Ranch Good Days a safety net for girls | AspenTimes.com

Ranch Good Days a safety net for girls

April E. ClarkGlenwood Springs correspondent
Donna Otabachian pets Mirakles Happen, aka Gracie, recently at Ranch Good Days Inc. in Missouri Heights. Otabachian founded the ranch to provide assistance for girls. (Kara K. Pearson/Glenwood Springs Post Independent)

Ryan Newman is familiar with horsepower.The NASCAR driver is hoping the healing power of horses can help young women at risk in the valley, which is why his foundation supports Ranch Good Days Inc., the state’s only equine-assisted therapeutic center for girls.Along with supporting animal welfare, the Ryan Newman Foundation strives to educate girls about wildlife preservation and conservation at Ranch Good Days, based in Missouri Heights. “We’re really big fans of our NASCAR supporters,” said Donna Otabachian, Ph.D., who founded Ranch Good Days. “We’re also really excited about our sponsorship with Bass Pro, which sponsors NASCAR. It’s one big family with this NASCAR group.”

Many of the girls in the program are from families that exhibit problems with alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex or violence. Through the ranch, Otabachian wants to help the girls achieve their own personal goals and independence.Last week, Otabachian submitted an application to the Colorado Division of Housing requesting $1.8 million for land in Missouri Heights. Otabachian hopes to expand the current transitional foster-care housing for young women ages 14-21. The horse ranch is now home to five girls attending RGD Night School.”We just want to guide our girls to make good decisions,” Otabachian said. “We work on a cultural approach, and there is a lot of success with equine therapy.”While part of a Denver think tank, Otabachian helped start Ranch Good Days in August 2003. She had previously been involved with a program for students of indigenous and Hispanic cultures through the Denver Museum of Nature and Sciences and Denver Public Schools.

“Of the 70 at-risk youths in the Denver program, 52 of them were Native American. That was enough for me to realize they were totally invisible,” said Otabachian, who holds a doctorate in education administration and a master’s degree in psychology. “We just saw a lot of desperate needs with kids and we decided, as a think tank, to provide service for these girls who were runaways, or weren’t happy in their home lives.”Since the program’s inception, Otabachian has seen many success stories.One such story is of an American Indian girl who, at 14, served as her family’s sole financial provider. Today, she is a successful student at the University of Nebraska.”She came into our program and miraculously got into her studies and earned her GED. Now she will have an associate’s degree,” Otabachian said. “I’m just so proud of her, at her young age of 19, she’s already active in giving back to her community.”

Another graduate of the program attends the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.Susan Shirley, executive director of the Mountain Regional Housing Corp. – a Ranch Good Days supporter like Newman – said she hopes to see the valley embrace Otabachian’s program.”That’s really key, the support she can get from the local community,” Shirley said. “They’re a start-up, but they have a plan.”Otabachian said she just wants to help the girls flourish in a safe, holistic environment.”We’re working to bring these young women into a situation where they’re happy,” she said. “We’re there for them – we’re kind of like their safety net.”