Morinville resident speaks at Be Brave Ranch opening

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Morinville resident Brandi Robinson and her daughter talk to Little Warriors founder Glori Meldrum after Robinson’s moving speech at the Be Brave Ranch opening Saturday afternoon. More than 500 attended the event.

by Stephen Dafoe

Many tears were shed Saturday afternoon as people hugged one another, joyful that a dream to had become a reality. Little Warriors held the official grand opening celebrations of the Be Brave Ranch by Ray LaBonte and Family, a facility that offers children who have been sexually abused and their families a place to heal. The ranch will offer abused children more than 200 hours of multiple therapies to help them grow into healthy adults. More than 500 attended the opening to share in the celebrations and to hear those involved in bringing an idea to reality speak about the journey.

One of Saturday’s speakers was Morinville resident Brandi Robinson, a woman who has been a strong advocate of the Little Warriors’ initiative since the beginning, and a mother whose daughter Halie was one of the first seven children to be treated at the Be Brave Ranch.

“This place is the embodiment of the human spirit,” Robinson said in her speech, adding the facility was a place built with love and more blood, sweat and tears than she could count. “I’ve had the privilege to be here day in and day out while my daughter Halie was at the ranch, and I was able to see firsthand the impact this pace is already having on the hearts of these little warriors.” Robinson went on to say although the journey had been tougher than she anticipated; she believes it was worth it. “I’ve been able to see our kids bravely face the demons that brought us here,” she said. There’s so much power in being able to see the fear slip away as they shed the layers of protective shells they’ve had since their sexual abuse occurred.”

Robinson became acquainted with Little Warriors founder Glori Meldrum shortly after adopting her daughter, Halie, and learning of the child’s sexual abuse. She quickly became an advocate for the organization, writing letters to newspapers, politicians and becoming a public face to the need for the facility that would ultimately help her daughter begin to heal. “We’ve been honoured to be involved on a number of levels,” Robinson said, adding in the early days she did not know if the ranch would become a reality in time to help her daughter. “But it did and what a blessing it has been.”

The Morinville mother said the 20-day treatment her daughter received has already had a tremendous impact on her child. Halie is now able to better regulate her emotions and has not hurt herself once since leaving the ranch, something Robinson said was a drastic change for her daughter. “She regularly talks out her problems now and her level of anger when upset over not getting her own way is dramatically reduced,” Robinson said, adding although it has only been a short time since leaving the ranch, prior to treatment the outburst would occur multiple times each day. “Halie tells me she was able to leave her bad stuff here at the ranch in the fire that they burn their stories in. The miracle here is that the Be Brave Ranch has improved her so much that, even though my daughter has some pretty different developmental issues that I feared would hinder her progress, the program and the amazing staff were able to work around her autism.”

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But Robinson is not alone in her confidence in the facility’s ability to help children who have been sexually abused. Dr. Peter Silverstone with the University of Alberta’s Department of Psychiatry said he believes the Be Brave Ranch will be the leading treatment centre for kids with childhood sexual abuse anywhere in the world. “What is happening here is very unique. I’m incredibly excited about it, and I think the ability to transform the lives of kids … should not be underestimated,” Silverstone said. “Kids come here. They start here and spend three weeks on a very intensive program, very carefully designed, based on the leading evidence worldwide. It continues for up to a year for them and their family, and they keep coming back.”

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It is the type of treatment centre former Calgary Flame Theo Fleury (above) said he wished was available 30 some years ago when he was sexually abused by his junior coach. “All the kids that participated in the first program left with newfound hope,” Fleury said. “I know what it is like to get rid of shame and find my voice and scream it at the top of my lungs. This place was Glori’s vision and somehow we found each other along our travels, and this has become our mission in life. If I could have had a left winger like Glori on my team, I probably would have won a few more Stanley Cups and gold medals and stuff.”

Glori Meldrum, founder and chair of Little Warriors, could be seen smiling and dancing throughout the event, elated her struggle to open a world class treatment centre had finally come to fruition. “Thank you so much for walking with me and supporting me and all the kids that have been sexually abused,” Meldrum said to the 500 plus attendees Saturday. “Honestly, it means more to me than you could ever imagine.”

Meldrum said the long road began seven years ago, a period of time through which she learned to love her self, offer forgiveness, and realize the depth of her faith. “By the grace of God am I here today and that we have this beautiful facility,” she said, adding support for the cause was difficult to find in the beginning. “I would go home at night and just cry. I said to my husband, ‘God gave me this purpose and I can’t get it to resonate.’ I remember one time we didn’t have enough money to meet payroll and – no word of a lie – an anonymous cheque came in for $20,000 came in to cover what we needed. Every time I’ve needed a friend, support, anything – all of you have been there for me.”

Meldrum went on to thank the many people who made the Be Brave Ranch possible. “When the odds were against us, we stood together and we fought to make this happen for the right reasons for our kids,” she said. “No one can ever tell us what we can and cannot do because when we do things from a place of love and from the right place in our heart, a Godly place, everything works out. And it sure did.”

Now that the facility is open, The Be Brave Ranch will start treating children in groups of eight at a time. More details can be found at LittleWarriors.ca.

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Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith speaks with a member of the LaBonte family (for whom the ranch is named) after Saturday’s opening ceremonies.

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Characters from the movie Toy Story provide a touch of the Country Fair theme to Saturday’s event.

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A young girl presents a donation of more than $1200 to Little Warriors founder Glori Meldrum.

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Facility dining room

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Movie room

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Boys Therapy Room

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Play room

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