The Texas Boys Ranch is home to children of all backgrounds. One thing each has in common, the challenges of growing up with a "normal" childhood in a situation that is anything but.
Abby is a 16-year-old who has spent the last year at the Boys Ranch.
"My mom was a drug dealer, my step dad sexually abused me a lot," Abby said. "My mom was really abusive too. I had to raise three kids by myself."
She was ripped out of her home by Child Protective Services, torn from the siblings she was basically a mother to.
"It was the hardest thing I had to go through," she said.
After landing in the emergency shelter she eventually found herself at the Boys Ranch.
"I walk in. All I saw were like two hippies. I looked over, cause like my house mom was on this side and my house dad was on that side and I just looked over and I was just like, we laugh about it now but, like back then I was like don't leave me with these people. Like I sat in front of them and they just looked at me and I just walked off. But then they said I have to stay here but then we clicked really quickly."
The two hippies Abby mentions, Evan and Twyle Williams.
"Seemed like she would never smile or if she did it was very hesitant to laughing a lot," said Twyle.
The Williams have been house parents for four years. Their job is to love the children in their cottage as their own. With Abby their work was cut out for them. After years of taking care of her siblings she had not a clue on how to be a kid.
"We had to spend an enormous amount of time telling her she's not an adult because she was used to being the adult," Evan Williams. "You know so we just had to sit her down and go, she'd be like well they're doing this and they're doing that and they're not supposed to and, sweetie, I understand but that's my job. Your job is to be a kid. Worry about the things kids are supposed to be worried about."
It is a challenge house parents face every day, helping kids be kids.
"I can't tell you how many times that conversations with especially older kids about, you know what, it's summer time, school's out, it's time to just be a kid," said Roger Mahan, Program Director for the Texas Boys Ranch. "Let's have some fun, let's see what we can do and everything from camping trips up in Colorado to going to church camp in the hill country to fishing trips and hunting trips as well sometimes."
While providing those childhood experiences is important, it is the love and encouragement that helps to restore a once broken childhood.
"When I got here I had really low self-esteem and I didn't really believe in myself," Abby said. "And then like my house parents and like the other house parents and like the people at the office, like they may not interact with a lot of us but when they do they're like we believe in you."
After her long journey, Abby is letting loose and finally able to be a teenager.
"I feel like a normal teenager. I get to go to a normal school and I get to do what a lot of kids don't do in other places. I get to socialize."
She is entering her junior year at Roosevelt ISD and plans on joining the softball team. After she graduates she said she wants to go to college with the hopes of one day becoming a doctor, something she never thought would have been possible before coming to the Texas Boys Ranch.
FOX34 is working with the Texas Boys Ranch once again for its 43rd Annual Telethon. It is Saturday night 6 to 11 at LHUCA. There will be live music all night and we would love for you to join us. You can also watch on FOX34 or stream it at FOX34.com. It is the Ranch's largest fundraiser of the year.