Something Good: Birch Creek

Adam Bateman and Eric Peterson, first cousins, spent several boyhood summers camping, playing, and working on a ranch in a beautiful valley nestled against the Teton Mountains. The ranch, run by Peterson's parents for many years, was a life changing experience for the boys, who even later returned as camp counselors.

Seeking to recreate their boyhood adventures, they founded Birch Creek Service Ranch seven years ago, and have provided the same experience for hundreds of youth.

Much like the ranch Bateman and Peterson experienced as youth, Birch Creek provides a unique opportunity for youth to enhance their personal growth while serving a rural community. Because it is not a rehabilitative service ranch, it allows all youth, especially those already making good decisions, an opportunity to strengthen their character through service. During separate summer sessions for boys and girls, participants ages 12 to 15 spend about three weeks working and learning on the ranch, which is located four miles south of Spring City, Utah.

"The ranch is a venue where youth have an opportunity to learn really important things that I think are missing," Bateman says. "They learn how to work really hard, and they do that by participating in community service every morning." Much of this work is with local farmers, but it also includes working with the elderly and others as well. Youth also care for the ranch's garden and animals every day.

Participants also gain from the experience by taking a variety of classes such as ceramics, stained glass making, and others. The ranch also offers a wide range of sports, including mountain biking, rock climbing, soccer, and basketball. All these activities are designed to promote personal growth and help the participants make new friends.

Every week special guests - professors, musicians, and other dynamic visitors - speak to the youth about their lives and professions. From these visits, staff members encourage youth to think about life in a different way. "Learning to think critically and coming up with your own ideas about things is a really important part of having self confidence and a high self-esteem," Bateman says.

Not only do the youth enjoy the experience, but their parents also notice a change. Parents report that their children perform better in school and are more willing to work around the home after returning from the camp. Youth also return with greater self-confidence, a sense of accomplishment, and many new skill sets.

"[Our son] grew in physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional areas that staying home to play more sports and hang out with friends could have never offered," says Matt Driggs. "This is a place that attracts good kids and makes them even better."

To learn more about Birch Creek Service Ranch or to check on availability, visit birchcreekranch.org or call (801) 361-4523.

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