St. Jude’s Ranch for Children wasn’t a place, so much as a dream, in the mind of one well-meaning man. ”What if we could build a place for neglected children?” He wondered, “How much good could we do?”
A lot! For more than 45 years, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children has provided a safe, nurturing home and therapeutic residential treatment services to thousands of children in Nevada and Texas. St. Jude’s Ranch is making a difference by creating new lives with new hope for abused, abandoned and neglected children of all races and faiths.
The vision came from Father Jack Adam (1932 – 2007), an Episcopal priest who wanted to create a safe haven for abused, abandoned and neglected children in Southern Nevada. He named the organization after St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Desperate Causes. At first, Father Jack’s project seemed to be one of those desperate causes, but that changed in 1966 when a group of local leaders came forward to help.
Claudine and Shelby Williams offered to help with fundraising and organized a successful gala called the “Nite of Stars.” With the help of Forrest Duke, the entertainment columnist at the Las Vegas Review Journal at the time, they convinced stars including Jack Benny, Shecky Greene, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra to perform. Held November 15, 1966, at the Riviera Hotel, the event was a great success, raising more than $30,000.
Alvin Wartman, an attorney in Boulder City, persuaded City fathers to provide 40 acres of land for a campus. The Sisters of Charity, an order of nuns based in Bristol, England, agreed to care for the children.
Construction began in the Spring of 1967 and on September 1, 1967, Eddie – a boy from Elko, Nevada – became the first resident at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. It wasn’t big or fancy, but the kind people of Southern Nevada quickly embraced the mission and the program.
The St. Jude’s Ranch Women’s Auxiliary was established and became the largest and most active support group in the Las Vegas area with more than 300 members. Builders, contractors and tradesmen offered to help develop the property. Publicity surrounding the Nite of Stars helped bring new supporters to the Ranch family.
From 1970 until 2000, Father Herbert A. Ward directed the campus. Under his leadership, St. Jude’s Ranch became one of Southern Nevada’s most visible and successful nonprofit organizations.
Today, the charming campus is a community landmark and an important part of life in Boulder City. Tourists regularly stop by on their way to and from Las Vegas and Hoover Dam to visit the Gift Shop and weddings are conducted in the Chapel filled with colorful murals.
Still, Father Jack would have no trouble recognizing the organization through all of its growth from that very first day. St. Jude’s Ranch puts kids first and remains true to its mission: rescuing abused, abandoned and neglected children and providing a safe, nurturing and therapeutic home for them.
In 1994, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children acquired its second campus. Known originally as the St. Jude’s Home for Children, this campus opened in 1983 in Bulverde, Texas and provides the same therapeutic residential treatment services as the Boulder City campus to children ages 0 to 21 years.
In 1997, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children added a third campus, the former Comal County Emergency Children’s Shelter in New Braunfels, Texas, which opened in 1987. Today the Emergency Shelter has grown to house a Pregnant and Parenting Teen Program, meeting a great unmet need in the community, in addition to Emergency Placement services.
Together, the three campuses provide a broad array of therapeutic services in safe home-like environments built upon love, respect and dignity where children start new lives with new chances, new choices and new hope. We offer them opportunities to dream; dreams they never knew were possible.