At the Wings of Hope Ranch in Ashland, Virginia, horsing around is strongly encouraged. The ranch, founded in 2006 by Alison Boyd '90, is a non-profit that matches rescued horses with children in need. Located about 10 miles from R-MC, the ranch is a peaceful place where children and horses help each other learn to trust. Dedicated volunteers—there are more than 80—care for and train the rescue horses and work one-on-one with the children, who are known as ranchers.
Boyd, executive director of the ranch, chose Randolph-Macon after an admissions representative attended College Fair Day at her hometown high school in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
"After talking to him, I took the Amtrak to Ashland for a visit, and knew I'd found the right college," says Boyd, who majored in psychology and religious studies.
A Passion for Serving Others
Although she spent more than 20 years in the fitness industry, Boyd dreamed of running a horse ranch and helping at-risk children. A rider since early childhood, she was in her thirties when she read about a ranch ministry in Oregon.
"I knew then what I was called to do," says Boyd. "It was always my dream to help children, and my R-MC experiences—including community service work as a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, and an internship at a psychiatric hospital— helped steer me in that direction." Boyd also spent a month in London during January Term (J-term) during her senior year, doing an independent study on religion.
"I chose London for my independent study because it has a great religious history," she says. "I visited a ton of churches and cities all over the U.K. while I worked on my research paper. I was a 'seeker' at the time, wondering why and how there were so many religions and why people seemed to need them. While I didn't answer that age-old question very well in my final paper, the opportunity to study independently and in a foreign country inspired the beginning of a great journey toward faith in God. Wings of Hope Ranch combines my passion for serving others and my love of horses in a fantastic ministry opportunity."
Boyd is especially proud that there are numerous R-MC connections to Wings of Hope Ranch.
Randolph-Macon students, alumni and friends help ensure that the ranch runs smoothly by serving as board members, volunteers and fund raisers. Sophie Schaaf '16, Daniel Pettyjohn '88, Kathryn Burch Pettyjohn '88, Melody Fearnow Kenney '89, Melissa Puccinelli '17, Libby Hall '93, Rob Hall '92 and Susan Webb '97 are just some of the Yellow Jackets who help make the ranch a success. In addition, Andrea Lindgren, President and Mrs. Lindgren's daughter, is a volunteer at the ranch.
"Our success is due in large part to the selfless commitment our volunteers make to the ranch," says Boyd. "Wings of Hope is a unique opportunity for people who want to help children and rescue horses. Many volunteers come to help with the children or the horses and find the ranch is just as healing for themselves. There is a mystery within horses that draws in people of all ages and keeps them coming back."
At Home in Ashland
Living and working close to the college is a bonus for Boyd, who stays connected to her alma mater by attending basketball games and football tailgate parties.
"I am always in Ashland," says Boyd, who met her husband, Charlie Boyd '89, when the two were students. "I have worked out at the Brock Center; our three sons have attended R-MC basketball camps for years; and the college has been used as a backdrop for annual treasure hunts as fund raisers for the ranch. R-MC is all about community: It's where I met Charlie, made lifelong friends and have a strong network of Yellow Jacket friends."
Asked what she thinks about the college's equestrian program, which was founded in 2010, Boyd doesn't hesitate.
"I think it's a terrific addition to the college," she says. "I only wish it had been there when I was a student!"