A letter to Santa

Dear Santa, the source of magical hope, kindness and joy in our lives regardless of our age:
Please help all the children at Ryther to find peace, solace, and comfort
Please erase the nightmares, anxiety and fear from their lives forever
Please help us provide the children with a childhood they deserve; ones with happiness, small
crises, moments of accomplishments and triumph to balance the small defeats.
Please help the children acquire and keep the capacity to love and be loved.
Please give the children the gift of curiosity and joy of learning.
Finally, Santa, help the children to hope and believe in themselves. Help them know that if they keep trying things can be different and better for them.
Your friend, Lee Grogg

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The Night Before Christmas

The children at Ryther are anxiously awaiting tomorrow morning this afternoon. For some, it takes a lot of extra effort to contain the many feelings and emotions during a time when there is so much excitement in the air. For others, it takes a mix of concentration and distraction to avoid focusing on the fact that they are not having a Norman Rockwell holiday. I hope everyone will think of the children at Ryther and wish extra hard for them to have peace, comfort, and even joy. Please also send thoughts of love and tenderness their way. We can use all the help we can get in that department.

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Why I Ride for Ryther: John’s Story

johnJohn Gonzales is the Cottage C Supervisor and team captain of Ride for Ryther. This is his second year riding in the Seattle to Portland Classic to raise funds and awareness for Ryther.

A couple of weekends ago I was going on a training ride for the upcoming Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, a one day 202 mile bike ride that I will be dedicating to benefit Ryther. I was heading out to Mercer Island for a training ride when on my way I unexpectedly hit a pothole and was thrown from my bike. At first I was rattled and confused. I gathered myself as quickly as I could and rode a short ways to safety. I took a couple of deep breaths and asked myself,

“Do I keep riding?”

The answer was easy, “of course!”

Why was the answer so easy? It was because I knew what I was riding for: Ryther, an organization that has served families and children for more than 125 years in the Pacific Northwest.

Serving Children

Ryther provides a variety of services that are all focused on providing children and families the opportunity for a healthier tomorrow. In the Sub-Acute Residential Treatment Program, where I work, children are provided with a highly therapeutic environment that is instrumental in helping them regain their lost childhood. In this environment, children are able to achieve therapeutic goals, reach developmental milestones, and gain valuable ground in their academics. Not only are most of the children afforded these opportunities, but, for some, Ryther represents their first safe home. These children show tremendous resiliency, which combined with the efforts of the Ryther staff, leads to remarkable growth.

Dedicated Staff

It is the dedicated work the residential counselors do that provides these opportunities for children to heal and grow. The breadth and depth of their training and experience allows them to work with each child on an individual level, regardless of his or her trauma history. Their tireless efforts are seen in countless ways; whether it’s the first time children are able to comfortably express their feelings, go to bed without fear because they know they are safe, or maybe even learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. While the work that the children do is extraordinary, even more extraordinary are the staff alongside them guiding them every step of the way.

Placing Children First

Ryther has made every sacrifice possible to keep children first and to continue to serve the neediest children in the northwest. Every day I am reminded of the thousands of children we have been able to give a childhood. I am reminded of a young man, who in our care, discovered his own passion for bikes. He had lost everything including his family and was understandably angry. He would threaten staff, want to hurt himself, and often wanted to give up, but the Ryther community never gave up on him. The staff and the agency figured out ways to channel his passions and teach him to redirect his anger. A staff member donated a bike and tools. Pretty soon he was waking up early to ride laps, spending his allowance on the newest and coolest bike bell, and even volunteering to help repair other children’s bikes. By the time this boy left, he had his smile back. He was proud of the person he had become, and the staff was happy to say goodbye to him and count him as one of the many children who had regained their childhood.

This is why I keep riding. I have never been more inspired by a group of hard working individuals, children and staff. Dedicating this ride is what I can do to say thank you for all I have gained in my 8 years at Ryther.

Oh, and the training ride went well. After I collected myself I was able to move on and finish my ride feeling strong and prepared. Fortunately, I got away with my health and am able to keep riding for Ryther.

Click here to make your contribution to Ride for Ryther. If you know John, you can specify his name in the dedication section.

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From a Foster Parent to Her Son: “We’re Going to be Just Fine”


An open letter from Sheila to her foster son at the time, DJ, after she had first met him (view DJ’s full story here):

Dear DJ,DJ, foster son, Ryther

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday. You were dressed like a little old man, in your khaki pants and white polo shirt. Running up the front steps, coat flying behind, your first words to me were “You got any kids?” Unhappy with my answer, you blew past me into the house.

In the house you moved so fast. Inspecting everything, touching the next thing before your last “What is this?” was answered. You were fascinated with the tulips I had growing in a pot.DJ, Sheila, foster parent, Ryther, foster mom, foster care, adoption

At dinner you said “Maybe I could live here.” I asked you why you might want to live with me. Your answer is etched in my mind: “It smells fresh in here, and you have those ‘twinkle lights,’ and ‘this,’” holding up an oversized paper clip.

That night you tried everything in your arsenal of kid tactics to convince me you should be able to watch an inappropriate movie, including your now infamous argument, “I’m a grown man.” When that proved unsuccessful, you tilted your head away from me, with tears in your eyes, and said you hated me.

Looking as though you were testing the words for the first time, you simply puffed them in the air. I couldn’t help but smile.

That was the moment I knew…I had fallen in love, and we were going to be just fine!

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If you or someone you know are interested in becoming a foster parent, please consider joining us at a free foster parent information session every first Monday of the month at 6pm on Ryther’s main campus. Call 206.517.0273 ext. 11 for more information or visit this page.



Across the Board Cuts

Cutting a budget whether you are a family, a business or a government is never easy. I know because I have had to do it on two of these categories. Some think making a flat percentage cut across the board some how makes not making decisions both easy, fair and right. It may be easy but it is neither fair or right. It assumes you have no values driven principles or priorities. It suggests that you don’t want to do the work or take responsibility for the results.

Presently the Washington legislature is considering a budget with a 20% across the board to DSHS’ Children’s Administration service called Behavioral Rehabilitation Services (BRS). This pays for care of the State’s most damaged and vulnerable children, like the children at Ryther. Not serving these children will not mean they magically get better or that they won’t be just as costly immediately as a result. However, they do represent a small percentage of the total number of children in care so I suppose one could suggest that no one will notice or care. These children do not scare people on street corners, they don’t vote and they have very few people who will speak for them.

Any government that suggests that the needs of these children are somehow less important than the needs of others is abrogating its responsibility. BRS has been severely cut and reduced over the years. A 20% will gut the program and abandon a lot of children and it will not save money in the either the near term or long term.

Please help us at Ryther speak up for these kids. Let your legislators and the Governor know that seldom is the easy way the best way by calling, emailing or writing a letter. Find your legislators here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/Default.aspx.

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