Pay It Forward: Boys Camp Marks 22 Years of Saving Young Lives

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Tucked away in the hills of Cedar County is a place where miracles can happen.

"If you're not ready to move, don't challenge God because if your heart is right, he'll put you where He wants to," says Jim Fry, founder of the "Miracles Can Happen" Boys Ranch.

It was 22 years ago this July when Jim and his wife Cathy followed their faith and opened this ranch for troubled boys on family land north of Wilton.   It's their mission from God that has area church groups reaching out to help.

And it also says WQAD viewer Courtney Windman writing to News 8 to nominate the Fry's for our Ascentra Credit Union "Pay It Forward" program.

"Jim, from Ascentra Credit Union and WQAD, I'd like to present this 300-dollars to you to 'Pay It Forward'," she said as she presenting Jim with the donated cash.

Nobody has all the answers, but since 1992 the Fry's working farm has been a place where teenage boys have gone after their parents have run out of answers but not hope.

"Jim and Cathy are reaching out to boys that are like in a troubled area in their life, giving them a second chance," said Courtney.

Right now, five boys are enrolled in the long-term, two year program of living and working at the ranch.

"I'm not like I used to be so, yeah, I'd say, second chance," says one of the teenage boys whose spending two years at the boys ranch.

"We stress two rules: good work habits, Christian values, and that's it," says Jim.

And they say it's working for some of the 45 boys they've seen in the long term program and the more than 100-boys who take part in a one week camp.

"It's an awesome thing to see them come at the beginning of the week as a different person, to go give their parents a hug and the parents are like 'whoa, whose kid is this'", says Cathy Fry, co-founder of "Miracles Can Happen".

And some of the boys leave behind notes on a tall wooden cross.  It's a symbolic "leaving behind" of the "giants" in their lives that have held them back from success.

"They can hand them over to the Lord and perhaps He can help them with it," says Cathy.

"It's helped me learn how to respect people because I didn't have a lot of respect for my parents," says a 15 year old boy whose already learned new lessons after a month at the camp.

"Miracles Can Happen" is the only privately-funded boys ranch in Iowa.    It's funding comes from several area churches that make its operation their outreach mission.

Jim admits has no statistics on the success rate.  But he says he sees it in the boys who become men and remember some of the lessons a two year ranch experience can provide.

"It's that second year that they start to put it into themselves that the foundation, that they want to do it because they want to succeed."

"It's their choice."

If you know of someone who goes out of their way to help others, nominate them for the News 8/Ascentra Credit Union "Pay It Forward" program by clicking here to complete the nomination form.