“The most important thing in life is your family. Sometimes it’s the family you’re born into and sometimes it’s the one you make for yourself.”
Nineteen-year-old Emilio Bear found a family, and a home at Ranch Ehrlo Society.
Emilio moved into one of the Ranch’s intake units when he was just 10 years old.
A childhood of revolving doors and packed-up boxes prepared Emilio for the move. He had been placed in 21 foster homes before the age of six, and was living at Saskatoon’s Red Willow House before moving to the Ranch.
“The Ranch was different from the other (group homes),” Emilio explained. “It felt like a home to me.”
Emilio unpacked his boxes in 2004 and made Ranch Ehrlo home for eight years.
“It was great,” he said. “I really enjoyed it.”
Emilio admits it wasn’t until discharge that he realized the magnitude of the Ranch’s influence in his life. His experiences and interactions with the staff and the youth helped mold him to become the man he is today, he said.
“The Ranch is a really, really good place to be. If it wasn’t for the Ranch I don’t know where I would be right now – I’d probably be in a jail, in a gang, or dead.”
“The Ranch gave me a lot of motivation,” he continued. “They taught me how to go after things and not to just sit around and wait for them to happen.”
Emilio’s time at the Ranch was made special by the people who surrounded him. The staff became mother and father figures, the youth became something like siblings, and the houses became homes.
“I really lucked out with the Ranch. I became really close to the people, and I made a lot of real relationships.”
“The staff were strict and they had expectations, but they had respect for me and they were always there for me,” he said. “If I had a bad day I knew I could talk to someone — I was happy about that, I loved that.”
Living in a house with nine other youth was sometimes a challenge he said, but there was never a dull moment.
The organization of weekly sports, games, crafts, and activities was appreciated by Emilio. He said the experience to play with other kids was a new experience for him, growing up without brothers and sisters of his own.
“Everything was planned so we knew exactly what we were going to do before we did it. Even if we thought we wouldn’t like it, everything always turned out being fun.”
Emilio’s time at the Ranch was highlighted by summer camp trips, high school football, and gatherings with friends.
As Emilio worked toward high school graduation, one of the biggest moves of his life was underway.
At 17 years old, Emilio began the process of moving into independent living through the Ranch’s Youth Transition Program.
“It was difficult,” he confessed. “I didn’t like it whatsoever. I had to grow up fast and learn a lot about myself.”
With perseverance and support from Ranch mentors, Emilio succeeded in completing his high school education and securing a place to live.
After achieving several tickets and attending post-secondary school, Emilio has completed his first-year apprentice for painting, has become certified to work on the oil rigs, and is now pursuing a career in construction.
“The Ranch taught me how to be myself,” said Emilio. “They really did care.”