Big Oak Ranch

2024 Issue 1

Cover Name 2024-1 Axlin


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01. A Note from Brodie

When truly adopting the mantra of accountability that is a small thing repeated is not a small thing, it creates something no one is immune to or excused from – Pressure.

Especially in the realm of parenting, pressure is ever-present in moments that matter. And, in those moments, we can either feel it or apply it.  There is one discipline that will separate us as we lead our families – Practice.

 Practicing the faith we profess, practicing defining values, practicing meaningful investment in relationships…it shows our dedication to live in the small because we know both seized and missed opportunities can become large. We can choose to relieve the pressure of the major moments through applying it by way of diligent preparation that lends to victory, or we can fold. Practicing every day offers the benefit of failing when the stakes aren’t as high and allows us to be fully equipped for the moments that matter most in leading our families.

 For 50 years, Big Oak Ranch has realized the importance of practicing excellence each day in the standard of care we offer, so that when the pivotal moments have come in the lives of our children and in the growth of our mission, we could see the fruit of changed lives and successfully step into the areas of impact God has provided. Without this disciplined commitment to practice leadership of our families, the temptation to fold to the pressures of this world can overcome us. I encourage you with five approaches to practice that we use in raising our children:

Practice with the right people. 

Practice in a posture of faith.

Practice with purpose. 

Practice with persistence.

Practice knowing your testimony is building.

 As we commit to practice to relieve the pressure of pivotal, and often unexpected, opportunities that come in the lives of parents, the trust our children place in us will elevate because they will know that we won’t fold even under difficult circumstances. This has the ability to influence the character of our children as what they repeatedly hear and see, they eventually repeat.

Keep Planting!

Brodie Croyle

Brodie Croyle
President & CEO

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Brodie, Kelli, Sawyer & Luke Croyle

02. Birthdays

We are intentional to celebrate the lives and joy of the moment. Join us in celebrating our children’s birthdays!

Birthday List Digital Timbers (Februay 2024)
Birthday List Digital Timbers (March 2024)
Birthday List Digital Timbers (April 2024)
Birthday List Digital Timbers (May 2024)

03. Growing Oak


DT Growing Oaks Boy Issue 1 2024
GO Placement DT Trey 2024-1

Xavier "Trey", 18




      • Has lived at Big Oak Boys’ Ranch for five years
      • Lives in the U.S. Army Home with houseparents, Jeff and Christi Meador
      • Attends Church of the Highlands with his Ranch family
      • Is a Senior at Westbrook Christian School
      • Is a member or Westbrook's Key Club and Worship Band
      • Is a member of the school band and plays clarinet and piano
      • Plans on applying to become an ASCENDant and attending Highlands College
      • Enjoys playing his keyboard and playing games with his brothers


GO Boy Pic 1

Perkins & Wallace Homes enjoy a day of adventure canoeing down the creek

GO Boy Pic 2 2024-1

Albert worked hard & bought his first car! Way to go Albert!

GO Boy Pic 3 2024-1

Mom & Pop Hudson celebrate 4 years of serving at Big Oak!

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Victor helping to bring in a win for Westbrook JV Boys’ Soccer Team

GO Boy Pic 5 2024-1

Spradling Home boys enjoyed using their Christmas gift cards

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

Items Needed for the Boys' Ranch

AA/AAA Batteries

Laundry & Dishwasher Tabs

Gallon Ziploc Bags

Bath Towels

Men's Deodorant

Neutral Throw Pillows

Teeth Whitening Strips

Lawn Sprinklers


Toilet Paper & Paper Towels


Vacuum Cleaner

Kitchen Trash Bags


Please send donated items to:

Big Oak Boys’ Ranch

250 Jake Mintz Road

Gadsden, AL 35905

04. Growing Oak


DT Growing Oaks Girl Issue 1 2024
GO Placement DT Haley 2024-1

Hayley, 18




  • Has lived at Big Oak Girls’ Ranch for almost a year
    • Lives in the Darden Home with houseparents, Michael and Ashley Marotz
    • Attends Legacy Church with her Ranch family and is involved in Student Ministries
    • Is a Senior at Westbrook Christian School
    • Is on the A/B Honor Roll
    • Enjoys cooking and baking
    • Has a servant's heart and enjoys helping others
    • Manages her responsibilities well at home and maintains good grades while also working at a local restaurant


GO Girl Pic 1 2024-1

Cami showing off a yummy dessert she made for our Big 12 Club Supporters

GO Girl Pic 2 2024-1

Congratulations on purchasing your new car, Jayln!

GO Girl Pic 3 2024-1 REV

Happy Birthday, sweet Neveah!

GO Girl Pic 4 2024-1

Mom Bodeau & Ebboni celebrating Valentine’s Day at Westbrook

GO Girl Pic 6 2024-1

Mackenzie enjoying game night in the Neugent-Mouron Home

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

Items Needed for the Girls' Ranch

Granite Counter Cleaner

Hobby Lobby Gift Cards

Waffle Maker

Dutch Oven (Small and Large) 

Vacuum Cleaner

Cordless Vacuum for Hard Floors

Dishwasher Pods

Persil Detergent | Tide Pods

Garbage Bags

Toilet Paper & Paper Towels 

Cold Medicines 


Body Wash 

Feminine Products

Acne Products

NIV or CSB bibles 

AA/AAA Batteries 

Laundry Baskets

Bath Towels

Echo Dots 

Standard Pillows

Please send donated items to:

Big Oak Girls’ Ranch

6000 Shelley Drive

Springville, AL 35146

05. Get to Know Our Seniors

Ava Senior DT 2024-1
Loving | Fun | Compassionate

Hobbies/Interests - Spending time with friends and family

Favorite memory - My favorite memory is when both of my parents came to watch my state track meet and we went to eat afterwards!

Advice for future seniors - My advice for upcoming seniors would be to not procrastinate and make sure to get everything done the first time around.

Mason Senior DT 2024-1
 Brilliant | Servant-Minded | Humble

Hobbies/Interests - Hunting, swimming, and running

Favorite memory - My favorite thing we do as a Big Oak family is go to Wake the World every year!

Advice for future seniors - You're in the final stretch! Persevere and get it done, you reap what you sow, so sow wisely and wait for your hard work to pay off.

Hayley Senior DT 2024-1
Diligent | Caring | Outgoing

Hobbies/Interests - Running, reading, and writing

Favorite memory - The Big Oak Family Beach Trip last year, and just getting to spend time with my new big family!

Advice for future seniors - Just be yourself! And try to listen to any advice from the older people around you.

Hunter Senior DT 2024-1
 Leader | Goofy | Hard-Working

Hobbies/Interests - Riding horses, working out, and spending quality time with loved ones

Favorite memory - Attending rodeos, playing football, and working cattle crew!

Advice for future seniors - Do your best in everything you do. Accept the things the Ranch is doing for you and trust your houseparents. They do love you no matter what, so don’t push them away.

Kayleigh Senior DT 2024-1
 Creative | Considerate | Intelligent

Hobbies/Interests - Drawing, painting, reading, and gaming

Favorite memory - Coming to Big Oak would be my favorite memory because without it, none of the rest of my wonderful memories here would have happened.

Advice for future seniors - Stay focused on your schoolwork! This year still counts for college scholarships, and you will be glad you did it.

Keyara Senior DT 2024-1
Adventurous | Cheerful | Funny

Hobbies/Interests - Fishing, Basketball, Gaming, and working with the cattle

Favorite memory - Hitting my career high in points on senior night!

Advice for future seniors -Enjoy every moment and don’t try to rush it.

Gail Senior DT 2024-1
Thoughtful | Persevering | Centered

Hobbies/Interests - Riding/caring for horses and fishing

Favorite memory - I was riding horses in the pasture and going through a rough time. Lily was the horse I was on and as we were sitting by the cows, the sun started to set. The sky got pink with a little blue, kind of like cotton candy. I started thinking about all of the good things I have in my life and started tearing up. A huge wave of peace came over me and I knew I belonged here at Big Oak. I started thinking about how this is where God wants me and I wanted to enjoy every moment while I am still here!

Advice for future seniors -Senior year might bring stress, anxiety, and sometimes sadness. Don’t let the wave of emotions bring you down. Think about where you want to be and why you want to be there and use that to your advantage. Think about how where you’re at right now can get you to where you want to be in the future.

Trey Senior DT 2024-1
Well-Rounded | Fun | Devoted

Hobbies/Interests - Playing piano and anything instrument-related

Favorite memory - First day of drumline practice at Westbrook

Advice for future seniors -Who will you be? Don’t try to change who you are. Be who God wants you to be. Judges 6.

06. A Life Changed

Robert's Story

A Life Changed Placement 2024-1

I came to Big Oak Ranch after a period of moving from home to home and after six months of living at another children’s home. My situation seemed a little different than most. My mother was 46 when I was born, and my father was 57. Many health issues were present in our home, and by the time I was a young boy, I needed more accountability than what they could offer.

Thankfully, I had people in my life who wanted me to have an opportunity that I did not have in my current community and home - an environment where I could thrive as I began my teenage years. With Big Oak being a forever family, those who connected me knew I could stay there, be safe, and develop strong roots that would stay with me.

Coming to the Ranch the same day a friend of mine (Robert Boone) was placed made a huge impact on my placement. We became brothers at the Ranch and are still very close. All of us boys understood that we had each other’s back. 

John, Tee, and Mom and Pop Hilburn put my needs before their needs, which greatly impacted me and how I would one day take care of my own children, my gifts from Christ. I raised them the same way I was raised at the Ranch.

Robert at BOR Reunion A Life Changed 2024-1

Robert and Malisa with Robert and Carol Boone at the Big Oak Reunion in 2023

When the Ranch hired new houseparents for the home I lived in, which was one of the first homes at Big Oak, me and a couple of other boys ran away. They found out where we were and came to get us. I was expecting that John and the houseparents would be mad. But instead of getting into major trouble, they talked to us, let us know they cared for us and wanted us to be safe. Their concern left an impression on me, and I never ran away again.

Robert at the Ranch ...

A Life Changed Pics 2 2024-1

on the front porch of the Hannah Home

helping Mom Hilburn cook

with “Mr. John” and his Ranch brothers

Showing that level of concern for my own kids has always been a priority. The Ranch instilled a lot in me regarding what you do for others and the father I set out to be for my children. I once thought I would reap what I sowed with my two children, but thank goodness, that hasn’t been the case. 

My children, Ashley and Josh, look out for each other, just like we did at Big Oak. They understand it takes hard work to achieve things in life. They watched their mom and me work and understand the importance of a consistent, diligent, work ethic. They are educated and self-sufficient. They work hard with their spouses, and are generous and committed. I am blessed to be a Daddy to them both.

Two of my biggest encouragers in life were my houseparents, Brenda and George Hilburn, and I was fortunate to keep in touch with them until they both passed.

A Life Changed Pics 3 2024-1

Robert and Malisa on their wedding day

Easter with their first child, Ashley

Celebrating Josh’s graduation from JSU

I am grateful the Ranch instilled so much in me, and I hope I instill the same things in the lives of others. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Try to always have a smile on your face. You never know what others are facing. Smile back at your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers – and be an encouragement to everyone around you.


Robert and Family DT A Life Changed 2024-1

Robert & Malisa with their daughter & son-in-law (Ashley & James) and their son & daughter-in-law (Josh & Holly)

"Josh and I don’t know a lot about Dad’s life prior to him living at the Ranch because he never really talked about it. It seems like it was very difficult for him. Dad made sure we knew about Big Oak, his houseparents, and John and Tee. We understand how their lives' work has impacted not only the children who have lived at Big Oak, but also their children... because we are them. Mine and Josh’s lives are different because of Big Oak Ranch."

Ashley Haynes Francis, Robert's daughter

07. Spotlight



Kyle Cantrell

If you were to ask what brings me the most joy in life, I wouldn’t have to think long. Ice cream, sports, and hunting come to mind, but the greatest joy in life is my family. My wife, Jeniferr, and I met in college a few days before the beginning of my freshman year. We ended up playing volleyball against each other that day. I ran into her at the net, knocked her down, and she was smitten. We dated through college and married as soon we graduated with our degrees in Counseling. We’ve been married for 27 years in June and have spent every one of those 

Kyle Cantrell Photo DT

years in full-time ministry. We served as Youth Pastors throughout the first eight years of our marriage, and we loved the relationships we built with our students. We have served in many different roles during our time in ministry and joined the staff here at Big Oak in 2021. I am honored to work with our team as the COO, leading the day-to-day operations of the Ranch. Jen serves as the Education Guide for ASCEND and has the opportunity to work with our college students, mentoring them and ensuring they are on track with their educational goals.

Our life revolves around family - our Big Oak family, and of course our three children who are as much a part of our ministry work as we are. Toren is a junior, Elyn is a freshman, and Baird is a 7th grader at Westbrook Christian School. Each of them is gifted in many different ways, but they share a love for soccer. All three of them play for Westbrook, so most of our time is spent at the soccer field. When we aren’t playing soccer, we love to camp, eat Thai food, serve at our church, and travel. But mostly, soccer.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to serve at Big Oak. We are surrounded by some of the best people we’ve ever met and are humbled to be a part of the incredible impact this place has had for the past 50 years. It is truly special. It is truly family.

Kyle Cantrell Signature DT
Kyle Cantrell Family Photo DT
Kyle Cantrell Kids Pic



50th Save the Date DT 2024-1

It’s been 50 years since Big Oak Ranch was founded to bring life-changing Hope to children in need of a chance. As we celebrate all that God has done in the lives of more than 2,000 children who have called Big Oak home over the years, we invite you to celebrate with us.

What started with one home for five boys is now a network of ministries dedicated to giving abused, abandoned and neglected children a stable, loving Christian home and the opportunity to experience God’s grace.

While much has changed, our core mission remains the same: providing Christian homes for children needing a chance. This mission is deeply rooted in the four promises we make to every child who calls Big Oak Ranch home.

4 Promises Spotlight Page DT 2024-1

In those four promises, our children find love and emotional support. They find truth and honesty. They find security and discipline. But mostly, they find hope and the chance to discover God’s true purpose for their lives.

This was our mission in 1974. It is our mission today. And it will remain our faithful mission for the next 50 years.

08. Ways to Help

There are many ways you can have an impact on the lives changed at Big Oak. Please choose the option that works best for you, and know that we appreciate your support – no matter how or where you choose to give.

Daily Prayer

Daily prayer is a true source of power, with the ability to effect positive changes in our children’s lives. We humbly ask for you to pray daily for our staff and children.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

1 John 5:14

Critical Support for Daily Necessities

Critical Support for Daily Necessities

Every gift matters. Gifts of $25, $50, $100 on a monthly basis help sustain our mission and allow us to increase awareness so that more children can be served! You can write a check each month or set up an automatic payment through your bank.

Memorial & Honorarium Program

Memorial & Honorarium Program

The Memorial Program allows you to honor a deceased loved one. The Honorarium Program allows you to celebrate special friends or relatives on occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries or holidays. In each case, we will send an appropriate letter acknowledging your gift.

If you have questions about our Memorial/Honorarium Program, please call the Business Office at (256) 892-0773, ext. 1313, or email Mary Hutto at mhutto@bigoak.org.

In Kind Donations

In-Kind Donations

As a professional, you can provide tremendous help to our children through in-kind donations of your skills and expertise. Donations of in-kind services by doctors, dentists, lawyers and other professionals are tax-deductible, but more importantly, they make a huge difference in the quality of our children’s lives.

If you are a professional who would like to donate your services, contact:

Robin O’Leary at (205) 467-6226, ext 1226, or roleary@bigoak.org.

Resource Parenting

Resource Parenting

Resource Parents are a critical part of this ministry – supporting our houseparents and offering our children extended family. One weekend each month (Friday – Sunday), each child has the opportunity to join their Resource Family – to simply be a part of their lives. 

The relationships built and enjoyed through this valuable part of our mission are life-changing for our children and our resource families.

Corporate Matching Gifts

Corporate Matching Gifts

Please join us by checking if your employer has a matching gift program. If so, your HR Department can tell you what steps need to be taken to apply for the matching gift. Your gifts could have double or triple the impact as we work together to relieve the suffering of children. The request might require Big Oak Ranch’s tax ID number, which is 23-7413017. If you have any questions, please contact Robert Duke at robert.duke@bigoak.org.

Heritage Giving

Heritage Giving

For gifts of personal or real property, trusts, life insurance, marketable securities or estates, phone the Business Office at (256) 892-0773, ext. 1317, or email robert.duke@bigoak.org.

Big Oak Cattle

Big Oak Cattle

Big Oak Cattle is a self-sustaining production system for naturally raised beef that feeds the families of Big Oak. But its true mission is to help our boys and girls rebuild trust and learn responsibility and life skills by working together caring for our animals.



ASCEND is one way we keep our core promise, “We’ll stick with you until you are grown.” Through this ministry, we provide life skills training for our 18-22 year olds. We support each young person’s goals, whether it’s through a fully paid college education or skilled trade certification. We also provide the spiritual, professional and personal life preparation that helps each young man and woman walk the path of their unique, God-given purpose.

Legends at the Grand Page DT 2024-1
Legends at the Grand Special Events Page DT 2024-1

Back Cover Collage (Digital) 03-2024

They shall be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3