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Holten: Making a big difference

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columns Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Who saved your life? I don't mean who saved you from drowning in a lake or pulled you from a burning building or automobile, even though that may have happened.

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Instead, I mean someone who sent you down a new path, kicked you out of a bowling alley, took time to show you how things should be done, acted as a mentor and saved your life.

There must be someone outside of your family about which you can say, "I don't know where I'd be without him or her." Or maybe there are a few someone's because if there's not, you might be in trouble.

For me, there was a bunch of someone's but the first dramatic one might have been my seventh-grade basketball coach because he's the first person outside of my family who really "believed in me."

You see, I was a restless lad who hated school from the first day on simply because they made you sit inside, mostly in one classroom for an entire day, when you could have been out riding a horse through a beautiful meadow, fishing in a glistening pond or sledding down a big snow-blanketed hill.

Thus, at the beginning of each school year from the first grade on, they'd assign us to our desks in alphabetical order and invariably after two days I'd be shifted to a new position right next to the teacher's desk. In fact, I distinctly remember being told by my sixth-grade teacher, as she handed us back a graded writing assignment, that I would "never amount to anything."

Then, in the seventh grade, a just-out-of-college basketball coach and teacher arrived who liked how I played basketball and informed me that if I wanted to continue to do so that I'd have to get it together in other areas of my life too or I'd eventually have to give up the sport. He both encouraged me and gave me a kick in the behind, so to speak. I began to study, do my homework and get "A" grades. By the eighth grade I was the point guard and captain of a championship team, despite the fact that I was a midget at 4 feet, 9 inches on a team of giants.

The fundamentals that he taught me, including hard work and learning what it takes to be a champion, helped me then and has helped me ever since, through every phase of my life.

Sure, my family taught me all those things. But sometimes it takes someone from the outside, a third party to make it all sink in and if that person and others had never entered my life, I might be selling Elvis velvets, or who knows what, at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

I bring this up for two reasons: first because, once again this year, as in the past four years, I am a member of the rodeo committee for the Home on the Range Champions Ride saddle bronc match rodeo that takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday near Sentinel Butte. And second, because this event is designed to help make sure kids in troubled situations have mentors and plenty of them.

You see, the Champions Ride is a saddle bronc-only rodeo that features the best bronc riders in the country on some of the best broncs. Its purpose, since 1957, has been to raise money for the Home on the Range ranch facility so that it can give kids the kind of opportunities and mentoring that you and I often take for granted.

Some of them are good kids from out-of-joint families and others are out-of-joint kids with good families. Either way, they need help and Home on the Range provides it and gives them a future.

"This place focuses a lot of its time on showing young people, like myself, that there is a higher power out there and that there is more to living than just living for drugs, or sex or money," one of the kids said recently. "I'm working my way on a narrow path towards a better life, and I'm doing it for my family and myself, of course. I'm working on being the best person I can possibly be."

Everybody deserves a future. You can help. Go to the rodeo or call 701-872-3745 and pitch in.

Holten is the manager of The Drill, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email him at kholten@thedickinsonpress.com.

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