What was the problem you were having before you discovered Whetstone Boys Ranch?
Though Caleb had always struggled with controlling his emotions, shortly after the age of 11 our home had become a battleground. Stealing and lying had become the norm. We watched helplessly as our tender-hearted, engaging son turned cold and apathetic. He refused to take ownership of his poor decisions and became increasingly withdrawn, angry, and depressed. Everything was a fight, whether anyone else was engaging with him or not.
What did the frustration feel like as you tried to solve that problem?
It’s hard to describe the feeling as a mother to watch your child spiral and not be able to “reach” him. As the parent of a challenging child you learn how to become their advocate, helping others see the amazing qualities within them that you see and love as their parent. As his mom, I truly believed that I knew him best. I knew how to speak to him, love him through his hurt, and put supports in his life where we felt unqualified. But, eventually, none of that was enough. Limits were set and mowed right over. Privileges were lost only to be met by verbal abuse and threatening behavior. Passwords were changed and items were taken away, only for our accounts to be hacked into and reset. Money was stolen, trust was lost, and joy was nowhere to be found. Every day was exhausting. Not trusting my child was heart breaking. I was afraid for his future and deeply saddened by what our family had become. I missed my son. There were many voices telling this Mom that he needed more than we could give him. I fought against those voices so hard, as I knew God gave him to US intentionally. I will never forget the day I felt the Lord say “get out of My way”. I was working so hard to provide an environment that Caleb could succeed in that I was standing in the way of where God wanted him. Driving Caleb to Whetstone was the most difficult thing we have ever had to do as parents, but there was nothing else WE could do for our son. We had to let him go and let the Lord take over.
What was different about Whetstone?
Whetstone was everything we couldn’t give Caleb. It was a break we all needed. Caleb deserved to be in an environment where his temptations didn’t exist. He needed to be in a place where he had opportunities to explore new interests, challenge himself, and find a purpose. He deserved to be with people who could be consistent 100% of the time because the environment supported it. He needed to feel understood and have access to people who could help him process his strong emotions as he was experiencing them, not for 50 minutes, days later, during an already scheduled appointment time.
Talk about the moment when you realized that our program was actually working to help solve your problem.
It didn’t take long. He sounded happy and healthier during our first phone calls, which we know may not the norm for most boys. The first opportunity we had to see Caleb we were a nervous wreck, especially because we were there to tell him we were moving. We will never forget him nervously telling us he had to ask us a question. It was nothing either of us was expecting. He said to us, “Why did you wait so long to send me here? Why did you show me so much grace?” We were blown away. He then broke down, sobbing, apologizing for all he had put us through.
During our first family visit, we were able to see just how deeply he was being impacted by your program. Besides his manners and eagerness to hang out with his family, it was his smile. There was a joy in his smile that we hadn’t seen for years. We spent that week enjoying genuine conversations with him, as he shared his experiences, asked our advice and listened to our responses, nodding along as he processed what we were saying.
Tell us what life looks like now following your experience with Whetstone.
Caleb has been home for three months now and it seems so hard to even believe what life was like before Whetstone. Whetstone didn’t change who Caleb was – they helped to bring our son, who was lost inside of himself, back. Today we are enjoying the typical frustrations of parenting a 13 year old boy, which we will gladly take! Our biggest disagreements are over how often he should do his laundry. We are so happy to have our boy home and to continue to see that joy filled smile on his face as he jokes around with his siblings or is teasing his Dad. He completed his first quarter at a new school with all A’s (and one struggling Science grade) and zero notes/calls from teachers about behavior.
One of our greatest things to watch is the return of Caleb’s sweet, playful relationship with his siblings. They are regaining their trust in him and he is aware of just how impactful his interactions with them are.
He is involved in extracurriculars and church youth group, is making new friends, and training for his first 10k in May.
We are forever grateful to the Whetstone staff for loving our boy.
My name is Gina Degenhart. In March, 2014, my husband and I made an incredibly hard decision to enroll our son into the Whetstone Boys Ranch program. At the time, we were at our wits’ end and feeling hopeless as we worked with our son who was struggling teenager. Little did we know then how dramatically the Lord was going to help change our son and family during the following 11 months. After completing the Whetstone Program, our son returned home a profoundly changed young man. Praise the Lord! He started Whetstone at a 5th grade academic level, while he was in 8th grade. Just last week, he graduated top 10 in his class, earned Academic and Technical honors, and accepted an apprenticeship with a local HVAC company. While in high school, he was a record holding football kicker, for a team that this year was state runner-up. He also was awarded All-City Academic team all four years in high school. Before Whetstone, we seriously worried he might not graduate from high school. He proved otherwise…excelling all the way through. Just as important, our son’s ability to relate with family members, peers and those in authority dramatically improved. He is beloved by employers and family members, alike. His spiritual growth is a testimony to the love and nurturing he received at Whetstone.
As a result of the experiences our family had while our son was at Whetstone, I felt led to get involved. I have been a member of Whetstone’s Board of Directors since 2015. Jeremy Thompson, Whetstone’s Executive Director, has communicated the idea of converting the unused and unsightly area where the swimming pool used to be, into a new recreation area and venue for resident level changes and graduations in the future.
I experienced a graduation at Whetstone when my son graduated. While it was nice and held in the living room of the residence, we would have loved to have had a more formal, designated area where we could have had more space and ideally been outside in God’s creation. Myself and all of the board are excited to experience future graduations in this area upon completion!
If funded and once finished, I am confident that Whetstone will use this area to help kids know Christ. Modeling the love of Christ, developing authentic relationships with boys, and imparting the love of creation are all tenants of Whetstone’s mission. I have no doubt that all of these things and many more benefits will come as a result of this project.
Thank you for the opportunity to apply for this grant.