The Ely Times
Forty miles from Ely, the Sunnyside Ranch outside of Lund, hosts an event each year called the Inner City Slickers.
Horses circle the stables, showered with an array of wildflowers, and sunflowers, providing a backdrop where youth can disconnect from the internet, troubles, and distractions for the day.
Ranch owner Leota Johnson has opened up her ranch for the past six years to assist with the transformation of the youth that come during the two day period. Children step off the bus, heads down, soft spoken, some very quiet and withdrawn.
Michael McMeel, drummer for Three Dog Night, begins working with the kids and their parents to teaching them how to overcome fear and accomplish what they didn’t think they could.
By mid afternoon, kids are interacting with each other, signs of confidence show with heads lifted high, and the sound of laughter can be heard across the tables.
Lunch was served on this particular day by the Ely Rotary Club. Johnson said, “We have such heartfelt gratitude to Shane Bybee, the Rotary Club, and the Elks for driving all the way out to provide lunch for everyone.”
A program that McMeel began in the 90s explains how kids are taught about hope, hope that they can have a better life. Second, trust, “to teach them how to trust, who to trust. When you take them through events, such as the fall of faith, which entails falling off a ladder backwards to be caught by a group, take a lot of trust.
Working with the horses is another part of the program. Volunteers McMeel and Johnson describe this exercise as something magical. When a child and a horse meet for the very first time.
“Maybe some suspicion and distrust at first, usually on both side, but as the child and this magnificent animal start to relax and see what is in front of them, that is when the true magic happens,” McMeel said.
Several local businesses and locals contributed to this years event, as it continues to grow. Johnson explains how wonderful it is to work with the children each year, touching their lives, expressing how honored she is to have the privilege to work with the kids.
“Volunteers play such an important role, we couldn’t do it without them,” Johnson said. “I just feel so blessed to know these great people. Thank you to everyone who participated in showing the kids that we care.”