McCrossan Boys Ranch in Sioux Falls, SD

"New hope for a better life"

Where boys find the help they need. (Credit: Jacqueline Wentworth)

In 1948, Melinda Bell McCrossan had a vision. She founded McCrossan Boys Ranch in memory of her husband, a pioneer Sioux Falls businessman. From the onset, her intent was to create “a home where boys find New Hope for a Better Life.” In 1953, Mrs. McCrossan purchased four military buildings from the former Sioux Falls Air Force Base and moved them to the current location. These buildings served as the first home to the boys who would soon move to the Ranch. On June 26, 1955, the official dedication ceremonies were held, and just a few months later, the first five boys moved in. Soon after, Melinda McCrossan passed away leaving a legacy that still exists today. It was her vision “that with good food, moral support, religious training and good educational opportunities, these boys will grow to be the finest and best of young men.”

Stories About McCrossan Boys Ranch

Melinda McCrossan’s vision has helped to change the lives of thousands of young men for the past 63 years. Now, many years after they lived at McCrossan Boys Ranch, alumni credit the Ranch with serving as the refuge they desperately needed.

Shane Lloyd writes, “My name is Shane Lloyd and I am special. That’s right, I am special because I was a resident at the McCrossan Boys Ranch. My brother, John, and I were two of the first five boys placed at the ranch and today, over 50 years later, all I can say is Thank You, Thank You!”

John Lloyd writes “The Boy’s Ranch was a place of refuge for my brother and I. A focus on rewards and punishments taught us the consequences of our decisions and was a constructive influence throughout our lives. The house parents provided the feeling of family. Working at the ranch and for the surrounding farmers gave us the work ethic necessary to provide for ourselves and, as a consequence, contribute to society. Indeed, much of the foundation for achieving my lifetime successes came from the McCrossan’s Boys Ranch.”

Since those early days, the ranch has expanded tenfold. A well-known hitch program has been a part of the Ranch for many years that has proven to be very therapeutic for the boys. They have also included individual therapy, chemical dependency services, psychiatric care, restorative justice, moral development and many recreational offerings. The Ranch has a 4-H Club, High School Athletics and a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle, just to name a few.

Boys from the ranch participate in parades across the country. (Credit: Jacqueline Wentworth)

Two more recent success stories include the following:

Matt Lanz reflects on his year at the Ranch with good memories. Back in 1987, Matt was placed at McCrossan’s when he was just 16-years-old. He suffered from feelings of alienation and low self-esteem while in high school and in his community. Many kids had labeled him and he felt the same from his teachers. He had reached a point in his life where he couldn’t handle the everyday pressures from his peers and so he ended up getting into trouble with the law. As a result, he performed far below his potential. He had enough of school and was ready to run away from it all.

Realizing he needed help, he had the opportunity to go to McCrossan Boys Ranch for guidance and was open to the idea from the very beginning. He loved horses and so it was a good fit for him. After coming to the Ranch, he felt comfortable. He was finally around other kids that could relate to him and he made many friends. Even today, he remains in contact with some fellow residents he met while at the Ranch. He said the biggest influence on him was the horse program.

“It helped a lot and you got to take part in activities that made you feel important like wagon trains, parades and horseback riding. You also learn responsibility by taking care of the horses and doing other chores,” Matt says.

For the first time, his bedroom was clean every day and he was proud of the way it made him feel. He had some struggles at the Ranch but kept working hard and the staff encouraged him along the way.

After leaving the Ranch, Matt went back to high school in Minnesota and earned his diploma. He then went on to get a job as a security guard at a casino and ended up getting into some more trouble. It was then that he realized that his training at the Ranch had finally kicked in and he had to make some life changes.

He moved to Spearfish to start over and that he did. He got married to Amber Janis and they have been together for more than 20 years now. He also has four boys — Jordan, Jared, Leaf and Sky.

It was then that he had the time to pursue his true love — art. Matt has been an artist since the age of five and is talented in many areas of artwork including sculptures, drawing, murals, makeup art and drafting just to name a few. His list of accomplishments is now pages long. He was the makeup artist for Ted Turner’s TNT Lakota Woman and Crazy Horse movies. He helped provide artwork for Kevin Costner’s Dunbar Resort. He has taught art and has been commissioned to do many oil paintings and sculptures of Indians, cowboys, and the western way of life. Matt recently completed a life-size sculpture at the Rapid City Regional Airport. He is also working on drafting plans for log homes out in the Black Hills.

He and his family are members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and they are a source of inspiration for him.

And one more story worth sharing: Nearly 12 years ago, a young boy named Nik Heine was placed at McCrossan Boys Ranch.

“I was privately placed at the Ranch because I had a lot of anger about being abandoned as a young child in China. I went through many orphanages before being adopted at age 6. Growing up, I didn’t have the maturity to understand why I was abandoned, so I acted out,” Nik says.

While at the Ranch, Nik enjoyed spending time with a wide variety of staff. One staff, in particular, he spent many hours with.

“Terrie Wallenstein was a great role model,” says Nik. “I spent many hours in the kitchen and we developed a good relationship together. We prepped foods and spent time cleaning in the kitchen. Together, we helped make the 2005 McCrossan Golf Classic and BBQ a success!”

While he was at the Ranch he also enjoyed playing basketball for the Ranch YMCA Basketball team and even got to enjoy a camping trip to the Rapid City area. Because of Nik’s academics, he was allowed to attend Tri-Valley High School while at the Ranch and was heavily involved in the drumline.

“As section leader, I wrote music during my free time at the Ranch and led practices at school,” he says.

One day while at the Ranch, Nik was taken to the dentist for a routine appointment. While he was sitting in the chair he thought to himself this just might be a good career to pursue. He made the decision that someday he would work to become a dentist. After his days at the Ranch, Nik attended the University of Minnesota and graduated with a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences. He continued at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery this past May of 2016.

As a student dentist, he worked in community dental clinics in Minneapolis and St. Paul and also provided dental services for impoverished areas of Antigua and San Rafael, Guatemala. Recently, Nik was hired at All About Smiles as a General and Cosmetic Dentist in the greater Pittsburgh area.

Nik received several scholarships for attending the University of Minnesota from the McCrossan Scholarship Fund. We thank the many McCrossan donors who helped make the scholarships for Nik and other boys like Nik possible.

Nik sends some advice for the boys who are still at the Ranch: “For whatever reason you are at the Ranch, whether you think you should be there or not, you can’t do anything about it, so make the best out of it. Do something about your life instead of sitting back and wondering about the ‘what ifs.’ I thank the Ranch for what they have done for me. The maturity I learned at McCrossan’s has helped me form a better relationship with my family. The patience I now have has helped me achieve great things in life.”