John Croyle and his wife, Tee, have seen their dream of building the best children’s home in America grow into three separate facilities in Northeast Alabama: Big Oak Boys’ Ranch in Gadsden, Big Oak Girls’ Ranch in Springville, and Westbrook Christian School, Inc. in Rainbow City.
The Big Oak ministry grew out of John’s desire to give hurting children a chance. John successfully played football at the University of Alabama under the legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Faced with one of the most important decisions of his life — whether to play professional football or to start a children’s home — John followed the Lord’s leadership and established Big Oak Boys’ Ranch in 1974. Big Oak Ranch, Inc. was incorporated in the State of Alabama as a 501(c)(3) Corporation in that same year.
John’s vision to start the Girls’ Ranch evolved from a court case involving “Shelley,” a 12-year old girl who had been physically and sexually abused by her father. John pleaded with the judge to let Shelley live at the Boys’ Ranch, but the judge refused and placed Shelley back with her parents. Shelley was beaten to death by her parents three months later. The Girls’ Ranch was built in 1988 after John felt the Lord’s calling to start a girls’ home in Shelley’s memory.
Westbrook Christian School was acquired in 1990, and exists to provide a quality education in a Christian environment for the children of Big Oak Ranch, as well as children from the community. Westbrook Christian is a privately funded 501(c)(3) educational institution depending solely on tuition, fundraising events, and the generosity of concerned individuals and groups for support. For more information on Westbrook Christian School, visit www.westbrookchristianschool.org.
Since 1974, John and Tee, along with the Big Oak Ranch staff, have been called to meet the needs of hundreds of children by giving them a solid, Christian home and a chance to fulfill God’s plan for their lives. Like every family, we’ve enjoyed great success stories and heartbreaking failures. Yet the “cornerstone,” and even the name of Big Oak Ranch, has remained fundamentally rooted in Isaiah 61:3, “And they shall be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.”