Watch above: The Little Warriors’ Be Brave Ranch officially opened its doors to the first group of children earlier this month. On Saturday, the public had its first look inside. Hundreds turned out for the grand opening of the facility, an event that’s been a long time in the making. Quinn Ohler reports.
EDMONTON — After nearly seven years of planning, a ranch outside of Edmonton dedicated to helping children who have been sexually abused has opened its doors.
“I thought I’d be a lot more teary-eyed today, but I’m just smiley,” said Glori Meldrum, founder of Little Warriors, a national organization focused on preventing child sexual abuse.
Little Warriors’ Be Brave Ranch, the first long-term treatment centre of its kind in Canada, opened earlier this month. Community members gathered Saturday to celebrate its grand opening and tour the facility.
“Seeing the first group of kids come to the ranch – hugging them and eating lunch with them, just seeing them doing better after a couple of weeks – it really is honestly a dream come true,” said Meldrum.
Built on 120 acres of land about 40 minutes outside of Edmonton, the Be Brave Ranch is a 60,000 square-foot facility offering specialized treatment to young sexual abuse victims. Children will spend three weeks at the ranch, then come back three separate times throughout the year for one week; out-patient care is also provided.
The road to the grand opening of the ranch wasn’t smooth, though. While the project received $50,000 in government funding a few years ago, Little Warriors relied heavily on public donations to fund the facility.
“That’s Albertans, right? There’s a lot of people that love these kids that have been violated and hurt, and so Albertans always do the right thing and stand together,” said Meldrum.
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So far, the organization has raised more than $2 million to fund treatment for 100 children during the first year.
“The more places we have like this, the more places people can go and heal and go on to live happy, healthy, productive lives,” said former NHL player Theo Fleury, who was sexually abused by disgraced hockey coach Graham James in the 1980s.
“I used to be one of those little guys and you know, I’m blessed and fortunate to have been able to get through it.”
Little Warriors is hoping to raise more funds by selling naming rights to each room at the ranch.
The next group of children arrives at the Be Brave Ranch in mid-October.