“Having thousands of people watching me will be a wonderful experience,” Isaiah, 13, said, excited about this year’s Boys Ranch Rodeo.
Isaiah has performed in three prior rodeos, and enjoyed the support from the crowd as much as he did the competition itself: “It makes me feel important,” he said.
Before coming to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, Isaiah didn’t feel all that important, being shuffled from place to place as his mother tried to earn enough income to meet Isaiah’s needs and give him the stability he deserved. Struggling financially, they often had to rely on the help of friends or family for shelter and food.
“The whole reason I came here is because we had poverty,” he recalled. “Before coming here, I went to seven schools between pre-kindergarten and fourth grade.”
In this survival state, it was difficult for Isaiah to develop in a healthy, well-adjusted way; this is not uncommon in cases like Isaiah’s. As long as a child’s brain determines he or she is unsafe or needs protection from harm, higher levels of functioning and reasoning remain out of reach.
More than three years after coming to Boys Ranch, though, Isaiah is growing and gaining the emotional tools he’ll need to lead a successful adult life. He’s extremely grateful for Cal Farley’s help, which in his book is nothing short of a miracle.
“I could have been suffering in poverty instead of being here,” he said. “I know He has a path for me.”
At Cal Farley’s, not only are Isaiah’s physical needs provided for, but his emotional needs are met as well. Rodeo is one of the outlets Isaiah uses to develop healthy relationships with the people around him. Some might see Isaiah’s rodeo activities as a diversion from more serious matters, but the adults around him ensure each encounter, in and outside the rodeo arena, helps Isaiah learn how to relate to others or overcome conflict.
“My biggest struggle is probably dealing with family issues,” Isaiah acknowledged. “To overcome that, I’m keeping my mind on rodeo, sports and school.”
Junior steers and junior roping are his events in his fourth Boys Ranch Rodeo. And, as in past years, he’s looking forward to the familiar adrenaline rush of the arena.
Regardless of the past, Isaiah is determined not to let the past dull his future. Instead, he chooses to focus on his more positive things. In the case of this year’s rodeo, Isaiah is most excited because his grandmother will be in the stands to watch him compete.
“Her presence is important because she is always there for me,” he said.