Nestled north of Ohatchee is a ranch that aims to help kids build a better tomorrow.
“Our mission is to reach our next generation by providing a safe and loving environment,” said Wayne Johnson, the president of Gateway to Life Ranch.
Founded in 2012 by Rev. Willie Crook, the ranch offers summer camps, retreats and mentorship programs for kids and teens in Calhoun County and the surrounding area.
“Our main goal is to save lives by building character,” said Johnson.
On Saturday, the 20-acre ranch will be opened to the public for a community fun day.
“The fun day is when we kind of open up the ranch to the public just to give an overview to people who come what we do here,” Johnson said.
The event begins at 11 a.m. at the ranch on Grayton Road in Ohatchee, and provides activities for all ages, said Jonathan Montgomery, a manager there.
“There’ll be horseback riding, singing and live entertainment,” Montgomery said. “People can even bring their fishing equipment and enjoy fishing at the ranch.”
Those activities, along with more manual labor and community service tasks like cleaning and construction around the property, are part of how the ranch helps build character in the youth who visit year-round.
“Let’s put them in a different environment,” said Johnson. “They’ll use their hands working.”
That, along with a home-cooked meal.
“As they do community service, we’ll cook them a nice dinner and lunch,” Montgomery said.
The fun day on Saturday is free for the public, but Johnson said donations are welcomed for the nonprofit ranch.
“We’re always looking for funding and support,” he said.
Saturday’s profits will go to help fund the ranch’s “Men Making Men” and “Live to Love” programs for boys and girls, which pair mentors with students.
“We just want to create a positive connection with other people and schools in our community,” said Johnson.
The mentorship programs, which have been ongoing since the ranch’s inception, have spawned visits to several schools across the county, including Ohatchee, Saks, Cobb and Randolph Park elementaries.
The ranch was founded on the principle of providing spiritual healing, and Montgomery said, in addition to outdoor activities, speakers will often share a spiritual message to visiting kids.
“We’ll have motivational speakers come out and share testimonies and minister the gospel to the kids before they leave,” Montgomery said.