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30th anniversary

News & Needs Archive

  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. “Reba-time”—The Beginnings of a Big-Hearted Journey

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Music. Food. Parades. Golf tournament. True red, white, blue, and country music Memorial Day weekends came alive in Denison, Texas, all thanks to hearts as big as Texas.

    Over 30 years ago, a tradition started with an entire community coming together for what some dubbed “Reba-time.” The annual fundraising weekend for the local hospital captured the American spirit of selflessly serving your fellow man.

    That was how Dr. Darius Maggi saw it, those early days when, what was then the area’s nonprofit hospital, the Texoma Medical Center was known for having nearly every health offering available at the time. There were few things not housed under its roof.

    And from the beginning, raising funds for health initiatives was all about one thing: The care of the patient.

    The need for care extended to caregivers of patients. This means to create a “caregiver of the caregiver” emerged after one question proposed by local businessman Jerdy Gary, who later became the first chairman of the Texoma Medical Center Foundation (TMCF). The foundation that would ultimately help establish the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) so many years later.

    “Jerdy knew Reba (McEntire) and her family members were my patients,” Dr. Maggi recalls. “So he asked if I thought we could get Reba to do something [for the hospital]. I said, ‘Well, I’ll ask her.”

    Dr. Maggi did just that over lunch one day with Reba. The conversation sparked a monumental time of fundraisers that spanned two decades. Part of those funds built Reba’s Ranch House—a home for caregivers to find refuge while their loved one is hospitalized.

    “It was such a phenomenal community effort across North Texas and Southern Oklahoma,” Dr. Maggi said. “Incredible for a town this size.”

    The first Reba concert was held with her full band in the old Denison High School auditorium on a Sunday afternoon in 1987. But they didn’t end there. They spilled out into white tents and parties, then grew every Memorial Day weekend, capturing the heart of surrounding areas with Denison’s Memorial Day Parade, a Reba Charity Golf Classic, home-cooked food, and of course, Reba’s concerts.

    Though simply a small town, the heart of Denison and the communities that surround us could fill Texas. From business owners, to hospital staff and volunteers, to the ladies on the Reba Development Committee, the community came alive to prepare each year for Reba-time.

    “It was a happy time because it was community,” Dr. Maggi said. “That’s what we’re supposed to be about. Our main reason when we set out with all this was to be the beacon of care for people.”

    It all began with that question posed by Jerdy to Dr. Maggi, who remembers Jerdy being like, “a big teddy bear.”

    “He had so much love,” Dr. Maggi recalls. “He was the son of a governor, and he knew something about promotions. He had that deep voice and could articulate extremely well. But he wasn’t about himself. He did not want the limelight, but he had a lot of respect from the community as a great leader.”

    Jerdy passed in 2021, just shy of this 30th year celebrating the opening of Reba’s Ranch House in 1992. But his legacy echoes in the halls and lives through every person who finds refuge within the ranch house.


    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 show that same care that began with “Reba-time” by donating here.

    GARY SEWELL / HERALD DEMOCRAT Reba McEntire cuts the ribbon held by Herman Ringler and Dr. Darius Maggi to officially open the new Reba’s Ranch House.

  7. Denison Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Cap Chesser and Reba’s Ranch House

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    Cap Chesser (right) with friend friend Kris Spiege at the Denison Chamber awards banquet

    On Cap Chesser’s long list of charitable giving and volunteer work, Reba’s Ranch House stands out for reasons that go back a long, long way…

    In third grade, Cap was growing up in east central Oklahoma, near Prague, when his family needed to make an emergency trip to the hospital in Oklahoma City. Cap’s mother was in a bad way during her third pregnancy and they didn’t know if she would survive it.

    During those worrisome days, Cap’s father rented an apartment a full mile from the hospital for the family to stay in during the ordeal.

    Mom was okay, and still is at 93-years-old. But when Cap walked the halls of Reba’s Ranch House, he knew the difference a home away from home, so close to the hospital, would have made for his family back then.

    “I was struck with the mission of Texoma Health Foundation and what they do, and then with Reba’s Ranch House,” Cap says. “I started giving annually, but got more active when I felt there was a need. In 2008, I really started stepping into the waters there.”

    Among Cap’s many charitable contributions, scholarship establishments, and volunteer activities—he was the Paul Kisel Volunteer of the Year 2021 through the Denison Chamber—one of them is the “Leadership Denison” program. Cap helps organize the different areas of focus—from government to tourism—and he puts the ranch house on the agenda to tour during the medical focus day.

    Though someone else guides the leadership group tour, Cap is always there with them to go through the house. They see the footprints Cap and his wife, Jacqueline Vandiver Chesser, have made through the years. It started when the couple sponsored the laundry room, because just like any house—it piles up.

    But it’s the quality of the house that captures people’s heart and attention.

    “It’s an eye opener from the standpoint of how nice the facility is,” Cap says. “They thought it was going to be like a hotel, but it’s not. It’s a completely encapsulated home for the people who are going to be there awhile.”

    After Christmas each year, Cap asks for the ranch house’s leftover wish list for the Denison Rotary Club to take care of. He makes shopping trips to make sure everything is checked off, even if it’s non-glamorous items like dishwashers and vacuum cleaners.

    “There are things that people don’t think about,” Cap says. “One year, the thing that jumped out at me was that they needed a whole stack of trash cans. It’s one of the less beautiful gifts I’ve ever given.”

    But one of his most beautiful gifts was after his wife passed in 2020. Cap set out to keep her memory as part of the places they both loved and admired.

    Cap and his wife, Jacqueline

    One of those was Reba’s Ranch House, and Cap sponsored what he calls the, “I miss you, Mommy,” room. It has a crib, rocker, and a fridge—everything to make a mother feel at home when undergoing a medical crisis.

    It’s the kind of room his wife would have appreciated, and his own mother as well. The impact of their family’s medical crisis early in his life is one reason why the ranch house holds a special place in his heart, and always will.

  8. 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.

     

  9. A Real Thanksgiving

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    Scrumptious aromas accompanied the spread of food laid out for Sarah Bradford, her family, and other guests at Reba’s Ranch House on Thanksgiving Day 2019. When the staff invited Sarah to sign up for the communal meal, she had no idea it was going to be an actual Thanksgiving dinner in the midst of their family’s health crisis. There was an abundance of turkey, ham, dressing, and all the trimmings.

    Having to spend the holiday away from home in order to be near their loved one at the hospital was strenuous, but it turned out to be a real family and friends Thanksgiving for Sarah, her two teens, and mother-in-law, Shirley.

    When Sarah’s sister-in-law, Kelli, was admitted into a Texas hospital with pneumonia in October, a series of trips began for the family. 77-year-old Shirley started making the eight-hour one-way drive from Arkansas to be with her daughter, Kelli, as much as possible. The family alternated stays in different hotels — some of them dicey. Sarah was constantly concerned about her mother-in-law’s safety, finances, and the lonely drive. Shirley was exhausted and had run out of money for hotels. 

    But in November, their caseworker shared about the option of staying at Reba’s Ranch House. Shirley would have been forced to drive back-and-forth to Arkansas at least four more times had she not stayed at the house.

    “I never knew something like this even existed,” Sarah says. “Every day, someone would bring food and donate it, mostly from churches. When I was not there, I felt so much better knowing Shirley was being taken care of. She literally would not have a dime left if she had to pay for all that. Plus she made friends and they were able to comfort each other. It just made it so much easier on her.”

    On Thanksgiving weekend, Kelli faced a tracheotomy. Sarah and her 16-year-old daughter Annie and 14-year-old son Asa made the urgent trip from Arkansas to be with Kelli and Shirley. They likely could not have made the trip without the option to stay at Reba’s Ranch House.

    “We had already been down there several times, and spent a lot of money,” Sarah says. 

    The four of them bundled into one of the rooms at Reba’s Ranch House with a queen bed that Shirley and Asa shared. Staff members brought in two cots. The family had fun pushing them together at the end of the large bed for Sarah and Annie.

    Kelli was not doing well that stormy weekend. It was emotionally draining for them all, especially Sarah’s teens as they watched over their aunt. But Kelli took a turn for the better after the visit. She didn’t need the tracheotomy.

    “We stayed with her for four days,” Sarah says. “She couldn’t talk on the phone, so us being there lifted her spirits and helped her get through it. I really, really believe that. She was so sick.”

    The family experienced a real Thanksgiving at Reba’s Ranch House, a place Sarah believes helped save Kelli’s life.

  10. Keeping the House Feeling Like Home and Hope

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

     

    Cameron Bates entered the dining area at Reba’s Ranch House to check on things. As an intern at the house, he was accustomed to making rounds, doing any clean up, and helping guests. But that day was different. A lone woman stood in the kitchen, crying.

    Having worked at the ranch house since 2019, Cameron had seen people come in from all walks of life. One thing he learned from his parents: You never know what someone is going through, but you can always pray with them.

    Cameron asked the woman if he could help and she told him she was having to let go of her son that day. They talked and prayed, then she gave Cameron a big hug. 

    “She said, ‘You don’t know how much that helped me,’” Cameron recalls, then added, “When people come here, they have a lot on their shoulders. But at the ranch house, we can stop whatever we’re doing and sit and pray with guests. Prayer is very powerful.”

    Joining up with Reba’s Ranch House was a natural fit for Cameron’s life as a college student, despite the two-hour round trip drive he makes to the house from his family’s cattle ranch. Growing up on the ranch, Cameron became a lifelong fan of Reba McEntire. When he received the call that they had accepted him for the intern position at Reba’s Ranch House, he was over the moon.

    His official internship ended after graduation, but he just couldn’t leave. Though he had started his own business, Cameron chose to remain with the ranch house part-time.

    “When you walk through the door, it feels like home,” he says. “I knew it was a special place from that first time.”

    Cameron has a hand in nearly every aspect of the house to keep it feeling like a home — and like hope.

    “When the guests come back and forth from the hospital, we know it’s hard for them,” he says. “Anything I can do to make their stay more comfortable, I’ll do it.”

    One question he often hears when checking people in at the front desk is, How long do I have?

    “Reba McEntire wanted the ranch house set up to allow them to stay as long as their loved one is in the hospital,” he says. “That’s the most beautiful thing. People are travelling from out of state and may have to be here for weeks. I’ve heard of people staying in their cars or sleeping on a park bench. For someone to come here and not have to pay anything, that shocks many people. Reba has put her heart and soul into this place, and being able to work here is a dream come true.”

     

    Reba’s Ranch House is owned and operated by the Texoma Health Foundation. If you would like to become a caregiver of caregivers like Cameron, you can contribute to the house today through donating or volunteering.