Joy Ranch accessible to people with disabilities

A note from friends of Apostrophe, Ben and Dee Anderson

Joy Ranch, have you heard about it? It is great! You really need to know about this wonderful place.

It is a unique fully-accessible camp and retreat center out in the prairies of South Dakota. Joy Ranch is located 7 miles northwest of Watertown, South Dakota, situated on a hill overlooking a small lake.

There are horse stables and corrals. There is a real white wooden country church that was moved onto the property that overlooks the lake and prairies. In my mind I can visualize families riding in on their wagons to go to worship.  This is truly a place that people can come and relax and have fun.

My wife, Dee, and I had a chance to visit there October  2012. It opened June 2, 2012.

It has totally accessible accommodations. We liked the design of it as it looks like a place that could have been built in the 1800s.  We learned that the land was a generous gift from Ms. Joy Nelson who had a dream about a western setting for people to come to enjoy. Joy Ranch is now a part of the Lutherans Outdoors in South Dakota.

To give you a picture in your own mind let me tell you that my wife Dee and I did a walk through. It is like the old western movie towns with a main street lined with the “bunkhouse” for all the campers, a hotel for families and people on retreats, two dining halls (with homemade from scratch meals), the Thirsty Boot Saloon where people can relax and eat snacks, and many gathering and meeting places. We were fascinated at all the beautiful furniture, quilts, photos and old memorabilia.

It is truly a barrier-free camp and retreat center. All the accommodations are spacious and everything is decorated with an old prairie town theme.  It is peaceful and has an appealing feel. What we really liked was the fact that there are automatic doors throughout all the buildings for ease of access. There are spacious outside decks.

As Dee and I walked through some of the 90 acres of land that Joy Nelson donated we were totally amazed. From the church to the horse stables and riding arena and down to the lake front where there are canoes, pontoon rides and paddle boats for the enjoyment of everyone. There are buggy, pony and trail rides.

We read an article in a Joy Ranch bulletin where the governor of South Dakota Dennis Daugaard stated, “Joy Ranch is a unique facility, and I am proud that it is located in the state of South Dakota, and I congratulate the team of Joy Ranch on their grand opening on June 2nd 2012.”

Joy RanchWe would recommend Joy Ranch for family reunions, business meetings, retreats, weddings, church events and youth camps.

Dee and I hope to be there again and take a buggy ride! Hope you and your family and friends get to visit there soon too!

You can see photos and read about Joy Ranch at their website at

Ben D. Anderson was born with cerebral palsy, grew up in the small town of Kenmare, N.D. When he was three, his grandfather promised him a John Deere (pedal) tractor if he would learn to walk. Anderson graduated from Minot Senior High in Minot, N.D.,  in 1972. He attended both Lake Region Junior College in Devils Lake, North Dakota and Golden Valley Lutheran College in Golden Valley, Minnesota. Ben is a 1992 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Stout at Menomonie, Wis. He has a bachelor of science degree in vocational rehabilitation with an emphasis in community-based rehabilitation. 

Anderson began Break Through Inc. in 1978. Break Through is a nonprofit organization that provides leadership training to churches, community civic groups, schools, universities, businesses, and professional groups. The training enables them to build a new awareness of and sensitivity towards persons with disabilities. The message motivates people to face their discomfort and opens the door to better interpersonal relationships. Ben travels nationwide as the CEO and Chief Trainer for Break Through, Inc.

In January of 2006 Ben was appointed by the governor of Wisconsin to the Rehabilitation Council. In August 2007, Ben wrote “IQ of 63, So What!” Going Beyond Everybody Else’s Expectations. The book is now being used as a textbook at two universities and read by students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Wis., in the Vocational Rehabilitation Department and at Minot State University, Minot, N.D., in the special education department this Fall 2010.

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