We all have experiences that we know will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Some of these experiences last mere moments, while others can encompass entire years.
In the summer of 2007, I found myself volunteering at a place called Eagles Summit Ranch. At that time, I was unaware that those fleeting months would leave a lasting impression on me, but now I know. I know that summer will remain with me for a very long time.
I was sixteen, living outside of a small town, in the beautiful Colorado countryside. It was one of those places where everyone knew each other. Being so far away from town made it difficult for me to meet up with my friends during the summer months. Instead, I would spend a lot of time helping out at my grandparents’ restaurant.
I enjoyed working at the restaurant. The whole store was rich with rustic charm, while still being comfortable and welcoming. Early in the morning, a few customers, usually locals, would arrive, before the sun had truly come up. They would drink their coffee and tell stories. I loved hearing all of the stories, especially my grandpa’s.
One day, during the early morning, a new couple came in for breakfast. I quickly learned that their names were John and Mary and that they were working at Eagles Summit Ranch. At that time, I didn’t know much about the ranch and most of my knowledge came from riding the school bus past it twice a day.
I knew that I loved the location most of all. Eagles Summit Ranch was nestled between two hills and had a beautiful grassy field, which was kind of uncommon in the area. I did not know how big it was or who owned it, mostly I knew that it was one of the few places I liked to look at as we drove by, and that they had a big sign by one of the entrances that read: Eagles Summit Ranch.
Over time, I grew to know and like John and Mary. They were one of the happy couples who I looked forward to seeing in the restaurant. Mary was always happy and so full of life. She was easy to talk to, even though I am sure that I wasn’t always the greatest conversationalist. I never have been and teens can be hard to talk to from time to time. If I ever truly bothered her though with my random silly banter, she never let on. John was a jovial man who told a lot of jokes and had a laugh that lifted your spirits if you were down in the dumps. I also loved that he was one of the few people whose jokes I actually understood and found funny. He would always ask me about school and boys, which made me laugh.
I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but once summer began, I began volunteering at Eagles Summit Ranch whenever I could. I would walk to my grandparent’s restaurant, across the street, and wait for John and Mary, or sometimes another Eagles Summit Ranch employee, and after breakfast, I would ride over to the ranch with them.
At the beginning of summer there wasn’t much to the ranch. A small cabin served as a gathering area, where we would often take breaks or have lunch. Behind this was the office. Basically the office was exactly what it sounds like, an office. I didn’t spend much time there.
Down a small dirt drive, past where I could see from the school bus windows, there was a large metal structure being built. I came to think of this as a giant garage, but that was not the only purpose it served. On top of another small hill, a large house, which I referred to as the main house, was also under construction.
Being sixteen, I was given small jobs, such as picking up trash, sweeping away sawdust, or helping bring supplies from one place to another. Occasionally I would help make lunch or do some small tasks in the office. Once, I merely watched two younger kids for the day since there was nothing else for me to do that day. It was a rather fun day, all things told. Though the jobs I was assigned were not extremely important in the grand scheme of things, I loved being there and being a part of everything that was going on.
I quickly grew to like everyone who worked there. One man, whom everyone called Bert, knew a lot about the horses and even let me help him with some of the jobs that he did, as long as they were not too dangerous. He also had three daughters that came by, one of which was rather close to my own age, and we got along great.
I liked helping Brian and Daphne, another couple who worked there, as well. Brian was a quiet man and worked near the giant metal structure most of the time. Though he didn’t say much, he was nice and let me help when I could. Daphne was very friendly as well and taught me a lot of little things that I still use today, such as how to make a ton of sweet tea in a hurry and how to wash grease off of my hands quickly and without turning the bathroom sink into an unsightly mess.
Every so often, a large group of volunteers would come up and help at the ranch. Many of these parties came from other states, such as Texas. I helped them when they came, as if I was a part of the group as well, and in a way I suppose I was. With one group, we dug large holes every so many feet, so that they large metal fence posts could be buried. This was a beautiful fence, and I loved the way that it looked when it was all finished.
I also learned many useful and interesting things while I was there. Some of which I was unable to try, such as using the wet saw to cut the tile, or lay the hard wood flooring, but I learned a lot from watching and talking to the people doing those jobs, usually I was there to hand them something when they needed it, but not always. I learned how to glue down flooring, stain wood, lay tile, and even caulk windows. It was fun and if I ever need to know these things in the future, I have always wanted to flip a house, I will be very thankful for the knowledge.
By the end of summer, the main house was finished and the ranch was ready. Over the summer I had learned that Eagles Summit Ranch was not just another ranch in the area, but a place for soldiers and their families to learn how to take their injuries and make something better out of it. A place where they could find help and healing.
I had met Dave Roever and his family over the summer months. Mr. Roever served in the Vietnam War as a young man and had suffered extensive burns after a white phosphorous grenade exploded in his hand. After returning home, his injuries and the way he was treated, inspired him to found the Roever Foundation, which Eagles Summit Ranch was a part of.
The Roever Foundation seeks to help soldiers, and their families, who have suffered injuries, physical and otherwise, by teaching them how to speak publicly about their experiences. However, this is not their only function. They also provide scholarships to students, both foreign and domestic, who are seeking degrees in a wide variety of subjects. They have also constructed hospitals and provided medical supplies and care in Vietnam.
Dave Roever has been invited to speak in many high schools across the nation. During his speech, he addresses the usual topics of drugs, alcohol, and sex as well as teaches about hope and faith. Though I did not have the privilege to see him speak in my own high school, my father told me that he saw him speak when he was a teenager in high school.
At the end of the summer, the ranch had an opening event that was also a welcoming event for the first visitors. I was invited along with my grandparents. I helped set up for the event. The event was held in the large metal building at the far end of the ranch. I was honored to meet the men and women and was moved by their bravery as they each told some of their stories.
Once school resumed it became impractical for me to continue volunteering my time. I was saddened about no longer being able to come to the ranch every day, but in truth, with the main house complete, there was not much left that I could have helped with anyway, and I had plenty to do with school. I still helped out at my grandparents’ restaurant on the weekends and was able to see many of the people I had grown to know there.
I grew to love Eagles Summit Ranch and all the people that worked there and volunteered there. All of the people that joined together for the common goal of helping others. I still get updates on the ranch from time to time and follow Dave Roever and the Roever Foundation on social media.
I will carry with me all of the memories that I made there and all of the wonderful things that I learned there. Not only the practical things, like laying tile, but also what I learned about others and about myself.
If you would like to learn more about Dave Roever, The Roever Foundation, or Eagles Summit Ranch, you can visit their website at www.roeverfoundation.org or visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Dave-Roever-152322355947/ or on Twitter at @daveroever. You may also like to read one of Dave’s books about his time in Vietnam, I did and it helped me to better understand Eagles Summit Ranch and how needed programs like this are.
Stephanie Tiner loves all things writing. After struggling to learn how to read as a child, Stephanie eventually found her way and fell in love with the written word. The first book she read from cover to cover without help was "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare. After falling in love with reading, she quickly fell in love with writine. Stephanie Tiner lives with her husband, children, and her dog in Missouri and hopes to someday be a published author.
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