MILWAUKEE — Packers legend Bart Starr played a major role in the start of the Rawhide Boys Ranch in the Fox Valley. Bart Starr Jr. was in town recently to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ranch that helps at-risk teens.
The year was 1965 when John and Jan Gillespie found the perfect home. The couple named the home the Rawhide Boys Ranch, and over the years, the facility continued to grow.
“For us to come out here at the 50th anniversary is absolutely amazing,” said John Gillespie, Rawhide Boys Ranch co-founder.
The Gillespie’s partnership with former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr, had a tremendous impact on the ranch.
“I had raised a few dollars but then when Bart and Cherry came on board, and then Bart, and I went out to meet with business owners — it was a whole different thing,” said John.
Despite all of his football accomplishments, Starr considers Rawhide one of his greatest achievements.
“It transcends it to a level that really he feels brings him close to the community, close to his maker and that’s what makes Mom and Dad more proud than anything,” said Bart Starr Jr., Bart Starr’s son.
Fifty years later, the Gillespies and Starrs can say their facility offers prevention-based programs that have helped about 2,000 at-risk teens.
David Claus was sent to Rawhide 42 years ago.
“I hated it. I was away from my family. I was away from all my friends. I was away from all the things that got me in trouble like smoking pot, drinking too much,” said Claus.
Claus spent time cleaning the barn full of horses.
“I met a white horse with brown spots and he seemed to listen to me,” said Claus.
That was the turning point for Claus.
“That horse opened my eyes, opened my mind, opened my heart — and I started to not only understand, but take in everything Rawhide had to offer,” Claus said.
Claus is among dozens of Rawhide alumni who came back to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Even though many years have passed, the men who were once boys still remember some of the lessons they learned there.
“John Gillespie told me there’s always a way to find the good in the midst of the bad,” said Claus.
Rawhide Boys Ranch has several counseling centers in Milwaukee, Appleton and Green Bay. For more information, CLICK HERE.
After recovering from a near fatal infection, Bart Starr still hopes to return to Lambeau Field this season.