Dear Friends of Golden Heart Ranch®,
On a winter’s day 15 years ago, my family’s life changed dramatically. My son had his first Grand mal seizure. His diagnosis of epilepsy followed and, shortly thereafter, my beautiful boy was deemed autistic.
In the years that followed, we learned to have a different life from the one we envisioned as young parents. It took some time for us to come to terms with the fact that Justin could not be “cured,” but during those years we were always thankful for the amazing gift of raising our child.
Now Justin is 17 years old, and I know the time has come for me to secure his future. Yet, it is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life. For years I let myself believe that Justin’s future would always be at home with us - his mom and dad. It was inconceivable that he should live anywhere else. Like so many special needs children, Justin depends entirely upon his family for his care, love and safety and, like so many special children, Justin has never spent a night away from his home except on family vacations. Therefore, the thought of abandoning my wonderful, trusting son to a typical group home with nothing to fill his days, living among unfamiliar faces, remains completely unthinkable and impossible.
Then, in 2006, I had the opportunity to visit an incredible farm in the Netherlands. For the first time the knot of fear regarding Justin’s future loosened. I was taken on a tour by some of the special needs residents of the farm and I found them to be happy and proud. They shared greens from their organic gardens and insisted that I take an armload of flowers as I left. Parents and volunteers dotted the property providing guidance when needed. It was a community of harmony and peace. I left the farm that day knowing it was the answer to my fears and Justin’s future.
Golden Heart is the name my mother calls my son. It’s true, that the young adults that will call our ranch home, all have golden and innocent hearts. It is my mission in life – and the mission of others than have joined with me in this quest - to give these special children a home that keeps their hearts golden and their belief in the goodness of people and life intact.
Rose van Wier Hein