30th anniversary

Category Archives: donors

  1. Constructing the New Home Away From Home

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    On land gifted by Tom and Peggy Johnson, shovels cut into the rich Texas soil for the groundbreaking of a new Reba’s Ranch House facility. 

    Reba McEntire turned a gold spadeful of dirt, and expressed her appreciation of the moment to the gathering of staff, community leaders, and volunteers. “There are not many times that you come to a place that starts with a prayer and the flag,” Reba said.

    But long before the first spade broke ground, a construction committee was formed to design every detail of the new facility. 

    Kent Black, who was a founding member of the Texoma Health Foundation (THF), headed the committee, along with Phil Roether, also a founding member of THF. Kent’s last position before retirement was as CEO of United Space Alliance and Phil was VP of Operations at Raytheon. Both men are engineers and had experience building their own homes.

    Kent featured in a local magazine during construction (at the RRH build-site)

    Phil and Kent began listing the nitty-gritty considerations of safety and costs while still keeping in mind the heart of the ranch house. 

    “We wanted to have a place that followed the legacy of the previous ranch house and provide the same level of care and more,” Phil said. “It’s a home away from home for people in distress.”

    Kent and Phil’s task was to build both a hotel-like facility and a home. They filled out spreadsheet after spreadsheet day and night, and hammered out ideas with the committee.

    “Throughout the process, there was always a healthy testing of things we wanted to do,” Phil said. “When people would question something, typically a better product came out. It got us to think outside the box.”

    A special seat at the board table was designated for a representative from Reba’s team who made each meeting and gave input on her desires for the new facility. Reba also made sure the construction committee had what they needed for the project.

     “Reba was very involved in helping if we ran into challenges,” Phil said. “If she was able to help in any way, she found a way to do it.”

    Several entities pitched in to make the facility come together. HKS, an international design firm, donated their services for the ranch house at no cost, and Brasfield and Gorrie, a general contractor overseeing the construction of a new local hospital, managed the ranch house project at a significantly reduced fee. Significant cash and in-kind donations poured in, as did volunteers. Ranch hands from Kent’s 1,300 acre ranch helped move the 10ft by 8ft wooden quilt that hung at the entrance of the original Reba’s Ranch House, to its new home. They came back again to assemble beds in the finished rooms. 

    Kent and his team moving the quilt.

    All the while, Kent, joined at times by Phil, was at the building site every day, making sure each element—from the common areas to the exterior stone—went into its correct place to serve guests and achieve the ranch house look.

    When the construction phase ended, Kent and Phil could step back for a long look at the fruits of their year and a half of labor.

    “Most rewarding was seeing it materialize and knowing how many people it was going to help,” Kent said. “It felt like we really spent our money well.”

    “I was able to stand outside and face the entrance where the portico is to see the pattern of the beams,” Phil said. “It was a design element that was incorporated to match the same roof design of the original house – a nod to our legacy. The same design is used in the Texoma Health Foundation logo today. The talents we had on the foundation board were so complementary to one another, and that made it much easier. You couldn’t help but have pride for having been a part of it.”

    Phil, his wife Betty (right), and Michelle Lemming (Left, CEO & President of THF)

    You can continue building on the legacy of Reba’s Ranch House in our 30th year when you become a donor here.

  2. Reba’s Ranch House – the Heart of the Texoma Health Foundation


    Top: Ground breaking of new Reba’s Ranch House with founding THF Board Members Below: Herman and Kay at work at THF

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Overnight, we pivoted from a supporting board that worked tirelessly to raise funds for Denison’s nonprofit hospital, to the board of a completely new organization—the Texoma Health Foundation, a foundation that would maintain the legacy and assets of the nonprofit hospital. One of the greatest legacies THF inherited was Reba’s Ranch House. 

    In 2007, members of the original TMC Foundation board of directors were chosen to become the founding board of directors for the new THF, and they would go on to pen a new chapter for the ranch house.

    Entrusted with creating a new business holding charitable dollars dedicated to the community, THF needed a board of directors that consisted of people with business knowledge, plus hearts filled with love of community. There were a number of candidates among the souls who had dedicated much of their lives to building the original ranch house. 

    But when the first two nominees for chairman of the new board were unable to take on the role, it fell to Herman Ringler, a member of the TMC Foundation.

    “I’ll do it,” he said. A resident of Denison since he was six years old, Herman spent his life on Main Street. His retail clothing business, inherited from his parents, keeps him in the thick of community life and involvement.

    “At the time of the  sale, we didn’t know what would happen to Reba’s Ranch House, but we knew if we received it, we would keep it at any cost,” Kay Skelton said. She was a member of the Reba Development Committee that oversaw the fundraising efforts for many precious years. 

    “I have yet to find another foundation like ours that inherited a hospital hospitality house, and it is so special,” says Michelle Lemming, THF CEO & President. “We often say that the Ranch House is the heart of THF. It is a reflection of what we strive to be as an organization – reflecting care for others, and service to community. It is who we are.”

    The house first opened in 1992 as part of massive fundraising efforts and benefit concerts  by Reba McEntire. The hard work of the Reba Development Committee, the Reba Golf Committee, and community members built Reba’s Ranch House that sheltered thousands of caregivers for fifteen years. With the selling of the hospital, it was time for the ranch house to move into a new phase for the next fifteen years, and beyond.

    Kay would later become the second chair of the home-grown organization. As visionaries, Herman and Kay had served on several local committees together, including the Denison Education Foundation. They knew one of the first orders of business was selecting an executive officer. 

    “We didn’t even know what we were looking for,” Herman said with a chuckle. “When we hired Michelle [Lemming], we did not realize how big her brain was in reference to finances. Even though the ranch house is a labor of love and a source of comfort, THF is the business.”

    With the sell of the hospital and the forming of THF, Reba’s Ranch House was at the threshold of old and new. Herman, Kay and board members spent hours devoted to weighing whether the board should preserve and invest in the original Reba’s Ranch House, a beautiful and welcoming home, with so much history and memories, or if they should build a new and expanded ranch house more central to THF’s service area. They decided on the latter following a generous offer by Tom and Peggy Johnson to gift a piece of land to THF that would be perfect for a new house.

    “I remember very well walking into the new Reba’s Ranch House and thinking, ‘How could it be more perfect than this?’” Kay said. “Having hired Michelle, it was more perfect, and she just continues to grow it.”

    Kay recalled, “We know that Reba could have said at the time of the sell of the hospital, ‘It’s been really great and I’ve enjoyed it, thank you very much.’ But she chose to go forward with us and we are so proud to get to run Reba’s first and only named charity.”

    Reba has a permanent seat on the board, and created the Reba McEntire Fund at THF.

    Reba’s Ranch House continues as the queen of country music’s only named charity while it rests in the care of the Texoma Health Foundation and its compassionate board members and staff.


    Become a monthly “caregiver of caregivers” as a recurring donor and be part of the Reba’s Ranch House legacy. Get started by clicking here.

  3. Making the Ranch House Part of His Life — Dr. Timothy Parker’s Story

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Box fans kept the air moving at the event, one of the earliest fundraisers for Reba’s Ranch House. It was warm under the big tent, but Dr. Timothy Parker didn’t mind.

    He had prime seating at the dinner table — right next to Reba McEntire and her family.

    Dr. Parker with his wife and Reba


    Dr. Parker and the Reba’s Ranch House Story

    Practicing medicine in Dallas in the early 1990s, Dr. Parker wanted to make a change for his family. They drove to Denison to check out the hospital there and speak to the hospital administrator. During the conversation, the administrator offered Dr. Parker tickets to an upcoming Reba McEntire concert. 

    Though Dr. Parker couldn’t go that year, it was his introduction to fundraising for Reba’s Ranch House.

    After moving his practice to Denison, Dr. Parker made the fundraisers, and ultimately the ranch house, a part of his life. Besides those early fundraisers, he has served on the Texoma Health Foundation board the past 4 years. To this day, he swings by a local store and picks up items that the ranch house needs, like trash bags and paper towels.

    “Just those little things you can bring are so appreciated by the staff,” Dr. Parker says. “It makes a tremendous difference for them and the people staying there.”

    When he first transferred to the hospital, he saw tiny newborns he’d delivered who needed to remain in the nursery on IVs. Their exhausted parents had nowhere to stay as close as they needed — except Reba’s Ranch House. 

    “They could be at the hospital in a matter of moments if something happened with babies,” Dr. Parker says. “It didn’t cost them anything. What a nice place for them to have a comfortable bed, a place to relax, and if anything happened, they’d be right there.”

    For Dr. Parker, taking care of patients comes first. That’s why he’s continued supporting the ranch house since his first experience of sitting at a fundraising dinner table with Reba. 

    There were a great many more experiences at the fundraisers — meals on the grass lawn of the old hospital…the airport tarmacwhere a jet flew in and then a miniature jet appeared on stage and out came Reba. From parades to golf tournaments, Reba McEntire always brought a celebration to town. And it was all for the best reasons.

    “We’re doing this for patients,” Dr. Parker says. “What a great asset we’ve been blessed with here in Denison. Thank you, thank you to Reba for helping get this started.”


    Reba’s Ranch House is now funded by individuals like you through the Texoma Health Foundation. You can become a caregiver of caregivers when you partner with Reba’s Ranch House by contributing — it’s as simple as dropping off a bag of paper goods or making a donation through our page here.


  4. A Medical Legacy from Indian Territory to Denison, Texas

    Article by Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Dr. Benjamin Denison was practicing medicine in Indian Territory when his wife passed. He married again, this time to full-blood Choctaw Susan Oaks. Their two sons, Harry and Hilliard, were both members of the Choctaw Nation. Hilliard, born with a cleft palate, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Harry started his own family. His son, little Harry, was only two years old when his father tragically drowned.

    Susan Oaks and her husband, Charles Denison with their sons
    Harry (“Doc”) and Hilliard Denison (Girl’s name unknown.)

    Little Harry, born in Idabel, Oklahoma in 1932, grew up with support and encouragement from his widowed mother. Determined to break out of poverty, he took his first job at Humpy and Amy’s Cafe when he was eight years old. He worked on asphalt roads, and followed the wheat harvest to Canada and back. He was one of those laborers known as “wheaties.” 

    Harry achieved his goal of going to college, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Benjamin by becoming a doctor upon graduating from Baylor College of Medicine. Harry went on to the University of Oklahoma for his residency in urology.

    In high school, Harry had met Phyllis Jane Hardin. They married in his college years, and chose the small town of Denison to settle in, where Dr. Harry L. Denison was the only urologist between Oklahoma City and Dallas. He worked at Madonna hospital, the Katy (MKT railroad) hospital, and TMC (Texoma Medical Center), and also practiced medicine in Durant, Oklahoma for many years.

    “He was always very proud of his Choctaw heritage,” says his daughter, Lea Denison Freemyer. “His uncle Hilliard, who worked for the Bureau of Indian affairs, helped my dad get us CDIB cards. Later in life, my dad did a Choctaw language class online. It was a very important part of who he was.”

    Lea worked at his Denison office while in high school and summers in college. She witnessed how hardships in his childhood developed the work ethic he continued to show throughout his practice and his lifetime.

    In the 1980s, when Reba McEntire came to Denison to raise money for Reba’s Ranch House, Lea’s parents looked forward to the event every year with dinner under the tent. 

    Dr. Harry Denison passed unexpectedly in Lea’s home, five years after his wife Phyllis’s passing. Lea and her brothers wanted to honor their memory and contacted Reba’s Ranch House about instituting the Granny and Doc Playground, as the couple was fondly called by their grandchildren. In 2017, Lea and her brothers contributed the initial funds for the playground.

    “A playground on site allows a guest and their children to be outside in a protected area to work out some of their stress through play,” says Marilyn Bice, director of Reba’s Ranch House. “It is a small way for us to protect our children’s future mental health.” 

    From a medical practice in Indian Territory during the 19th century, through the 20th century in the states of Texas and the newly formed Oklahoma, to the 21st century with Lea’s son, Dr. Benjamin Denison Freemyer, this family works hard for the health of people in their communities. The Granny and Doc Playground continues that legacy. 

    Enjoy this special video of the new playground!

  5. Creative Holiday Gift

    “I have the most wonderful fans and I’m always so touched by gifts that people send, but what would truly touch my heart is to see that someone chose to make a donation to Reba’s Ranch House.”

    Reba McEntire

    Let Reba help you become a last-minute holiday hero

    Looking for a creative, last-minute holiday gift? You can honor a friend, a loved one or a client by designating a donation to Reba’s Ranch House in their honor. Donating is fast, easy, and you pay online with a credit card. You can make a donation on behalf of yourself or your company, or you can easily designate an honoree in the online form and Reba’s Ranch House will notify them that a donation has been made in their name.

    What is Reba’s Ranch House?

    The ranch house is located in North Texas and is open to anyone who needs a place to stay while they have a loved one in one of the area hospitals. Reba’s Ranch House helps care for the caregivers. Every donation is noticed, appreciated, and put to good use for others.

    Hear it from Reba

    Reba’s Ranch House is Reba McEntire’s only named charitable organization. Watch the video to hear her talk about how this charity helps others, and what it means to her. You can make a donation with the form on this page.

    Complete the form to make a donation

  6. She Adjusted Her Sails

    “I’ll be back and marry you someday, Nancy.”

    That is what young Ben McKinney told teenage Nancy Foreman after they spent two summers in Canada with her teaching him how to sail. He was a teenager himself from Little Rock, Ark., who had taken trips to Canada with family friends. The father of the family told Ben that Nancy was the one to learn from when it came to sailing. She was a water baby, spending most of her time on lakes and oceans in sailboats, canoes, and powerboats.

    Ben did indeed marry that sailing girl on June 3, 1944. But their honeymoon was cut short with D-Day on June 6, and Ben was called to ship out. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and in the Korean War.

    Married for 68 years

    Over the course of their 68 years of marriage, Ben and Nancy had four children, including a son named Mark. Nancy developed a close relationship with a young girl in her neighborhood, Kristine (Kris) who became her dear friend — and daughter-in-law.

    “I have known Nancy all my life,” Kris says. “Mark and I married 20 years ago. His mom had fixed us up!”

    Founding members from 1987

    Nancy and Kris served together on the original development committee that raised money for the foundation that built Reba’s Ranch House of which Kris was the first chairman. They met Reba McEntire during the initial fundraising concert in 1987.

    “She was thanking us more than we could thank her,” Kris says. “She was so humble, she’s such a star and such a force. You could tell she had this big heart to help others. It cemented everything about what we were doing.”

    Ben passed in 2012, and in 2017, at 96 years old, Nancy’s health rapidly declined. Kris and Mark began thinking of ways to honor her life.

    “We decided doing something at the Ranch House where she had worked so hard was a fitting tribute,” Kris says. “She was a role model, always doing things for others, and never met a stranger. What better place for her legacy to be than somewhere that does the exact same thing.”

    Honoring Nancy in a unique room

    Nancy passed in December 2017, but her presence is still felt in Reba’s Ranch House. The room, with its nautical theme, showcases photos of Nancy and her family doing what she loved — sailing.

    “And when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”

    “When our grandkids come to visit us in Denison, they can see the legacy of their great-grandmother,” Kris says. “If you know something about the person beyond their headstone, it makes them come to life.”

    Nancy’s hard work continues to bless others. Pam Abasolo, a recent guest, endured the passing of her husband in the hospital in 2019. The nautical room gave Pam and her girls a place to weather one of the worst storms of their lives.

    Consider a sponsorship

    If you would like to consider sponsoring a room at Reba’s Ranch House, please reach out to director Marilyn Bice at 903-463-7322.