A Life Changed: Julian Meloni

Julian MeloniMy dad was always in and out of prison. There were ongoing drug issues with my parents and eventually they both ended up going to prison. During this time, I was living with my mom and my twin brother, Jim, lived with our dad and stepmother.

I was placed in a shelter-type facility with children and teens of all ages, which didn't result in the best situation. My stepmom ended up taking my brother and me, but she didn't plan on keeping us. It wasn't long after that she learned about Big Oak Ranch. When the application process began, we went to the Ranch for a visit. Not wanting to leave once the visit was over, we unloaded our things and that was the first day we would call Big Oak home.

It was summer and we were 11 years old. I could clearly see that our new home was safe and that I didn't have to look over my shoulder any longer, and that was a huge relief.

Being a kid, I liked having other kids around to play with and Big Oak had lots of kids playing everywhere. There were clothes for me at the Ranch, and I felt confident that I was going to get three meals a day. I could tell it had a completely different atmosphere and was going to be better than any place I had ever been.Jim, Julian Meloni, Aaron Easterwood, Terry Tilton, Travis Snider, Bruce Thomas, Jamie Cagle, Abe Barry, Snow Day, Boys Ranch Lake (1)

I can remember going to school prior to arriving at the Ranch, but I don't recall it being a regular thing for me. At the Ranch, I thrived in the structure of home and school. No kid likes chores, but I could look at things long-term and know that chores, the people surrounding me who became my family, and the responsibilities I was given were all good for me.

The structure was comfortable and positive. In fact, upon meeting with John and Tee Croyle at Big Oak, they made me three promises: They loved me. They would never lie to me. And there are always consequences or positive things that come from the choices we make, whether good or bad.

My first houseparents were Steve and Delinda Franklin who were the first people to truly start the process of shaping and molding my life in a positive way. For the first time, they showed me what a loving, caring, structured, and safe family was all about. They slowly guided me in learning about God and taught by example. I was saved and baptized and the change in my life truly began.

Tim and Wendy Williams were the next set of houseparents who cared for me as a teenager, teaching me right from wrong. I went from a competitive little kid, who only knew how to be angry and fight, to becoming a boy who was starting to see things from a long-term perspective and making smart decisions that would guide my life.

The houseparents who parented me through my 18th birthday and high school graduation were Dennis and Lisa Desmarias. Julian Meloni, Graduation Picture, 1994This was the most influential period of my life at the Ranch as I was developing into the man I am today. They became my rock and my heroes, and still are to this day. I keep in touch with all my previous houseparents, especially them - they are my Mom and Dad and I am their son.

I graduated from high school in 1994 and moved into the college home on the Ranch. It took me a while to figure out proper money management but I learned from my mistakes and experiences, relied on the principles that were instilled in me at the Ranch, even staying in touch with my houseparents and asking them for help and direction. I wanted to figure out life because I wanted a family of my own.

Julian Meloni, wddingMy wife, Katie, and I met while out with mutual friends. We dated for about two years and got married in 2017. I have no idea how but I'm thankful Christ brought her into my life. She is a committed Christian, so caring, smart, responsible and has always been my greatest gift and my rock. We are blessed with three children: Monte (16), Harrison (6) and Emerson (2).

I took Katie out to the Ranch while we were dating as it was important that her and her family see the Ranch and understand how much my home means to me. My in-laws are a gift, and have shown me love, support and have accepted me, Monte and my Ranch family from the very beginning. Authenticity is vital in relationships and sharing my upbringing has strengthened my relationship with my wife and her family.

My brother, Jim, and I have been able to take what the Ranch taught us and pour it into our families, careers and serving others. From owning our own companies to being in upper management positions with multi-million-dollar companies, we've worked hard to provide for our families and maintain successful careers. Additionally, both my brother and me, as well as our families, are still very involved with the Ranch.

The Ranch is my home and my family, and it always will be!