Fostering compassion: Teen's youth group reaches out to Oklahoma foster-care community

Heritage Hall student Molly Remondino, 17, has created a volunteer teen board made up of high school students who assist children at Peppers Ranch, a foster-care community in the Guthrie area.
by Carla Hinton Modified: July 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: July 7, 2013

— A metro-area teenager knows about the important partnerships and rewarding friendships that often develop in the aftermath of a storm.

Molly Remondino, 17, and her mother, Denise, said they joined several friends for a cleanup project at Peppers Ranch after a tornado wreaked havoc on the Guthrie area foster-care community in 2011.

Denise Remondino said she and her daughter knew little about Peppers Ranch, a group of foster-care families living on 240 acres north of Edmond and southwest of Guthrie, before they arrived to offer aid after the storm.

She said they were delighted to meet the children and caring adults that lived there, so she was happy to eventually join the Peppers Ranch board of directors. She was even more pleased when her daughter came up with the idea for a teen board designed to assist to the foster-care community.

“It's hard to believe that we didn't know this was here,” she said, watching as her daughter helped a child ride a horse at the ranch's equestrian center on a recent sunny day.

Molly Remondino, a Heritage Hall student, created the youth board in 2012 and she said the group includes about 50 students who also attend her Oklahoma City private school.

Along with establishing the teen group, the avid equestrian recently raised $11,175 for the Peppers Ranch horse therapy riding program. She submitted an essay to the United Professional Horseman's Association's Ribbons of Service program telling why the foster-care community needed support. She set a goal to raise funds to buy new riding equipment for the program after seeing the valuable role horses play in helping to heal emotional wounds that many of the children at Peppers Ranch deal with every day.

“Horses become a way they can share a bond with something,” Molly Remondino said.

Through the Ribbons of Service program, the teenager raised money from friends, family and other interested individuals who donated funds each time she rode her horse in various horse shows.

“There's just nothing better than giving back,” she said.

Fostering compassion, hope

Jim Quade, executive director of Peppers Ranch, said it is home to 10 families and 63 children, of which 47 have a sibling living at the ranch community. Quade said the nonprofit began in 2002 as a group home for boys in the custody of the state Department of Human Services but evolved into a foster-care community about seven years later. He said foster parents pay a nominal leasing fee of $1 to live and raise their families in the cottages spread throughout the community.

Quade said Peppers Ranch is funded through private donations and currently consists of nine foster-care cottages and a larger residence that formerly housed the group home. The community also includes the McClendon Equestrian Center, the Watts Agricultural Center, a calf barn, a mechanical barn, a 9,000-square-foot learning center, several ponds, a playground, soccer field and baseball field.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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