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.