A Life Changed: Dakota Trammell

Dakota Trammell, 4th

I have never known my biological father. Throughout my younger years, my mother was not capable of taking care of me. By the time I was 10 years old, I had been in six different schools. There was no consistency, and I didn't have friends. I got held back a grade because of missing too many days of school. I really didn’t know what normal looked like.

Due to the circumstances, I moved in with my grandmother, but she was really worried about taking care of me long term because of her age.

After a friend of my grandmother’s told her about Big Oak Ranch, she talked with the director and social worker at the Ranch and started the process for me to live there. I still really did not understand what was going on - I was used to moving around and thought this was just another move.EFB34FE3-3235-4B47-ACD4-2ACD68755442_1_201_a

My grandmother was loving, compassionate, and an extremely positive person. She would give the shirt of her back to anyone who needed it. It was hard for her, but my grandmother put my needs above what she wanted. She put me in God’s hands. She trusted her faith and moved forward, working with the Ranch on my placement.

I remember pulling under the arch of the Big Oak sign. During the tour, I met Mr. Noel, Mrs. Donna and Mrs. Melissa. I saw the homes, Outfitters, and my favorite, the gym.

My grandmother talked to me about Big Oak after the tour, helping me understand what all the Ranch would provide. Looking back, I am glad she helped me see it as something positive. I still have a picture from my first day. I was excited about the new place I would soon call home.

As the first boy placed in their home, Janet and Jeremy Cockrell became my houseparents. When I arrived, I unpacked my few belongings from the suitcase my grandmother had bought me just to take to the Ranch. At first, the Ranch felt like summer camp. There were many more kids than I was used to but I gradually started making friends and getting used to the family structure. My parents were consistent with me and my siblings, and that stability helped me thrive. I learned that I was going to be at Big Oak for a long time, and it was nice to know what to expect when I woke up each morning.

F875F881-8731-481E-99B9-86CC97CE910E_1_201_aNot long after moving to the Ranch, my housedad asked if I was interested in playing football, and I immediately said, “Yes!” I didn't know anything about football but I always wanted to play. Football helped me so much - it kept me going. Football was a great way to deal with the things that I couldn’t control. It made me feel good to be a part of a team. I worked hard during practice and on the field - I was happy.

Coach Phillips, the strength and conditioning coach at Westbrook Christian School, made a huge impact on my life. He cared, he pushed me, and he didn’t let me give up. Coach Phillips didn’t just stand back and watch us, he worked with each of us on the team. I suffered an injury my 11th Grade year, and Coach Phillips stayed in my ear, encouraging me to get back to good health.

I graduated from high school with Advanced Honors and finished my Electrician Certification that I started through dual enrollment. After graduation, I worked a couple of different jobs before deciding to talk with an Army recruiter. Just eleven days after signing up to join, I left for basic training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Today, I’m a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, having served in Afghanistan, Romania, and Germany. I am married to one of the most caring and loving people I have ever met. I know my wife, Kerith, will always be by my side no matter what. Her family has also provided me with stability, much like the Ranch. They are a blessing and helped open doors in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am without the Ranch, my wife, and her family. And our greatest blessing, our baby girl Isabella, was born in July 2023. We can’t wait to see what a world changer she is going to be!


Everything I do today, I learned from Big Oak. My houseparents were always there to help me. My mom used to always make a list of “to dos” for me and everyone else in our home, and now I do the same. My housedad and I are a lot alike. I am thankful to still be in touch with them. They never missed an important event and are still there for Kerith and me.

I was so fortunate that my grandmother never missed a visitation. When she came to visit, she would always bring disposable cameras for us to take pictures.

When I came to the Ranch, and even for a time while living at the Ranch, I didn’t know who I was, but now I am where I want to be. I can look at myself in the mirror and say I am proud of the man I am.

At Big Oak, I learned what a loving family is supposed to look like, the type of wife I wanted, and the type of man God wants me to be. Big Oak shows kids purpose and love. It is a real, authentic home.

Dakota Trammell