This Sunday we are kicking off National Volunteer Appreciation Week and to celebrate we want to shine a light on the people that inspire us every day through their devotion to the DHR mission. Follow along to hear Rona’s story…
Rona has been a special part of the Down Home Ranch family for over 12 years. She visits DHR once a year with the Sunnybrook Christian Church from Stillwater, OK on their annual mission trip. Rona and her husband, Dan, initiated these mission trips and many great volunteers have joined them over the years – over 250 total!
What motivated you to volunteer with Down Home Ranch?
🗣The year was 2007, and I was sitting on the couch holding our infant daughter Willa. While channel flipping I happened to catch a segment on the national news about Down Home Ranch. We had been very surprised when Willa was diagnosed with Down syndrome about eight days after her birth. While working through the shock and concern, my thoughts immediately turned to what her future would look like. When I saw the news clip about DHR, I latched onto the picture of hope and possibility that the Ranch presented.
What makes volunteering at DHR a meaningful use of your time?
🗣 The joy our family has found in spending time at the Ranch cannot be described. Initially, our motivation was all about our own child. However, over time, we have been motivated more by the relationships we have built with the Ranchers and staff and the beautiful community we now feel a part of. In addition to Willa, we have two teenagers. They enjoy going to the Ranch as much as we do. They feel a sense of acceptance there – a sense of community not always found in the world at large.
What is the biggest personal benefit that you’ve received as a volunteer?
🗣 Personally, the very existence of the Ranch gives me so much hope for Willa’s future. I’m not sure it will be the perfect fit for her, but just knowing a place like this is possible fills me with peace. Also, I’m so thankful that our time spent at the Ranch seems to be making the world just a bit better for Willa and her peers that live with special needs. Simply put, the Ranch is an incubator for advocates. I have learned so much from everyone at the Ranch. Many of our Oklahoma volunteers return home to become powerful advocates in their own corner of the world, due to their experience volunteering at DHR.
What do you wish other people knew about working with individuals with disabilities?
🗣 That there is nothing to fear. And that the level of need does not define a person’s worth or limit their contribution to this world. Sometimes those that have the highest level of need are the ones that offer the most blessing to others. After all, every human needs some level of help to make it in this world.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering at the Ranch?
🗣 Just give it a try. You will be amazed at what you learn. You may go into the experience trying to “help” and then realize later that you are the one that received the blessing. You won’t find a more welcoming place to use your skills and make a difference.