5K, fun run at Kiwanis Park brings gifts, joy to lives of troubled boys

Story by Georgia Swing
Photo by Billy Hardiman

new_horizons1The beige ranch-style house with
the well-kept yard looks like any
other in this Chandler residential
neighborhood. Walk inside, though,
and you find seven teenage boys
doing homework, playing video games
and shooting hoops on the backyard
basketball court – under the constant
supervision of at least two adult staff
members.
They are about to gather with
boys arriving from other New Horizon
Youth Homes for a group session with
clinical coordinator Gavin Dosil.
The boys are not at the licensed
therapeutic group home by choice.
They come from a variety of
backgrounds, some referred to New
Horizon by the courts, some by Child
Protective Services or a tribal health
authority. What they have in common
is a need to learn new patterns of
behavior that will allow them to return
to their families, move to a foster
home or graduate from high school
and transition to the next stage in their
lives.
“Almost every kid comes to our
program without having developed the
coping skills….to deal with whatever
they’ve experienced,” said clinical
coordinator Marlisa Rader. Their
backgrounds include “a lot of trauma”
– including as witnesses to or victims
of violence, sexual assault and neglect.
Many have used drugs, and some
have been convicted of theft, burglary,
assault or attempted murder.
“Some have families that are very
involved,” Rader said.
“Some don’t have family at all—
never had family,” Dosil added.
Promoting the feeling of a family
home is one of their goals, they said.
A second annual Reindeer Hustle 5K
and fun run/walk on Sunday, Dec. 8,
at Kiwanis Park in Tempe will raise
money to pay for Christmas gifts and
activities for New Horizon Youth
Homes residents.
“We do what we can to make
(Christmas) as exciting as possible for
them,” Dosil said, “so they feel that this
is a home environment. We decorate
the houses. We have competitions
(between houses) of best food, best
interior decorations, best outside
decorations. It’s fun.”
Dosil went to several of the homes
last Christmas morning, and “it’s
crazy,” he said. “There’s just so much
excitement. Kids were loving every gift
they got. If they got skateboards, they
were outside riding them; basketballs,
they were outside shooting them.”
Rader, 27, and Dosil, 28, who
both ran the 5K last year, described the
event as an “energetic, family-friendly
atmosphere.” Besides the chip-timed
5K and the separate one-mile fun run/
walk there are booths with giveaways
of products, music and a raffle. People
bring their dogs for the one-mile walk
and push babies in strollers. And many
of the group-home residents take part.
“We promote being active with
our kids,” Rader said. “It gives them a
sense of accomplishment more so than
a bake sale or car wash; it challenges
them.”
The Christmas-to-New Year
stretch is a tough time in the group
homes.
“I think everyone here would
rather be home than here, especially
for the holidays,” said a 14-year-old
boy who has lived at the Chandler
home on Park Avenue for more than
two months.
With a history of drug use and
running away from home, the wiry
eighth-grader will return to Bullhead
City, Ariz., for several days over the
holiday break to visit his mother, two
sisters and a brother. Then he’ll return
to Chandler to continue his therapy
and a daily routine of chores and
activities.
“Some kids have memories of very
terrible holidays,” Rader said. “Some
just can’t be with their families, or
don’t have a family. The holidays are
kind of like that, warm and fuzzy, and
they don’t have that.”
Rader and Dosil have each worked
for the Chandler-based New Horizon
Youth Homes for almost two years.
Both have master’s degrees, Rader in
marriage and family counseling, Dosil
in social work.
The private nonprofit New
Horizon Youth Homes was begun by
Thomas Granado in 2001 and has
grown to encompass seven locations
across the Valley, each housing a
maximum of seven boys, and three
outpatient treatment centers serving
about 200 clients.
According to the organization’s
most recent tax form filed with the IRS,
the agency had revenue of $3.4 million
in 2012, expenses of $3.3 million, and
paid out $2 million in salaries to more
than 100 employees.
Ranging in age from 9 to 18,
the residents are sorted by age and
therapeutic needs. Their stays range
from two or three months to two or
three years. They are “transitioned out”
when they show acceptable progress
is a suitable place for them to go, Dosil
said.
Three “D’s” guide New Horizon’s
work with its young clients: discipline,
desire and development, Rader said.
Discipline is taught “through
our structure, accountability, our
consequences and incentives,” she said.
“We teach the kids ‘no sir, yes ma’am.’
They take their hats off when they
come in the house. We discipline them
so they can learn to be disciplined
themselves.”
As for desire, “We really try
to motivate the kids. We build on
their strengths, and we provide
opportunities for them to do things
maybe that they haven’t ever been
able to do before. And help them be
motivated to do well,” she said. “Some
of them discover their talents, as far as
music, or sports or writing. Actually,
one of the things they have to do is
cook in the house, (and one of the
boys) is really interested in culinary
school, so he talks about that a lot.”
“Development” encompasses
the skills needed for coping,
maintaining healthy relationships and
communicating—“just developing as
they reach adulthood in all aspects,”
Rader said.
The 14-year-old from Bullhead
City described his stay at the group
home as “kind of like a getaway from
home a little bit.”
At home, he said, “I was doing
drugs and stuff and getting arrested
and stuff like that. I would run away
from home and they would arrest me
and take me to the holding cell, and my
mom would come pick me up.
“That was happening three or four
times a week every week for the past
three or four months.”
His hope for when he returns
home: “I would like me and my mom
to stop getting in fights and just live
together and (be) happy.”
Counseling at New Horizon
includes working with families, Rader
said, emphasizing “communication,
trust, honesty, implementing
consequences and incentives that
would be conducive to good behavior.
Structure, rules, routine.”
“How they can translate success
from our program back home,” Dosil
said.
The eighth-grader at the Chandler
home knows he will earn his way
out of the program by doing well on
his treatment goals, which he has
memorized: “Maintain sobriety, which
I’ve been doing pretty good at. I’ve
passed all my drug tests the past four
months. That’s one of my strengths,”
he said. “I will demonstrate good
behavior and act positive toward peers
and family, which I’m getting pretty
good at.”
Finally, he said, he must “develop
coping skills necessary to manage
anger.”
He hopes that a year from now
he’s back to doing yard work for a
neighbor. “I’d want to be working with
her and getting paid, save up enough
money to get a new motor for my minibike.”
Eventually, he plans to go to
college, though he’s not sure he wants
to attend directly after high school.
“I can give you some alarming
statistics if you don’t go to school” right
away, Dosil warned him. “If you skip
your first year right out of high school,
you’ll never go. Ninety percent of kids
who don’t go after their first year of
high school don’t go.”
Community service is part of the
program, and the young people in
the Park Avenue home have a regular
relationship with the nearby Chandler
First Assembly of God, helping with the
men’s breakfast, cleaning the church
and attending some of its activities.
“It makes me feel like I’m giving
something to the church,” the 14-yearold
said. “It feels good.”
Chandler First Assembly has had
an ongoing relationship with three New
Horizon group homes for about two
years, Pastor Tom Rakoczy said.
The church throws each resident a
birthday party, invites them to cooking
classes and picnics, and raises money
to buy each boy a Christmas gift, he
said. Someone from the church goes
into the homes each week for Bible
study.
“They’re wonderful boys,”
Rakoczy said. They have been taken
advantage of by adults. They’ve been
disappointed. They just need an
opportunity. Someone to care about
them, someone to speak to them,
someone to give them life skills.”
Far from being daunted by
their backgrounds, members of his
congregation “cheer for them; they
applaud them,” he said.
Also in the spirit of community
service, the kids pick up trash in city
parks, and they have volunteered at a
homeless shelter, Dosil said.
On Sunday, many of them will
be at Kiwanis Park, ready to run. The
Bullhead City boy said he has prepared
by adding cardio workouts to his
routine at the gym. It will be his first
official race.
“We like doing a lot of firsts with
these kids,” Dosil said.

Posted by on Dec 6 2013. Filed under Local News, Top Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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