Summer enrichment program at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches

Philip Ives, Chief Operations Officer, recently reflected on 2020. Like all children, the children who call the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches home experienced some tough times throughout the pandemic. As a result, Ives committed to making the summer of 2021 extra special for Ranchers. He felt Ranchers deserved a fun-filled, adventure-packed summer full of learning opportunities. With the support of Ranch staff, he set out to create a fresh Summer Enrichment Program.

“We’ve already begun teaching life skills to Ranchers. Designing a true Summer Enrichment Program is one more way to ensure the kids stay busy, active, and engaged this summer,” Philip shared.

About the ASYR Summer Enrichment Program

summer enrichment program Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches art

During the summer, Ranchers will participate in various summer enrichment activities each week. However, Ranch staff can’t pull off the program by themselves. They need the support of the community. Ranch staff are currently seeking involvement from local artisans, makers, subject matter experts, and business owners willing to share skills, knowledge, and talents with Ranchers. Many community leaders and experts are already on board, including:

  • Crumbs Up Bakery
  • Batesville Junior High coach Rian Puckett
  • Lyon Women’s Wrestling coach Kevin Corbett
  • Old Independence Regional Museum
  • barber Troy Dixon
  • social worker Miriah Bruce
  • yoga instructor Alexis Schwinghammer
  • artisans Janet and Dustin Morgan

Some experts will conduct on-site hands-on workshops and demonstrations. Others will host Ranchers at their business or organization site for field trips or workshops.

In addition to the summer enrichment sessions led by community experts, Ranch staff will take the Ranchers on excursions and adventures throughout the summer, including the Batesville Aquatics Center, fish hatcheries, and Arkansas State Parks. The summer isn’t just about fun. Staff will also lead academic enrichment sessions (funded by the Batesville School District) and life skills training sessions. Math, reading, and science sessions will be provided for all Ranchers. Another aspect of the summer enrichment program includes age-appropriate life skills sessions. Topics offered include CPR certification, financial literacy, soft skills, career development sessions, and more.

Other summer experiences for Ranchers

That’s not all. Ranch therapist Maylynn Staggs will lead a summer camp for the Ranchers as well. The camp will feature life skills sessions, swimming excursions, art days, and more. Ives and supporting staff, along with houseparents, will host on-campus group activities. For example, Ives is planning Friday Night Fun, including pizza parties and movie nights.

“We’re still looking for community experts and leaders to get involved. We need experts from all industries to host on-site demonstrations, presentations, training sessions, and hands-on workshops. The more we can involve kids and let them try things out, the more real experience they gain. This helps them build self-confidence,” Ives stated.

Do you have expertise or talent you’re willing to share with the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches this summer?

Please get involved! Contact Philip Ives, Chief Operations Officer, at 870-793-6841 to volunteer to host a session or workshop. Ranchers range in ages from 6-18. Your session may include all Ranchers or specific Ranchers (depending on your expertise and skill level of participants).

If you don’t live nearby but want to support the Summer Enrichment Program, you can make a financial contribution to support the program. Donations help fund pizza parties, travel expenses, and more. In addition, the Ranch needs supplies and snacks for the program, including:

  • pre-packaged nutritious snacks and treats
  • canned or bottled drinks
  • outdoor game and sports equipment
  • water sports and recreational gear
  • group yard games.

To make an in-kind donation of goods or materials, call the Ranch at 870-793-6841.

Follow the Ranch on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram for regular updates, news, & opportunities to get involved.



Baking for kids: Making birthdays special at the Ranch

Alishia Baker truly lives up to her last name.

birthday cake Alishia BakerAn avid, creative baker, Alishia started baking at a young age and has always loved it. Recently, she began volunteering her time, talent, and baked goods to the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches.

About birthdays at the Ranch

Founded in 1976 by Arkansas sheriffs, the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches provide a loving, supportive place to call home for about 60 children per year. Located near Batesville, Arkansas, the Ranch operates family-style cottages, helping children feel secure, stable, and comfortable. The Ranch provides multiple programs and services for Ranchers, including therapy sessions, an educational summer program, and outdoor activities. Children at the Ranch also participate in chores and attend church weekly.

When children who call the Ranch home celebrate birthdays, they receive a gift from the Ranch and a birthday cake or cupcakes. Alishia makes this celebration time sweeter by creating cakes tailored to individual children’s preferences for flavor, color, and theme. She recently donated a custom-made vanilla “kitten” cake with pink frosting, complete with ears, a nose, eyes, and whiskers for a child’s birthday party. The recipient, a young birthday girl, was thrilled. At about $40 per cake, volunteer bakers save the Ranch $2,400 annually while providing children with special experiences.

The making of a baker

Alishia Baker first realized her talent merited attention when she baked a cake for her church in 2014.birthday cupcakes Alishia Baker

“For our pie auction, I baked a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. It brought some of the highest bids,” Alishia recalls.

After the auction, two women from church requested that Alishia bake their birthday cakes. Alishia also hosted a fundraiser and prepared a cake for a Miss Arkansas candidate. Her fan base grew. The more people tasted her cakes and recognized her cake decorating abilities, the more they requested to purchase her creations.

Making birthdays special

In January 2020, we posted on Facebook about the need for bakers willing to bake custom birthday cakes for Ranchers. Alishia jumped at the opportunity and immediately responded.

“I have a very soft spot for kids who are less fortunate. Birthdays are a HUGE deal to me. I wanted the rose cupcakes birthday kids at the Ranch to feel extra special on their day,” Alishia shares.

Thanks to volunteers and donors like Alishia, our Ranchers do feel special.

Do you have a special talent, business service, or product to donate to children who call the Ranch home? Please consider volunteering or giving to the Ranch. Contact us at 870-793-6841 or via email to find out how you can build hope in children’s lives.

You may also make a charitable contribution to Ranch, which helps pay for things like shoes, clothing, and even birthday presents. As an organization that is almost entirely privately funded, we would not be able to provide these special occasions for our Ranchers without support from donors. Click here to make a one-time or monthly gift.