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Snake River offers healing for orphaned, neglected, abused and abandoned kids

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Kids at On River Time gather around the fire pit. | Courtesy Wendy Garner, On River Time

IRWIN — The Snake River is a place of healing for these orphaned, neglected, abused and abandoned kids.

Steve Davis, an avid fly fisherman from Texas is a survivor of childhood abuse. His time on the Snake River in eastern Idaho helped him heal from that abuse and he wanted to give kids that same opportunity. So he created On River Time.

“I wanted to start something to show kids they can come out and rebuild trust, feel valued and dream big,” Davis said.

He started On River Time seven years ago. The program brings kids from four different group homes in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama to the Lodge at Palisades Creek in Irwin where they learn how to fly fish and have a variety of different experiences.

“This is an incredible place that not everyone gets to experience,” Big Oak Ranch Executive Director and former NFL quarterback Brodie Croyle said.

Big Oak Ranch in Alabama is a Christian home for children in need.

A river guide teaches Scarlet to cast. | Courtesy Wendy Garner, On River Time

“We have kids from every dynamic you could imagine. At the end of the day, we take kids that are orphaned, neglected, abused or abandoned,” Croyle said.

Croyle explained that they don’t focus on the children’s pasts. Rather, they focus on being a platform for children so they can succeed.

“In scripture, God always speaks to who you can become. He doesn’t ever speak to who you’ve been,” he said.

Davis said On River Time takes the kids out of their comfort zones and lets them experience something new.

“We fly fish, we do Orvis Olympics, we do scavenger hunts, we do interviews for the most interesting camper to get these kids connected,” Davis said. “At night we do devotionals, we have dinner, we have award ceremonies for the big fish, the most fish and that kind of stuff.”

Davis said the hope is to give kids memorable experiences.

“The main thing is to let these kids be kids. The first night, we talked about something called a quantum moment. It’s something that’s benevolent, surprising, it’s enduring and it’s visual,” he said. “You can think about maybe five moments that really changed you. We’re trying to make this as one of those moments.”

Scarlet, 18, has gone to On River Time twice and has become a sort of mentor for the younger kids. She said she wants to encourage them to try new things and get out of their comfort zone.

On River Time kids symbolic burn their fears in the fire. | Courtesy Wendy Garner, On River Time

“I think experiences that are out of the norm are always opportunities for growing,” she said.

Scarlet is going to Samford University in Alabama this fall where she plans to study marketing. She hopes to eventually open her own clothing store.

Brandon, 17, said he hopes to study finance after he graduates.

“(On River Time) has shown me that there’s way more — there’s a lot more things I can do with my life than just the standard things that you see,” he said.

Croyle said he sees kids change from all the positive little things that happen to them through On River Time.

“It’s those little moments where these things have been spoken into you, and these opportunities that have come, and these circumstances that have come up,” he said. “Maybe this trip at the moment might not have been this life-changing thing but, you know what, you look back in two, three years and you go ‘that was a pretty cool experience.'”