Ryan United Partners With NorthWestern Energy to Keep More Communities Safe

NorthWestern Energy has formed a partnership with Ryan United, a nonprofit group, to help deliver safety information and promote awareness of child safety in communities across its three-state service territory.

NorthWestern and Ryan United will work together on the RU SAFE Community program, which includes missing-child response and prevention, cyber safety for children and adults and the ‘know and tell” concept that encourages situational awareness and reporting of suspicious activity. The RU SAFE Community program was developed by Ryan United.

“We are honored to partner with a great organization, Ryan United,” said Bob Rowe, NorthWestern’s President and CEO. “Our employees are present and visible in communities across our service area. I frequently hear from community members how our employees go out of their way to assist in all kinds of situations and how their help really makes a difference. This partnership builds on their presence, commitment and professionalism to help with an especially critical problem.”

NorthWestern is working to place the RU SAFE Community logo and information on all of its fleet vehicles and is working to educate its more than 1,600 employees in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska about the program and partnership.

Ryan United is private, nonprofit organization formed in memory of 8-year-old Ryan VanLuchene, who was abducted from his rural Montana backyard and murdered by a repeat sex offender in 1987. Ryan United was formed by the child’s family and works with law enforcement, correction officials, communities and others to promote child safety education and training.

“We are very excited about the partnership with NorthWestern Energy,” said Derek VanLuchene, Ryan United’s President and Founder. “NorthWestern employees have a strong presence in the areas they serve and will help further the mission of Ryan United by helping keep communities safe. Our RU SAFE Community Program will help NorthWestern employees identify and report situations where a child may be in danger. In addition, NorthWestern Energy will serve as a partner within the communities they serve to foster our RU SAFE Community Town Hall meetings, which bring vital information to communities regarding issues of child safety. With the addition of the RU SAFE Community logo on the fleet of NorthWestern Energy vehicles and the ongoing goal to keep communities safe, we are hoping this program becomes a mainstay in all the communities NorthWestern Energy serves.


Ryan United Adds Forensic Certified Physician to the Team

Ryan United is very proud to announce the addition of John Bradberry, MD, who will serve as the volunteer Medical Director for the non-profit. Dr. Bradberry co-owns multiple urgent Care facilities in the Atlanta area. Previously, he served for seven years as medical director for Carnival Cruise Lines. As medical director he managed all clinical and administrative aspects of the Department of Medical Services both shore-side and ship-board. Prior to his appointment as medical director, he worked for seven years as a cruise ship physician proceeded by eleven years as a shore-side emergency trauma physician. Dr. Bradberry volunteered for the U.S. Navy Reserves as a medical officer where he achieved the rank of Commander. He was affiliated with a combat ready battalion of the Navy “Seabees” and was cited by the Deputy Surgeon General as an example of a reserve medical officer willing to go above and beyond to serve his country.  Before pursuing his medical career, Dr Bradberry served as a full time commissioned federal law enforcement officer from 1977 to 1981. Dr. Bradberry is double board certified in the specialties of emergency medicine and family medicine. He is additionally qualified as a certified forensic physician (CFP) and medical review officer (MRO).  Dr. Bradberry is also a current member of Board of Directors of Alpharetta Department of Public Safety Foundation in the Atlanta area.

Because of his experience and qualifications, he frequently serves as a litigation medical-legal expert witness. He has also personally handled multiple child abuse cases during his medical career including receiving a letter of commendation from the Florida Board of Medicine for his management of a child abuse homicide cases.

“We are very excited about Dr. Bradberry’s addition to Ryan United”, said Derek VanLuchene,  President and Founder of Ryan United.  “He brings an amazing perspective and set of skills which will be used to help the crime victims and communities we serve.” VanLuchene added.   According to VanLuchene, Dr. Bradberry will be consulting on cases involving child abuse and serve as an immediate resource for law enforcement or medical personnel who are responding to and investigating allegations of child sexual or physical abuse.  “ Ryan United often receives calls from law enforcement, child protection professionals and prosecutors for assistance in these horrific cases.  Having a medical-legal perspective will really help round out our response”, said VanLuchene. “He’ll be there for us 24/7” VanLuchene said of Bradberry.

In addition to being a resource for law enforcement and victims, Bradberry will assist with the development and delivery of a unique training for Law Enforcement and medical responders. The training will focus on bridging gaps between the professions for seamless investigations and prosecutions of crimes against children.


Ryan United Receives Donation From The Exchange Club of Helena

Ryan United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to child and community protection has received one thousand dollar donation from The Exchange Club of Helena. The generous donation was presented to Ryan United’s Founder and President, Derek VanLuchene at the Exchange Club’s October 1st luncheon meeting. VanLuchene addressed the attendees and told them about Ryan United, an organization dedicated VanLuchene’s 8-year-old brother Ryan, who was abducted and murdered in 1987, by a repeat sex offender.   “Ryan United is dedicated to keeping communities safe and protecting children. We need partners to help us and the Helena Exchange Club is a strong partner in our fight” said VanLuchene. “Their donation will help us strengthen our programs and resources we provide for Communities, Law Enforcement and crime victims”.

Dr. Sheridan Jones, a member of the Exchange Club of Helena, presented to the check to VanLuchene. “ The Exchange Club of Helena and the National Exchange Club are committed to protecting children. The mission of Ryan United is right in line with the focus of the Exchange Club of Helena and the National Exchange Club. We are proud to support Ryan United”, said Jones during the presentation. For more information about Ryan United, please visit www.ryanunited.org

Ballot proposal aims to ensure rights for crime victims in Montana



HELENA – Thirty-two states have some level of Constitutional rights for victims of crimes.

Next year, voters may have an chance to add Montana to that list.

A group backing a measure called Marsy’s Law has filed proposed ballot language with the Montana Secretary of State, starting the process to bring the measure to the 2016 ballot.

The proposal is named for a California college student murdered in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend.

A week after her murder, her family members were confronted in a store by the attacker, who was out on bail.

The Constitutional amendment would create a Victims’ Bill of Rights, assuring victims the same kind of rights defendants have.

“It would make sure that victims are taken care of throughout the process, make sure that they’re in the loop on what’s going on, what the prosecutor’s doing – all those things that are afforded to, usually, the defendant, said Derek VanLuchene, founder and director of Ryan United in Helena, a national victim advocacy group. “We want those victims to have those same rights.”

The proposal lists 19 rights for victims, focused on ensuring safety and knowledge of the case.

It includes the right to participate in various parts of the criminal proceedings; notifications of hearings, escapes, and releases; and a promise of restitution.

Some of these things already happen or are mandated by law, and VanLuchene said many of the larger jurisdictions in Montana already have victim advocates.

But the measure would formalize those rights in the Montana Constitution.

Ryan’s United is named for VanLuchene’s brother Ryan, who was abducted from his yard in 1987 (at age 8), sexually assaulted, and murdered by a repeat sex offender.

Click here to learn more about Marsy’s Law.

Ryan United Partners with OffenderWatch Initiative

Ryan United is proud to partner with another non-profit called OffenderWatch Initiative (OWI).

(OWI) is a national 501(C)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to increase public awareness of registered sex offenders through education, community notification, and better relations between the public and law enforcement. OWI works on both local and national levels with school boards and law enforcement to help institute the “Teaching Awareness to School Kids” program. Through T.A.S.K., school children become more vigilant about offenders near them while engaging their parents in the education process. OWI also mails millions of community notification postcards nationwide every year alerting citizens of sex offenders living in their neighborhoods. To learn more about the OffenderWatch Initiative visit www.offenderwatchinitiative.org

Ryan United announces 2012 opening of a Montana guest Ranch

Ryan United, a nonprofit organization based in Helena, Montana, announces the 2012 opening of a Montana guest ranch for siblings and families from around the country who have experienced the loss of a child through abduction and/or murder.

Ryan United was created in memory of eight year old Ryan VanLuchene, who was abducted and murdered by a repeat sex offender in the community of Libby, Montana.  Ryan’s brother, Derek VanLuchene, now an 18 year veteran Law Enforcement Officer and President and Founder of Ryan United remembers his brother with love, “He appreciated the outdoor paradise he was afforded every day of his young life until it was taken from him by a sexual predator in our backyard”, VanLuchene said. “This had horrific psychological toll my sisters, parents, extended family and everyone that knew Ryan – it was a spider web effect”.   In the days, months, and years after Ryan’s senseless death, the VanLuchene family tried to reassemble themselves and simply go on with their lives, but it just isn’t easy to do.

The first annual “A Leg Up on Life Camp” will be hosted in the Teton Canyon – one of the most beautiful settings in all of Montana – beginning in the summer of 2012.  With its breath-taking surroundings, the Seven Lazy P Ranch is the perfect setting to promote healing.  Ryan United under the direction of Derek VanLuchene and staff will work in conjunction with the Seven Lazy P Guest Ranch to foster an environment helping those who have lost children in similar ways discover a contemplative new beginning.  It is a first step to address the process of life restoration.  The camp will focus on seven key elements required for healing.   Owners of the Seven Lazy P Ranch for over 50 years, Chuck and Sharon Blixrud, have described the setting as “a place of quiet restorative peacefulness” which not only emulates the setting perfectly, but is the central mission of the Leg Up On Life Camp.  The Seven Lazy P Ranch provides a beautiful, natural setting that guest will find inspirational. “I wish my family would have had a place like this to go to be together and understand what obstacles we may face during the grieving process, now we have a change to provide that for others” VanLuchene said.

In addition, the Ranch has been identified for a National Memorial to Children lost through exploitation and abduction.  Individualized memorial plaques with personalized rustic Montana brands will be permanently engraved on the monument by the families to remember and honor their loved one.

To make this possible, VanLuchene has teamed with the following non-profits who share the same mission:

  • The Laura Recovery Center, a nonprofit from Texas dedicated to Laura Smither, who was abducted and murdered in 1997
  • The Kelsey Smith Foundation, founded in memory of Kelsey Smith, who was abducted and murdered in Overland Park Kansas in 2007
  • The Morgan Nick Foundation, dedicated to Morgan Nick who was abducted in 1995

“Our partners in this are amazing.  They are folks from around the country who have experienced first-hand what my family did in 1987”, VanLuchene said. “They bring so much to the table as far as perspective and understanding … what families who attend our camp may need”.  Ryan United and its partners in the project are currently accepting donations to help bring families to the camp. “We are relying on donations from folks to make this possible. I really think that people will understand how much this will help families and will want to be involved.” said VanLuchene.  To make a donation to Ryan United, please contact Derek VanLuchene at 406-439-8748, or send your tax-deductible contribution to Ryan United, 800 East 6th Avenue, Helena, Montana 59601.  To learn more about Ryan United, visit: www.ryanunited.org.  For more information about the Seven Lazy P Ranch, visit: www.sevenlazyp.com.

Ryan United backs important DNA law

Every day innocent people needlessly become victims of violent crimes. Most of these are committed by repeat offenders. By passing state legislation that enables law enforcement to collect DNA from felony arrestees, at the same time as fingerprints, your state can catch criminals sooner. That means you can prevent most of these crimes, save more lives, and provide more protection to the innocent.

What is DNA Testing?

DNA is the most powerful tool available for identification in forensic investigations. Because of its ability to link physical evidence found at a crime scene to a single person, it is often referred to as a “digital fingerprint.” This method is so precise that it can ensure pinpoint accuracy, down to one in a billion. And, unlike fingerprints, which can only be found if a suspect touches something, DNA exists in every cell of the human body, from hair and blood to skin and tears, and can be shed or deposited while committing a crime. That means it is often the only means for accurate identification.

DNA Databases

DNA databases make it possible for law enforcement crime laboratories to electronically search and compare collected DNA profiles to crime scene evidence. In the United States, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) links all local, state, and national databases and contains more than 5 million records. Currently, legislation exists on the federal level and in 23 states, enabling investigators to collect DNA upon arrest for certain felony crimes.

Ryan United is proud to support this important initiative.  If you would like more information on how to get invloved, please visit: www.DNASAVES.org