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30th anniversary

Category Archives: Reba’s Heroes

  1. The Reba Golf Tournaments: Winning an Ultimate Prize

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    “They were looking for a sucker, and I didn’t realize it.” 

    That was how Jim Bono became involved with the committee that organized the fundraising tournament for the local hospital, and later, Reba’s Ranch House.

    Jim had no regrets after getting roped into helping wrangle the annual affair that featured celebrities from Dallas Cowboy players to up-and-coming country music stars. And of course, Reba always made an appearance.

    Ronnie Cole, who was on the committee from the first year onward and was later chairman of it, recalled, “Reba would ride around on a golf cart visiting each team. That meant a lot to everyone. A couple of times, she stayed to hand out trophies. It was huge to have a superstar like her spend time with us.”

    But long before prizes were awarded, a load of work faced the 15 committee members and dozens of volunteers. After months of planning and coordinating, Memorial Day morning started on the golf course at 6AM for Jim and Ronnie. Some years, they slogged through muddy terrain to prepare for the 18 teams and 180 golfers. But in over 15 years, the tournament was never rained out. 

    Before the 9AM tee time, they welcomed celebrity golfers like Micky Mantle, Troy Aikman, Barry Switzer, and Vince Gill, though the country music singer had to leave early to prepare for that evening’s Reba concert.

    Not everything was a hit with the participants, nor the committee. Ronnie and Jim still scoff about the “infamous yellow ball” contest.

    “It was awful,” Ronnie said. “I don’t know whose idea it was, but I’m going to blame Jim.”

    “I don’t know who to blame, but we want to blame someone for it,” Jim said with a laugh. “Like we needed something else to make the day longer.”

    The bad idea was a scramble tournament where every team had a yellow ball to keep track of. If you lost your yellow ball, you were out, and the team that came in with the lowest score won a prize.

    “People got so tired of keeping up with their yellow ball, they’d hit it out of bounds on purpose,” Ronnie added. 

    There was plenty of success at each tournament, especially the number of sponsor prizes given out that ranged from umbrellas to golf shoes. The committee was proud of the number of women golfers who competed.

    “We had prizes for women only,” Jim said. “Very few tournaments do that.”

    At the end of each tournament, the committee kicked back and talked about the day, accessing what went well and what didn’t. The putting green and high number of prizes remained over the years, and sometimes the committee quadrupled their fundraising goal.

    “I think people took an interest in the cause, which was the ranch house,” Jim said. “The house is one of those things you hope you never have to use, but you’re so glad it’s there when you do. We felt like we had a small piece of something to help others for years and years to come.”

    “That’s what I think back on, the legacy of having the ranch house,” Ronnie said.

    The work Ronnie and Jim put in, along with many committee members and volunteers, pays dividends today. Seven days a week, weary caregivers take refuge in Reba’s Ranch House during some of the stormiest days of their lives. 

    Become a caregiver of caregivers today by contributing here to the daily operations of the house.

  2. Two Generations of Handcrafted Bird Feeders at the Ranch House

     

    A bird feeder hand crafted as a replica of the new Reba’s Ranch House lovingly made by Rich Ward, son of Brad Ward. The House was made in memory of Rich’s father and beautiful wife, Julie. From left: THF Board Members Barbara Malone, Ginger Nye, Chairman Joe Fallon; Rich Ward, RRH Director, Marilyn Bice and Guest Relations Mitch Gray and Michelle Lemming THF CEO. June 18, 2022

    by Richard Ward

     

    The bird feeder story starts well over 30 years ago and includes the following: Richard’s parents, Brad and Betty Ward, were retired and living on Betty’s home place in North Texas. In 1992, a foundation backed by the country music singer, Reba McEntire, opened the original Reba’s Ranch House near the hospital in Denison, Texas.

    The Ranch House serves a similar function to a Ronald McDonald House: People from out of town who have relatives in the hospital can stay there for free. Guests have kitchen privileges, and, on a rotating basis, local churches furnish buffet suppers. Brad was associated with a docent group at the nearby Hagerman Wildlife Refuge.

    A leader in this group asked him to build a bird feeder for the docent group to donate to Reba’s Ranch House to garner some local press for both organizations. Being a crafty guy, Brad took a look at the Ranch House and built a model of the facility as a bird feeder. Some years later, Denison built a much-larger hospital near the freeway, and Reba’s followed suite by constructing a new Ranch House a block from this hospital. (The old hospital is now an in-patient, physical rehabilitation facility, and the old Ranch House is a dementia care home.)

    In 2017, Brad was terminally ill in the new hospital; and Richard and his wife, Julie, were staying at the new Reba’s Ranch House. During a save-our-sanity drive around, they tried to search out the original Ranch House and the model. Unfortunately, 25 years of Texas sun had cooked the bird feeder to near disintegration.

    In a subsequent discussion, Julie said, “Well, your dad built a model of the old Ranch House, maybe you should build a model of the new one.”

    Thus began a major project. A contact on Reba’s staff obtained the original AutoCad® architectural design files, and skilled designer, Dennis Bacon, created a corresponding Solidworks® scale model and generated parts drawings. After joining the Hacker Lab in Rocklin, CA, Richard used their woodworking equipment to create the walls and dormers. Jim Krebs, an excellent all-arond crafter at the Lab helped him laser burn the door, window and rock wall patterns into the wood while a sheet metal shop, Roseville Precision Industries, fabricated the base and roof decks (as a favor to a former good customer).

    Richard assembled the pieces and cut the “shingles” on a work table in my side yard. The actual project work did not consume all these years; there were many, many months of delay due to personal issues and work load at the sheet metal shop. Some touch up work remains, and a custom shipping crate remains to be built in order to ship the feeder to Texas, but completion is close enough to celebrate.

  3. Feeding the Masses

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    It was springtime, and Horace Groff just couldn’t say no when asked to volunteer for the upcoming fundraising concert. That was how he became involved with “feeding the masses” each Memorial Day weekend before the annual Reba concert, raising funds for the local hospital and Reba’s Ranch House. 

    What started as a one-day event exploded when the concerts shifted from the football stadium where Horace and fellow volunteers grilled hamburgers and hotdogs. The concerts moved to the airport and the grills were replaced with mega smokers where the cooking crews fed people 15-18 hours a day for a whole week. Reba would bring in multiple semis plus buses filled with equipment.

    “That was the kind of show she put on,” Horace said. “It was always top quality, and there were a lot of people in the background to make it happen.”

    With those semis and buses came lots of people backstage looking for something to do—and something to eat. Then there were the local volunteers to feed: Staff from the hospital freely offered their time; students from the high school earned a concert ticket by setting up chairs; the ladies of the Reba Development Committee who organized everything.

    And Horace was in the midst of it all, helping keep hundreds of people fed.

    “Some workers would start at daylight, then they’d finish and another crew would come in,” Horace recalled the shifts. “The food service director at the hospital coordinated and bought the food. We would show up and do briskets and sometimes fried fish. There were several of us with cooking equipment, and we always felt good about giving back to the community.”

    Born and raised in Denison, Horace served as the county judge for 21 years, so another unique task fell to him. He became a liaison between the committee and the airport, helping iron out wrinkles in flight schedules, timing for setup and the concert.

    The Memorial Day concert got underway at dark as the late spring heat cooled from the day. Horace and the brisket smokers were set up backstage and he had no trouble hearing the lively concerts. 

    Still, the best part for him was the fellowship—everyone from big name country stars to high schoolers.

    “You had a lot of people backstage,” Horace said. “It got to be quite a production to get all that done, but we had hundreds of volunteers show up and pitch in. A good time was had by all.”

    The monumental effort Horace and his cooking crew put forward is paying dividends today for every caregiver who finds refuge at Reba’s Ranch House.

     

    After 30 years, “Feeding the masses” remains part of the ranch house. Churches and other community members bring food weekly for exhausted caregivers to have a hot meal and snacks. The kitchen in the ranch house is available to caregivers 24/7.

    You can continue Horace and the food crew’s legacy of feeding hungry souls by contributing to the ranch house here

  4. A Norman Rockwell Small-town Parade + Reba

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    It was the end of another big Memorial Day weekend. Valerie Freels had recently joined the Reba Development Committee, and the committee was just given charge of the town parade. She promised Reba and her team that they would have a Rose Parade-caliber event the next year.

    Valerie set about fulfilling her promise with the help of her teammates, Joy Bryant and Pat Watson. Valerie contacted the local TV station and they got behind the project.

    But having a parade the caliber of the famed Rose Parade wouldn’t be easy, especially in a small community. 

    First, they needed floats—lots of them. To incentivize people to enter, the committee offered free lawn chair tickets to the Reba concert that took place the evening following the parade.

    Next, Valerie needed a parade float fit for a star. She turned to the high school FFA kids, who built Reba’s float—a gigantic horseshoe covered with red, white, and blue, and a swing in the middle for Reba.

    Lastly, Valerie needed promotion to draw in thousands of people to line the streets with cheers and flags. The TV station promoted the parade, amping excitement in advance.

    Still, there was no way to know the turnout numbers until the morning of the parade.

    “I probably didn’t have enough sense to be nervous,” Valerie said with a laugh. “Having Bruce Stidham and the TV station partnering with us gave me a sense of security.”

    The morning arrived for the parade whose theme became, “Remembering every brave American.”

    The parade lined up, preparing to head down Main Street—a street that looked very much like a miniature downtown Pasadena during the Rose Parade. The TV station broadcasted the parade live.

    “There were people everywhere,” Valerie said. “Newspapers estimated 20,000 people in downtown Denison for the parade.”

    “Valerie brought the hometown parade to the highest level with a true Norman Rockwell feeling,” said Kris McKinney, a former chairwoman of the development committee.

    With Joy and Pat on the parade committee, Valerie fulfilled her promise that year, and for years to come. For one parade, the development committee sponsored a float with “Little Rebas,” girls dancing to Reba tunes on a float.

    A crowd favorite of the parade each year were the Glory Riders. The equestrians bedecked in red, white, and blue never failed to be a high point.

     The theme every year stayed firmly patriotic, while giving attendees a chance to see their sweetheart of country music. 

    “Reba was so gracious and friendly,” Valerie recalls.

    Valerie and the committee were able to pull off a Rose Parade-style celebration—all while honoring veterans and supporting efforts to raise awareness for what became Reba’s Ranch House.

     

    Through donating to the ranch house, you carry on a Rose Parade-sized legacy. Donate now in celebration of the 30 years that Reba’s Ranch House has opened its doors to care for caregivers.

  5. The Exhaustive Love that Built Reba’s Ranch House

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    “Dad, there might be a tornado coming, should we wake Mom?”

    “No, let her sleep. She’s tired.”

    This simple exchange summarizes the exhaustive effort a small group of women put forward every Memorial Day weekend. These fundraising weekends eventually built Reba’s Ranch House. 

    The night after one of the annual Reba concerts and events, a tornado siren alerted Anne Gary’s family of a coming storm. But “Dad”— Jerdy Gary, Anne’s husband—said Mom needed her sleep…she was tired.

    The fundraising needs for the area’s nonprofit hospital at the time expanded with the idea of building a hospitality-style house. 

    One day, Anne Gary and Maureen Maggi were going through the hospital that serves patients in both Texas and Oklahoma.

    “Dr. Malone was the heart doctor who came to do surgery that day,” Anne says. “All the patient families were sitting on the floor in the back hall, trying to sleep. It was sad. My thought was, surely we can do better than that.”

    Anne Gary, Reba, & Maureen Maggi

    Anne and Maureen were on the original Reba Development Committee which was in charge of the many years of Reba concerts and galas. Together, with a group of women leaders, including Kris McKinney, Martha Dollarhide, and Kitty Richardson, the hospital’s PR person, they set out to raise funds like never before.

    But raising funds for the hospital and the ranch house wasn’t the only fruit of their endeavor. The fundraisers changed the trajectory of Kris McKinney’s life as a volunteer.  

    “With hard work and getting people together, it’s just amazing what can be accomplished for a community goal,” Kris says. “There were some rough times, but everyone loved the hospital. To be able to contribute to that was a highlight of my life.”

    Kris McKinney, Reba, & Kitty Richardson

    It changed Kris’ life in another big way when she invited Mark McKinney, an old acquaintance, on a date for one of the “Reba parties” in the spring. They were married in the fall.

    Maureen became the one and only ticket collector. She kept bundles of tickets in the trunk of her car, but her motto ran, “No money, no tickie.” The ladies hoped she was never rear-ended.

    Martha Dollarhide served as liaison between the committee and the hospital board. She is remembered as a community doer, but the hospital was her big focus.

    “She let me run a lot of the development committee,” Kris says.

    “But if she didn’t like something, she told you,” Anne added with a chuckle.

    The greatest memory for all the ladies, though, was how the community turned out every year and made sacrifices to get things done.

    Yet more than once, the ladies thought they faced certain failure. Spring storms tore up stages and equipment. Fundraising consultants said they couldn’t raise a large amount in such a small town; that it was impossible to do a concert and gala on the same weekend. 

    Yet year after year, these ladies rewrote the rules with an army of volunteers and determined souls. 

    All while enjoying precious time with Reba and her family.

    Anne recalls something Reba often told them: “You all do all the work; I just show up and sing.”

     

    After 30 years, Reba’s Ranch House—owned and operated by the Texoma Health Foundation—still opens its doors to care for caregivers. You can be a part of the next 30 years of that exhaustive community love by donating here.

     

    Reba brought in up and coming stars for many of her concerts:

    October 4, 1987: First Concert in the Denison High School Auditorium with Mason Dixon

    May 29, 1989: Reba and the Statler Brothers + first Reba Golf Classic 

    May 28, 1990: Reba and Don Williams and Garth Brooks: Munson Stadium

    May 27, 1991: Reba and Restless Heart and Vince Gill: Munson Stadium

    May 25, 1992: Reba and Brooks and Dunn and Dolly Parton: Munson Stadium

    May 31, 1993: Reba Vince Gill and Aaron Tippin at the Airport

    May 30, 1994: Reba and John Michael Montgomery and John Berry: Airport

    May 29, 1995: Reba and Tracy Byrd: Airport

    May 27, 1996: Reba and Billy Dean: Airport

    May 26, 1997: Reba and Brooks and Dunn: Airport

    May 1999: Intercontinental Hotel: Dallas

    May 30, 2005:Reba and Joe Nichols: Choctaw

    May 27, 2007: Reba at the Airport

  6. The Comfort of a Country Quilt

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    Reba’s Heroes:

    A Series Highlighting Our Wonderful Volunteers

    From the early days of Reba’s Ranch House, the heart of volunteers beat throughout the space to bring peace and comfort to all the guests who walk through the door.

    This series is our chance to publicly thank our precious volunteers who consistently show up and provide for the many needs we have. The ranch house operates like any home — laundry, meals, cleaning, bedding, prayers. 

    We couldn’t exist without our dedicated volunteers. Thank you!

     

     

    Handmade Comfort

    When guests come to Reba’s Ranch House, it’s because they are experiencing a crippling crisis, something that pulls them almost to the floor.

    But instead, they have a place to rest. Opportunities to talk with someone and pray. Handmade quilts to draw over them like a grandmother’s hug.

    In 1990, before Reba’s Ranch House officially opened, local ladies worked through the Grayson County Extension Office to take on a tremendous project — crafting twenty handmade quilts for the bedrooms where guests at the house stay.

    It started when Jerri Lane, Grayson County Extension Agent, was asked to gather a small troop of ladies to dedicate two years to design and make the quilts. Jerri was an agent at the extension office for over thirty years.

    With several ladies on the project, they started at a quilt shop in Denton to choose colors and decide on patterns. On that first trip, they bought $1,000 worth of fabric. The volunteers consisted of Anne Gary, Jeanie Graber, Jerri Lane, Jana Caroyl, and co-chairman Gerry Dougherty.

    Gerry fondly recalls the adventure. “We had a plan, a full committee, designs for each quilt, and a start. Two of the ladies taught us the new name for a certain red — the Reba Red. It was more of a barn red, but that and the blues we used throughout our project took on a whole new meaning!”

    They worked out of the extension office at the Grayson County Courthouse, tables spilling over with fabric, supplies, and always a quilt in the frame. The ladies kept busy for a year and a half and were ready to present the quilts at a special tea attended by Reba McEntire’s mom and dad. The quilts were added to the guest rooms at the original Reba’s Ranch House and later transferred to the new building.

    “We also did thirty-one shams for the pillows on the beds — eight bedrooms full,” Gerry says. “We were delighted to be involved in such a worthy project. Ann Arnold, who worked at Reba’s Ranch House for a long time, took good care of the quilts. When she washed them, she would dry them over the rails of the porch. What a pretty sight they were!”

    And what a sight they are for everyone who walks into a guest room at Reba’s Ranch House, greeted with the comfort of a handmade quilt.

  7. Watching the Winds of Change

    Reba’s Heroes: A Series Highlighting Our Wonderful Volunteers

    Due to COVID 19, we had to cancel our annual volunteer luncheon that we hold to honor our amazing volunteers! In our effort to cover the many aspects of volunteering at Reba’s Ranch House we found a plethora of wonderful stories. In the coming months, we will cover the many ways to volunteer at Reba’s Ranch House. Read some of our 28 years worth of stories and see if you are visualizing yourself joining these beautiful souls giving their time and love to those who need it. Remember: Studies show that volunteers stay healthier, are more active, and live longer with more productive lives. We are here and would love to talk to you about volunteering and we always need a volunteer somewhere!

    Thank you so much for reading our stories and going through this unexpected year holding us close to your heart. Thank you, Thank you! We are here and will continue to be here while we find our new normal!

    May the Lord bless you, and hold you close to His heart.

    Reba’s Ranch House Director Marilyn Bice

    Watching the Winds of Change

    As a boy growing up during the Great Depression, Bill Wilcox witnessed his mother open their door to people in distress. Sometimes she hired a passing worker for chores or gave them a meal. Bill learned that the winds of hard times would blow, but trouble ultimately passed. That was the analogy he shared with staff when he oversaw the construction of Reba’s Ranch House in 1992, donating two weathervanes to sit above the guest rooms.

    Born in McKinney, Texas, in 1919, Bill was the youngest of eight children. His parents named him Wilson Edison Wilcox after the president who had taken them through the First World War and after an inventor. Setting type at his father’s newspaper, the Sherman Democrat, Bill developed a love for news and communications that lasted throughout his life.

    After Pearl Harbor in 1941, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served onboard an escort carrier in the South Pacific Theatre as a communications officer until 1945. When he returned from the war, Bill purchased a radio station. He liked to keep abreast of current affairs and to always know from which way the winds were blowing.

    After raising a family and his first wife passing in his early retirement years, Bill turned toward more service work in his community, modeling his mother’s example of reaching out to those in distress. One of his guiding principles was, “all we will ever have is what we give to others.”

    Bill was engaged with his church and in numerous civic efforts, and was passionately dedicated to improving Texoma’s healthcare community. When the process began to raise funds for Reba’s Ranch House, he joined the effort. Bill oversaw the construction and added a special touch to the building: two weathervanes.

    “He was a realistic optimist,” says his son, David Wilcox. “He saw quite a lot of history unfold in front of him. He knew things might get stormy, but eventually settle down.”

    Bill made provisions to continue supporting Reba’s Ranch House with contributions left in his will.

    “He felt like Reba’s Ranch House was a critical component of support for families,” David says. “He understood the need for Reba’s Ranch House, that families coming from rural Oklahoma or Texas to the hospital needed a place to stay for a while.”

    When the new ranch house was built in 2010, Bill’s weathervanes were placed over the new guest wing as a reminder to families that the winds of change eventually shift, and difficult times will indeed pass.


    See the tribute to Bill Wilcox in the THF Annual Report

    See our video version of the Texoma Health Foundation 2020 Annual Report, including a tribute to Bill Wilcox.

    Looking for a creative holiday gift idea?

    If you are looking for a gift for someone who already has most of what they need, consider making a donation on their behalf to Reba’s Ranch House. It’s thoughtful, creative and it goes to a great cause. And now it’s so easy! We have streamlined our donation process, making it easier for you to quickly make a donation by credit card to Reba’s Ranch House.

     

     



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  8. Buffets of Blessings

    Reba’s Heroes: A Series Highlighting Our Wonderful Volunteers

    Due to COVID 19, we had to cancel our annual volunteer luncheon that we hold to honor our amazing volunteers! In our effort to cover the many aspects of volunteering at Reba’s Ranch House we found a plethora of wonderful stories. In the coming months, we will cover the many ways to volunteer at Reba’s Ranch House. Read some of our 28 years worth of stories and see if you are visualizing yourself joining these beautiful souls giving their time and love to those who need it. Remember: Studies show that volunteers stay healthier, are more active, and live longer with more productive lives. We are here and would love to talk to you about volunteering and we always need a volunteer somewhere!

    Thank you so much for reading our stories and going through this unexpected year holding us close to your heart. Thank you, Thank you! We are here and will continue to be here while we find our new normal!

    May the Lord bless you, and hold you close to His heart.

    Reba’s Ranch House Director Marilyn Bice

    Hot Meals, Snacks, & Love

    Hundreds of people have taken part in our meal ministry program from churches with decades-long commitments to the ranch house. 89-year-old Wyota Hannon witnessed the grand opening of Reba’s Ranch House in 1992 and was one of the earliest volunteers.

    “My husband, James, was always so helpful,” she says. “He would make a big pot of stew and bring it over to the ranch house. We would eat a meal with all the people there with their families. We started setting up with churches to do monthly meals. We had several churches that participated. There are a lot of good people out there.”

    Wyota worked in an emergency room in Denison for 15 years, and James, her husband of 72 years, also worked in Denison. She began volunteering at the ranch house, dedicating her time for 12 years. After retirement and settling in Colbert, Oklahoma, Wyota had turned fully to volunteering.

    “We had people that would come to me and say, ‘Is there anything that we can do?’” she recalls. “‘We know families are there, stranded, and we want to do something.’ I suggested people do a meal once in a while, and I started contacting churches. I made up a little schedule. It worked well, and something that was really fulfilling to me to do.”

    Twelve local churches support the meal ministry program at Reba’s Ranch House. Though the COVID-19 shutdown restrictions prevent them from offering full meals, churches like Trinity Lighthouse Church still bring snacks, frozen breakfast and fruit combos, and bottled drinks to keep the guests supplied with easy-access food.

    Deena Steen is the ministry coordinator at Trinity Lighthouse Church. She began volunteering when churches in the area were invited to participate in the meal ministry after the ranch house opened. Since then, until the time of the shutdown, Deena made sure hot meals were at the house every Friday.

    “The first director [of the ranch house] was Barbara Points, and she was a very personable young woman,” Deena says. “I visited with her many times whenever I would take food over, and see the vision and the heart she had for the families. I could put myself in those families’ shoes, especially if they were from out of town.”

    Trinity Lighthouse has retained some of the volunteers from the original group who stayed faithful in their commitment for nearly 30 years. Deena is also seeing an increase in younger women joining the program, and men as well. Their pastor, Raymond England, is a strong supporter of the team that serves RRH, always willing to promote the need for volunteers.

    “I’m never short on volunteers,” she says. “Before COVID, we had fifty-six women on a rotation basis. If I ever lost one for whatever reason, all I had to do was put a notice in the bulletin that we needed volunteers for Reba’s Ranch House. The slots would instantly be filled because of what the ranch house represents to people. So many of the members have needed their services.

    “I feel we’re an extension of Trinity Lighthouse into the community, being arms and legs to serve hurting people. The ministry of Reba’s has been a joy for the people that do it. They all say that it’s a ministry that touches their heart.”

    Want to make a donation to Reba’s Ranch House?

    We have streamlined our donation process, making it easier for you to quickly make a donation by credit card to Reba’s Ranch House.

     

     



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