With Easter just wrapping up I think it is important to take some time to talk about holidays. (For this blog we’ll focus on just those that come in the Spring.)

They can be hard for so many different reasons.

When you are raising a house full of other people’s children any one of those reasons applies, and compounds itself.

When you are young, and living away from home, through no choice of your own, these reasons seem innumerable, and overwhelming.

So what do we do?

Honestly, it’s tough.

We work really hard to make each holiday special in whatever way we think will be best. What is best can change, based on the group of residents we have; with a change in population there is often a change in what is effective and what needs to be addressed.

Valentine’s Day: We do Valentine’s for classmates, we decorate boxes to gather Valentine’s from classmates. We have silly snacks; get each of the girls a gift and personal card with a handwritten note. We hang paper hearts on their bedroom doors with things we love about each of them. We play Valentine’s Bingo for prizes!

Easter: Each resident gets a new outfit, if they want one. Sometimes the older residents aren’t really interested. We let them decide. We make a special breakfast. There is a campus meal with all residents, as well as any staff in town, making up our own Joy Ranch-family gathering. We do an egg hunt, decorate eggs (plastic eggs with sharpies!!!) and talk about Jesus rising from the dead – and how that makes all the difference. Also, donors usually give each resident an Easter basket of some kind and sometimes, they end up getting get more than one.


Cinnamon roll bunnies!

Mother’s and Father’s Day: It cannot be hard to imagine that these two holidays are particularly difficult for kids who are away from home, no matter what the reason. For kids who wish to acknowledge these days we encourage them to make or buy a card and if it is an option, they can call. However, overall, we often try to plan special events on these days – a trip to an aquarium or a hike. Truthfully, going to church for these holidays can be especially difficult as these relationships are the main focus of the service.

And because there is no specific season for them, let’s not forget . . . . . .

Birthdays! Each resident receives $75 from Joy Ranch on their birthday. They have the choice to either spend that money as they would like or use it to throw a party for their cottage. If they are part of a sibling group, regardless of their choice, their siblings are included in their birthday celebration as well. At the cottages we allow residents to choose the meal they’d like to have, what kind of cake and ice cream they want and get them one gift – being sure to spend the same amount on each resident’s gift. At the girls cottage we have a “Birthday Quiz” (pictured below) to help us prepare for, and the resident think about, what they would like to do.

**See below for a more detailed description.

We all have special memories of holidays from our childhood. Here at Joy Ranch we are working hard to make sure our kids have those memories too, despite the non-traditional elements of our family.





Pick two colors for your birthday decorations:

What kind of cake do you want? What flavor icing and ice cream do you want?

What do you want to have for your birthday dinner? (We will be eating at home.)

Joy Ranch will give you $75 for your birthday. Do you want to spend this on a party or use it to buy things that you would like to have? Either is okay, we just need to know. You will get a $10 gift from the cottage regardless of what you chose.

P.S. Once you hand this to staff this decision is final.

Circle one:

PARTY                             GIFTS

Any other ideas for your party:



  1. Alberta McDonald on April 5, 2018 at 1:13 am

    Very well written. Hopefully the kids realize how special they all are.

  2. Christy Burnett on April 5, 2018 at 1:22 am

    You guys do an amazing job. It’s nice to read some feedback on what goes on at joy ranch! I’m hopeful that the residents appreciate you guys they are blessed to have you. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to these kids. May God bless you.

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