The boys of Summer: For the kids at Rabiner, recreation is a way to cope

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Fletcher Jackson, 13, in purple, prepares to make contact on a pitch thrown from his coach, Andy Daniel, Tuesday afternoon at the Rabiner baseball field. Rabiner Treatment Center is seeking donations to enhance summer recreation offered to the boys.

Many of the boys at Rabiner Treatment Center didn’t get to play baseball or go fishing with their families like other kids growing up, according to Justine Smith, director of programming.

“A lot of these guys have never been fishing or even had a baseball glove,” Smith said. “Just last week we had an Easter egg hunt and we had one 17-year-old boy who had never done that. It kind of breaks your heart.”

With that in mind, Rabiner, a residential treatment facility west of Fort Dodge, is in the process of trying to expand the quality of recreation offered to its youth.

A baseball teener league has been offered there for 16 years.

But the equipment used by the team is limited and in poor shape, according to Lynne Brown, administrative assistant.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Members of the Rabiner Treatment Center baseball team place their hands as one on a baseball bat inside the dugout at the Rabiner baseball field Tuesday. Pictured from left to right: Matthew Langel, 16, Ismael Torres, 13, Fletcher Jackson, 13, Emilio Ratchbun, 15, and Head Coach Andy Daniel.

“Our baseball program is our biggest recreational program for the summer and we just want to expand that a little more and get more equipment for these boys,” Brown said.

She said the game has them excited for summer.

“Baseball hasn’t even started yet and a lot of the boys are saying, ‘I’m going out for the baseball team,'” Brown said.

In baseball, equipment such as a gloves are needed for both right- and left-handed players.

“We have a lot of boys who are left-handed, so we need some of that equipment too,” Brown said.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson DIllon Lawler, 16, left, Fletcher Jackson, 13, and Matthew Langel, 16, stand together at home plate on the Rabiner Treatment Center baseball field Tuesday afternoon. Rabiner is seeking donations for baseball equipment for the team this summer.

The equipment doesn’t need to be new to make a difference, she said.

“Nothing needs to be brand new or name brand,” Brown said.

Bats, gloves, balls, cleats, clothes and batting gloves are some examples of equipment needed.

Brown said baseball helps build camaraderie among the boys.

“Being part of a team helps them,” Brown said. “It makes them feel like they are part of something. It brightens their day.”

Rabiner was established in 1962 as a home for troubled boys, but Lisa Fehr, clinical director, said the residents today are not necessarily juvenile delinquents.

“Just because they are in treatment, they are not here because they have broken laws,” Fehr said. “In the old days, kids were sent away as juvenile delinquents. That’s not the case anymore. The kids just really need significant amounts of behavioral health and mental health help.”

“They come here and they are not naughty kids,” Fehr added. “These are good kids, so we need to amp up the amount of activities they are able to do, so they can continue to receive what the rest of us would call a normal childhood.”

Being outside is beneficial for them, Fehr said.

“It’s just incredibly important for their mental health,” she said.

Brown said the boys have been looking forward to fishing since Christmas.

“When we looked at our Christmas lists, a huge item was a fishing pole,” Brown said. “That’s what the boys wanted was fishing gear.”

Fishing poles, rods, reels, and other fishing supplies can also be donated.

Smith said the boys spend as much time outside as possible.

“Every summer we go to the lake two or three times a week,” Smith said. “We go to Twin Lakes, Kennedy and Brushy. Pretty much anywhere there is a body of water.”

The outdoors can serve as an escape, Smith said.

“We try to give them knowledge of the outdoors and seeing new things,” Smith said. “We have some boys with mental health or autism, so the outdoors can be a good coping mechanism.”

All of the recreation at Rabiner is provided through donations, Brown said.

“Together we are transforming the lives of young boys and building brighter futures,” Brown said. “Without donations, it would not be possible.”

To donate contact Brown at Rabiner Treatment Center by calling (515) 576-7388.


Who: Boys at Rabiner Treatment Center

What: Summer recreation

Needs: Baseball, fishing, and other equipment

for summer fun

To donate: Call Rabiner Treatment Center,

(515) 576-7388

• Donations can be dropped off at Rabiner Treatment Center, 1762 Johnson Ave.

• Items can also be picked up.