The stories are countless; the number of human and equine lives affected grows more endless by the day. But the impact of Oregon's Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch is best seen through the words of its staff.
"It's the moments when you walk away feeling like you made a difference," says Julie Love. "I just had one of these 'payday' moments. I was working with a young girl and she started crying. So we stopped and talked. I've been working with her for a couple of months, and I'm just now getting to see beneath the surface a little. Afterwards, she kept saying, 'Thank you. I have no one else to talk to.' And so I walked down the hill at the end of the day, realizing exactly why I'm here."
Not every day at Crystal Peaks makes for such a great Hallmark Channel movie ending. But the bad days, the ones where "you're just tired and start to wonder why you're doing this every day," aren't as tough as they once were for many staffers. The lingering euphoria of past payday moments, and the promise of those to come, makes the bad days a little more bearable for all involved.
Everything about Crystal Peaks is a story of triumph over tragedy, second chances and new beginnings. The ranch, kids, horses and often even the staff have been battered and bruised by life. But through their collective strengths, the various entities work together to heal each other.
For the complete story, pick up a copy of the August issue of Western Horseman.