Big Oak Ranch

Issue: 02 2023



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01. A Note from Brodie

As I had the recent opportunity to share a message with social workers from around the state, we focused on the idea that even though one might have good intentions to bring about positive change, intentions do not equal end-game success, action does.

People who make a difference in this world are doers. Those who, instead of complaining about a problem, decide to make it a personal mission to help solve the problem. They choose to step out of comfort and into purpose.

Choosing a posture of courage to help solve problems, over the comfortable tendencies we all have faced to just complain, often puts us on the road many shy away from – the one full of challenges and sacrifices that come with being the change we want to see.  

As summer quickly approaches, may we choose to take this time to invest in our families. Let’s step fully into the purpose to which God has called us in pointing our children to their purpose in Christ. Let’s prioritize the time it requires to raise up a generation of difference makers by making it start in our homes, in us. 

There is the opportunity to enter a war for the hearts of our children by choosing to consistently live out the greatest message there ever was. 

May I encourage all of you who choose to be doers for the sake of the children who call Big Oak home. We will all go through challenging wilderness moments in the process of serving something greater than ourselves. But we don’t follow God for a better life, we follow God because He is better than life. Let’s show our children this truth. Our time with them is short, so let’s make this summer the most intentional time of preparation yet.

Keep Planting!

Brodie Croyle

Brodie Croyle
President & CEO

Brodie, Kelli, Sawyer & Luke Croyle

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!


03. Growing Oak



Jaxson, 13


  • Has lived at Big Oak Boys’ Ranch for 5 years
  • Lives in the Sansing Home with houseparents, Alex & Erika Lischinski
  • Attends a local church with his Ranch family and desires to grow in his relationship with God
  • Is in the 6th grade at Westbrook Christian School and is an excellent student
  • Is looking forward to playing football at WCS this fall
  • Enjoys adventures, exploring the outdoors, and helping Pop Lischinski with projects
  • Is very considerate at home and helpful with his two youngest siblings
  • Loves quality time and is always ready to learn something new



Francisco & Jesi ready for their senior prom


Leo made a new friend over spring break


Happy 13th birthday, Hayden!


Cayden’s first catch!

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We’re so proud of you, Caden!

GO-Digitial-Steven-Gamecocks-2-2023 (2)

We are so proud of you, Steven! Go Gamecocks!

“How priceless your faithful love is, God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

PSALM 36:7

Items Needed for the Boys' Ranch

Beach Towels

Kids & Mens Multivitamins

Dishwasher Tabs

Paper Towels

Laundry Detergent

Card Games/Travel Games

Clorox Toilet Wands & Refills

Tall Kitchen Trash Bags

Mixing Bowls


Rubber Spatulas

Baking Sheets

Men’s Shampoo & Body Wash

Please send donated items to:

Big Oak Boys’ Ranch

250 Jake Mintz Road

Gadsden, AL 35905

04. Growing Oak



Briana, 15


  • Has lived at Big Oak Girls’ Ranch for almost 5 years
  • Lives in the Jernigan Home with houseparents, Doyle & Karen Fletcher 
  • Attends Northpark Baptist Church with her family and is involved in Student Ministries 
  • Is in the 9th grade at Westbrook Christian School 
  • Is an A-Honor Roll student 
  • Volunteers with Key Club at Westbrook Christian School 
  • Has a deep love for horses and works with the Ranch’s horses after school each day
  • Plans to one day open her own Rehabilitation Ranch to bring injured horses back to health



Happy 14th birthday, Chamma!


Makenzie & Lydia painting Easter eggs


Ava looks beautiful for prom


Gail is ready to ride


Izzy & Mrs. Sissy enjoying a trail ride with all the other girls in P21


Haley with housemom, Amy, ready for the Easter Egg Hunt

“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.”


Items Needed for the Girls' Ranch

High Heat Personal Laminators & Sheets

Outdoor String Lights – Round Bulbs

Dutch Oven

Muffin Rings


Kitchen Shears

Feminine Products

Gallon-Size Ziploc Bags

Paper Towels

Refill Bona Floor Cleaner Solution

Echo Dot

Hobby Lobby Gift Card

Over-the-Door Shoe Organizer

Persil Detergent

Immersion Blender

Fridge Bins


Pizza Cutter

Please send donated items to:

Big Oak Girls’ Ranch

6000 Shelley Drive

Springville, AL 35146

05. Senior Spotlight


I want to give God all the praise and honor. Without Him, I would not have been put in the best position time after time. I would like to give special thanks to all of my houseparents, the O’ Leary’s, the Bushes, and the Smiths. They have helped me grow in ways I didn’t think possible. I want to thank Big Oak Ranch for an amazing opportunity. To all my brothers, thank you for all the laughs and memories that I will have for a lifetime. To all of the workers who have poured into the Ranch the last eight years, thank you. You have done so much, not only for me, but the other hundreds of kids who have been here. Once again, thank you to all who have helped lead me in the best way!


I want to give thanks to God for giving me a second chance at Big Oak Ranch. My life has changed so much. I also want to give thanks to my houseparents, the Gassers, for helping me become the lady I am today. They have shown me what a family truly is, through the good times and the worst times that I’ve gone through, they have always been there for me. I want to give thanks to all of the staff at Big Oak. When us kids walk into the office, and y’all smile and ask us how we’ve been, y’all are changing lives! I want to say thank you to Mrs. Bridgette, for being my social worker and helping me when I struggle. Thank you, Ms. Ashton, for everything you helped me with. Lastly, thank you Big Oak Ranch, for helping me become who I am today. Love you all!


I would love to say thank you to everyone on staff at Big Oak Ranch. Especially to my parents, who have raised me for the past four years. I will be forever grateful. I feel incredibly blessed to have everyone from Big Oak in my life. They have shown me what a family should look like. I would also like to thank all of the people who have poured into my life from Westbrook. Most of all, I thank God for all the blessings He’s given me, and for the people that He has put into my life to impact and influence me. Thank you all!


For the past 14 years, I have been able to call Big Oak home. I am so thankful for the amazing opportunities that have been given to me. I am amazed every day that I get to live at this place, and I would not be able to do it if were not for my parents persistently seeking the Lord. I would like to thank Mrs. Bridgette for being like an extra mother to me, and to Mrs. Meredith, thank you for your direction in my life. Lastly, I want to thank Mrs. Kelli for sharing your spirit of overwhelming joy and life. I am so excited for this next chapter.


I want to give God all the praise and glory for placing me at Big Oak for the last ten years. I would like to thank the people that God put in my path that have made me into the young man that I am today. Thank you to the Jenkins, Curps, and the McLeans for being the parents that I needed in the different seasons of my life. I would like to thank all the teachers that have helped me educationally and prepared me for my next chapter of my life. I would like to give a special thank you to my cousin, Diana, for staying by my side throughout our years at the Ranch. Most importantly, I would like to give a heart-filled thank you to the Croyle family. Thank you, Mr. John and Mrs. Tee, for having faith in God’s plan, and trusting in Him to make a wonderful place to give a second chance for kids like me. Thank you, Mr. Brodie and Mrs. Kelli, for stepping into Big Oak and creating ASCEND. Thank you to everyone that supports and gives to the Ranch. Without y’all, I wouldn’t have been able to make friends and family since I’ve been here. Thank you, everyone!


First, I want to thank God for leading my family to Big Oak Ranch and for the infinite amount of blessings He’s given us. I want to thank my parents, Jason and Jen Shoars, for all they have done for me and for always being there. I also want to thank my brother, Jackson, for everything he’s done for me – I couldn’t have asked for a better older brother. Thank you to everyone at Big Oak, as well as those who support in helping to prepare me for my future. To Mr. Tim Batson, thank you for helping me grow my work ethic and experience over the years. Finally, thank you to my teachers and counselors at Westbrook for helping me prepare for my next academic steps. I look forward to ASCEND and attending Samford University in the fall.


First, I would love to give thanks to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to have an amazing opportunity to live at Big Oak. I give thanks to Big Oak for allowing me to have a second chance, putting me where I am right now, and for giving me an amazing opportunity to go into ASCEND. I would like to give thanks to my houseparents for pushing me, wanting more for me, never giving up on me, and guiding me spiritually to become the young man I am right now. I give thanks to Mrs. Donna and Pop Duke for the memories that they have placed into my life. I would also like to thank Sissy and Drew Jackson, and Mr. Matt Williams, for allowing me to be a part of Big Oak Cattle, teaching me to have a good work ethic, how to step into leadership, and how to start every day in a get-to attitude and not a got-to. I’d like to thank those who were a part of Big Oak Cattle with me, my brothers, and everyone who has played a part in my life for all the great times. I will cherish those memories forever. I would also like to give thanks to those who donate to Big Oak and allow us to have much more than what we could ever ask for. Lastly, I would like to give thanks to the Big Oak staff, thank you so much for what y’all do.


If you would have told me I would be living in Alabama with seven brothers about to go to Samford University, I would have thought you were crazy. God works in mysterious ways and I thank Him for this opportunity more than anything else. I will live by the verse Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” I want to thank my parents for always loving me no matter how stubborn I was and for pushing me to be a hard worker with good morals. I want to also thank my sister and brothers for the laughs and memories. Y’all will always have a special place in my heart. I want to thank my coaches and mentors for pushing me to my limits, seeing my potential, and helping me strive for excellence. Last but not least, I want to thank God for the blessings and opportunities that Big Oak has created for me. I will be forever grateful. Thank you!

06. A Life Changed

Dakota's Story


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.

My grandmother was loving, compassionate, and an extremely positive person. She would give the shirt off 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.


Dakota and his grandmother


Dakota at the Ranch with Gilbert and Houston

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. 


Dakota with his Ranch family at Christmas

Not 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.


Dakota in his Westbrook football jersey


 Jessica & Chad Phillips with Kerith & Dakota

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 we are now expecting our first child, a little girl, who I cannot wait to raise to be a world changer.

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.


Dakota & Kerith at his Promotion Ceremony


Gender Reveal Party for Dakota’s daughter with Jeremy & Janet Cockrell

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.



Kerith & Dakota on their wedding day

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”


07. Spotlights

Volunteer Resource Parenting


The Coby's Story 

When we first moved to Alabama a few years ago, we were hopeful in finding a way to serve our new community. It wasn’t long before we were introduced to Big Oak Ranch. While looking through the website, we immediately felt drawn to volunteer resource parenting, but we knew we would need to seek God’s guidance. There were a lot of thoughts going through our minds, of how much it could change our lifestyle and routine, or if it would potentially change our family dynamic. Anniston is our only child, and we wanted to consider all possibilities before making this decision. In a short time, the Lord showed us that this was something we were supposed to do. Little did we know, our family would expand in the best way.

From the moment we met Izzy, we knew that she was going to be a very special part of our family, and we were so excited. We’ve always known that Anniston wanted a sister, and it’s been really sweet to watch Izzy become something so similar to that. They laugh, share clothes, play tennis, sing, and dance. Because of Anniston and Izzy’s friendship, “resource weekends” have been transformed into a unique and special family time! It’s an incredible honor to experience this as parents, and we cherish every memory that’s made.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen countless examples of who God is just by volunteering to serve a child at Big Oak in this way. The ability to welcome a child into our home and love her instantly – that’s not something we could have done in our own capacity. It isn’t always perfect – it’s real life and real people, and we’ve learned how to love someone who needed time to build trust before loving us back. The journey has been worth it. While it didn’t change our lifestyle or routines as Izzy just plugs right into what our family is already doing, it did change us in all of the best ways.

Volunteer resource parenting is more than just opening our home one weekend a month. It’s an opportunity for God to reveal another illustration of His love – to my husband and me, to Anniston, and to Izzy.


The Ellisons’ Story

We go to church with John and Robin O’Leary, who, at the time we first met, were houseparents. They had just welcomed Kaige into their home. My husband, Shane, and I felt extremely called to that little boy, and today, we have been his Resource Family for nine years now.

When Shane and I started dating, we both talked about wanting three children – this was a forever desire that was planted in our hearts. The number three had always been a significant number through which He revealed His faithfulness to us. We had our first son, Henry, with no problems and then struggled with infertility for years and years after. Through IVF, we had our second son Meade, yet lost Meade’s twin. Despite this incredible loss, God was so faithful. Within the pain and loss, He reminded us that He had given us Kaige, and we do have our three sons that He promised.

It is so sweet to reflect over those hard years and remember His goodness and faithfulness, even if it wasn’t received in the way we expected. We are so blessed, and we love that Kaige is our number three. It is tough to sum up nine years with him, as he is such a precious child. People often ask us what it’s like to serve as a volunteer resource parent. They want to know what it entails. As I share with them how Kaige has just joined right into our family each time we’ve kept him, I can’t remember what life was like before Kaige. The blessings he has brought into our lives completely outweigh everything else. Becoming a resource family is completely worth it, and we truly wouldn’t want it any other way.


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.

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“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever..”

Isaiah 40:8