Today, Matt Lanz reflects on his year at the Ranch with good memories. Back in 1987, Matt was placed at McCrossans 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.
Matt proudly said in his interview, “I consider myself successful. I have a beautiful wife and four children and they are my pride and joy. I get everything I need from them. My work as an artist is just a bonus.”
Matt stays very busy with his artwork. He and his wife have also chosen to home school their children so they do not have an experience in school like he did. In his spare time he enjoys researching historical and modern sources for his next art project, fishing, hunting and spending time with his boys.
“Any success that I have achieved, and I feel it is significant, I owe to the McCrossan Boys Ranch. They were, and are today, an important part of my life. You all are embedded deeply in my heart. I love you all.”
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.”
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. 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.”
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 also recently married his wife Ivy in Portugal. From his time with Terrie at the Ranch, he has developed a liking to healthy cooking. He also enjoys traveling and photography. In the future, he hopes to combine cooking, traveling and photography into a side business.
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.”
We thank Nik for sharing his story with us. If you are an alumni and would like to share your story contact Christy Menning in the Development office at (605) 339-1203.
Making a move from a small South Dakota town to Sioux City (a city of around 80,000) can be a culture shock for almost any child. In fact for one of our alumni Phillip Ward, it was a stressful and traumatic change that affected him socially, academically and emotionally. Phillip was raised in a family of four children and his family struggled with mental illness, physical and sexual abuse, parental violence and more. Moving just made things worse…
Back in South Dakota before the move, Phillip worked for a rancher in Milbank. Phillip was just 14 years old. The rancher had horses, cattle and a lot of farm work. “I learned to ride, drive a tractor, stack hay, run farm machinery and so much more,” recollects Phillip. “I was simply satisfied with my life. From the farmer’s wife, I learned kindness and respect. As a bonus for my work the rancher gave me a calf of my very own which I could sell, but he also bought me work jackets, gloves, cowboy boots and more. He was our neighbor and I enjoyed walking to his home to do chores,” said Phillip.
All that disappeared with a move to Sioux City. According to Phillip, “I was a social disaster and I became delinquent because of it. I ended up stealing from people on my paper route and got in a lot of fist fights that first year. One day a neighbor saw me enter a house and reported me to the police. That is how I ended up at McCrossan Boys Ranch. I was just 15 years old.”
The year was 1968. At the time the Ranch still had house parents who watched over the kids. “The nicest part was never having to look for a friend or somebody to do something with – companionship,” says Phillip. “I did a lot of work, played basketball, and even went on a 250 mile canoe trip.” Thanks to the help of one of the counselors at the Ranch, Phillip had learned to become a student and decided to study and work at his education. “Becoming a student and studying had never been an option for me,” remembers Phillip. He worked hard and graduated from Washington High School during his stay at McCrossan’s.
After leaving the Ranch, Phillip studied at Iowa Central Community College and received an Associate of Arts Degree. Then he attended the University of South Dakota and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. During this time he had fallen in love with a German foreign exchange student and moved to Germany. Initially, Phillip painted cars, which he learned to do at a Rapid City body shop. During this time he took night courses and learned German in three years. He was then accepted to the Department of Psychology at the Ruhr Universitat in Bochum, received his Master’s Degree and became a Clinical Psychologist.
Phillip is now a licensed Psychotherapist and a specialist in sexual abuse for the Parental Guidance Center (Erziehungsberatungsstelle). His main job is the psychological evaluation of children with learning, social, behavioral and emotional problems and parental counseling.
Phillip has two children, Simon (25) who is studying Meteorology and Johanna (22) who is studying to become a teacher in English and Art. During his spare time, Phillip enjoys playing the violin, fly fishing and deep sea fishing in the Baltic Sea, golfing and wood working.
Phillip’s advice is simple, “Realize that you have resources and use them to help someone less better off than yourself.”
McCrossan Boys Ranch is proud of Phillip and his many accomplishments. If you are an alumni and have a story to share, contact the McCrossan Development Office at (605) 339-1203. Thank you Phillip for sharing your story with us!
“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 our selves and, as a consequence, contribute to society. In deed, much of the foundation for achieving my lifetime successes came from the McCrossan's Boys Ranch.”
If you are trying to refer a boy to McCrossan Boys Ranch or have placement questions please use our Parent Resource Guide form. Thank you!
“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 2 of the first five boys placed at the ranch and today, over 50 years later, all I can say is Thank You, Thank You!”
The ranch taught me everything. From anger to peer pressure… It can also teach others awesome problem solving skills - like what to do if you are handling a bully. For over the 2 years 4 months I had been there, it taught me to do good.
“The Ranch helped me out a lot, especially in the horse area. I was really able to get close to the animals and be able to respond to them. At the Ranch I was able to overcome my major anger issues and was able to overcome my racial prejudices. I learned that God could help anyone that needed help just as long as you believe in him. The Ranch really turned my life around and I just don’t want to think of the places I would have ended up in, if the Ranch had not been there for me. Thanks McCrossan Boys Ranch, you will always be in my prayers!!”