehrlo Society’s 2020-21 outcomes report, 284 youth were served at the Ranch last year. Roughly 77 per cent of the former youth under 16 are attending school, 86 per cent are living with family or on their own, 87 per cent of former youth have neither been charged or convicted of a criminal offence, and 86 per cent have very positive relationships with parents or peers.

Bailey Sutherland, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald