Hope on the range
Guided Hope brings healing and hope to Berthoud and beyond
By Katie Harris
Andrea Sutton lost her 3-year-old son, Daniel, six years ago. After the shock, she was forced to begin the slow process of grieving and healing along with her husband, David, and young daughter, Ashley.
“When your child dies you’re kind of just in a fog,” said Sutton. “Then, you come out of that and realize that you need to get out and do things as a family, but you don’t really want to do anything.
“Being out in public and around other people feels too hard,” she said.
Sutton said she searched the internet for programs intended to help families grieve together, but there wasn’t much out there.
“We’d found a grief group but it was for adults only, and we didn’t want to do it without the kids,” said Sutton. “So often everyone’s focus is on the dead child, that the living siblings can become kind of lost. Kids grieve deeply too and Ashley and Daniel had been very close.”
Then, last fall, she found Guided Hope near Berthoud through mutual Facebook friends and set up a time to visit the ranch.
A place for hope
Community, faith, and ranching are three of the core values that the Scoma family began building their ministry on over eight years ago. They had those same values in mind when they chose seven acres west of Berthoud as the perfect location, and opened their doors in 2012. Today, the Scoma’s faith-based, nonprofit organization, Guided Hope, serves around 300 people each summer from all across Northern Colorado and beyond.
“We moved to this community for this reason, to start Guided Hope,” said Kaarin Scoma, Guided Hope founder and executive director. “We wanted to start a working family ranch that would help people who wanted to come out and live country life with us; that would serve people and give them the opportunity to serve as well.”
Kaarin and her husband, Guy Scoma, made it their mission to help families and individuals needing support, from military families, to those dealing with loss and illness, to families needing guidance in the adoption process. Their plan was to invite guests to bring along their families and loved ones to share the experience of working on a ranch, helping with the everyday needs of the animals and reaping the benefits such as riding together and enjoying the property as well. This open invitation to entire families–and even friends–was what made the program unique from the start, according to Kaarin.
Sutton and her family (now including 4-year-old Abbey) found Guided Hope to be exactly what they’d been looking for. According to Kaarin, even Sutton’s husband found it easy to relax and find healing while spending time at Guided Hope.
“I would hear David and Guy talking while they cleaned the pig pens,” said Kaarin. “David’s not a talker but Guy is so low key and calm, and it made my heart happy hearing him have someone to open up to.”
Guided Hope grew from personal grief
Part of what makes Guy Scoma relatable for guests struggling with the loss of a loved one, and what helped lead to the birth of Guided Hope, is his own personal story of loss. Guy’s first wife passed away when their daughter was only 1 year old. When he married Kaarin, she adopted his daughter and they later had three more children.
“The empathy and understanding from someone who’s experienced loss, who gets it, makes such a huge difference, especially for men who can have a hard time opening up,” said Andrea. “Kaarin’s so wonderful too, she made me feel like I could take as much time as I needed for myself and my kids were in such good hands. She made them feel encouraged and important.”
Kaarin said her family’s story and their own experiences with loss, and with adoption, make them want to reach out to others, to share hope and inspiration. She said oftentimes those served become those who most want to serve others, as was the case with her family.
Andrea, too, has found a calling to give back through her time at Guided Hope.
“They have great goals and I really want others to know they’re out there,” she said.
She recently spoke at one of the end-of-season events at the ranch, and said she often checks buy-and-sell pages on social media for boots and other supplies that could help the ranch out. In addition, she said she and Ashley are planning to help sponsor their favorite horse, to help provide food and care.
“They never ask for help, but there is a lot of work and a lot of need there,” said Andrea. “I want to help however I can.”
Providing relief through volunteering
The Scomas admit that they can use all the help they can get, both financially and through their online wish list, as well as in the form of volunteers. While they appreciate donations, all of their programs, including the two-hour Ranch Hand, the hour-and-a-half Junior Round-up, and the two-and-a-half-hour Family Round-up, are offered at no cost.
“Guests are welcome to participate in our Round-up program up to three times, then they can volunteer in our Ranch Hand program if they’d like to stay involved,” said Kaarin.
Both programs include barn chores, horse care, and riding.
Guided Hope also hosts community events once or twice a year, including the occasional hoedown.
“We get people from surrounding areas, even hours away, but what we really want is to let the Berthoud community know that we’re just around the corner,” said Kaarin.
While Guided Hope’s prime season is summer, Kaarin said their doors are never closed.
“We have people call sometimes who are in need of healing in the middle of winter, and we tell them they are always welcome,” she said. “The animals are always here anyway, and I just call on my volunteers to see who is available.”
Welcomed with open arms
Andrea revisited Guided Hope last January, this time only bringing along Ashley.
“It was Daniel’s ‘heaven day’ and we felt we needed to be there,” she said. “The Scomas welcomed us with open arms and it was wonderful. I didn’t feel like riding that time, but Ashley rode and we both found healing.”
Andrea said what makes the Scomas special is their ability to understand the individual needs of their guests and to accommodate those needs.
“They never say, ‘OK, this is what we do,’ and try to fit everyone into a mold,” she said. “They recognize that everyone grieves differently, and let that process happen however it needs to.”
Andrea said the name of the ranch says it all.
“Guided Hope has so many meanings,” she said. “And that’s really what it is–a place of hope.”
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