INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Several thousand residents turned out to the Indian River County 17th annual Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches BBQ held at the Sheriff’s Complex to partake in barbecue, auctions, and demonstrations all as a benefit for the ranches. From K-9 and SWAT demonstrations to performances from the Lake County Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol and silent auctions, visitors to the barbecue appeared to enjoy the sunshine, breezes and fun.
“We always enjoy this,” said seasonal Vero Beach resident Merry Clifford.
For Clifford and her husband, this was the third year they’ve attended the barbecue, not only to have fun but to also help support the Sheriffs’ programs.
“My name’s all over the place,” she said, motioning to the silent auction items under the tent near the barbecue.
Indian River County Sheriff’s Office employee Lucy Scheidt said the silent auction was going really well, noting it was her goal to have the auction raise more than the $2,000 it raised the year before.
“People are bidding more than the value” of the 30-or-so items, she said.
Funds raised from the auction and the $5 barbecue meals were to be donated to the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, a place for young people who have had run-ins with the law.
During the barbecue, Sheriff Deryl Loar presented a $40,000 check to Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches President Roger Bouchard, adding to the more than $400,000 the annual barbecue has been able to donate.
“We are now in a wonderful position” to donate these funds, Sheriff Loar said.
Bouchard that the ranches had to close five cottages – which serve 10 children each – because of the economy. The check will help them reopen those cottages and serve those children.
Sheriff Loar told the audience that the funds from Indian River County will be earmarked to help those children from Indian River County.
Bouchard said the ranches help to “catch (youth) before they get into too much trouble” – those who have had some scrapes with the law and are headed down the wrong track.
Of all the county sheriff offices Bouchard works with, he said Indian River County is by far the most supportive, not only in terms of fundraising events, but also in volunteer efforts. Bouchard said the programs rely heavily on deputies volunteering their time to work with the youth at the ranches.
Statewide, Bouchard said the ranches served 6,000 kids last year. Of those, a few hundred were from Indian River County.
He added that biggest misconception the public seems to have about the ranches is the funding. Bouchard explained that 80 percent of its $16 million annual budget comes directly from fundraising efforts and charitable gifts.
“We rely on the rank-and-file people,” he said.
While the barbecue and festivities were meant as a way to raise funds for the ranches, not everyone came out solely for that reason.
“We’re lovin’ it,” said Fellsmere mom Allison Klotzer, who brought her 9-year-old son, Alex, to the barbecue.
They said they were enjoying the weather and the action from the demonstrations.
“He begged to come,” Klotzer said of Alex.