Posted on Mar 09, 2020
Snider Mountain Ranch Visits Sussex Rotary

On Monday, March 9th, 2020, the Sussex Rotary Club hosted guest speakers Duane Bleakney (Camp Director) and Rosy Berti (Assistant Director) of local Snider Mountain Ranch. The Ranch is a Canadian registered charity dedicated to providing fantastic experiences for youth in a loving, supportive and inspiring ranch-themed environment.

Meeting Chair Lisa Brown introduced our speakers.

Duane Bleakney is from the Sussex area, and he and his wife Katie have four children ranging from 9 months to 12 years of age. Duane spent his childhood living at the Ranch and his teenage years working there. His background in construction comes in handy, and he and Katie are embarking on their sixth summer as the directors of Snider Mountain Ranch.

Rosy Berti, originally from Ottawa, is the Camp Assistant Director. She has worked for the Ranch for two and a half years since starting as seasonal summer staff. After graduating from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Child Studies (with minors in French and American Sign Language), Rosy came to work for Snider Mountain Ranch full time...

Snider Mountain Ranch - Director Duane Bleakney
Duane and Rosy began their presentation with a short video showing children interacting in numerous outdoor activities at Snider Mountain Ranch.
Sprawling over 400 acres, the Ranch sits atop Snider Mountain just outside of Sussex, New Brunswick. Initially established in 1981 as 'Circle Square Ranch,' as part of a national chain, the facility has grown its infrastructure and programs over the years. It now sees over 1000 campers a year, ranging in age from 5 through 15, and hosts over 5000 guests across all offerings.

Duane says “it’s not about the numbers, it’s about an investment in people”.

They want kids to have an opportunity just to be kids, to play outdoors, to interact with others positively. Camp forces you to get out of your comfort level and mingle. It offers a neutral playing field, removing social expectations that one may feel in a school setting. Snider Mountain Ranch promotes Love, Hospitality, Excellence and Fun.
Duane and Rosy offered a few staggering statistics: 
  • Only 39% of 5-17-year-olds are reaching their recommended physical activity levels as outlined in the Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for children. 
  • At least 1 in 3 adolescent students in Canada have reported being bullied recently. 
  • On average, 8-12-year-olds spend 4 hours and 44 minutes on screen media each day.
In an area 2 km deep by 1 km wide, Snider Mountain Ranch offers a large dining room, 12 hotel-style rooms, 10 bunkhouses, plus an overnight campsite with 12 bunk beds that children ride the horses to and from.

Activities include a horsemanship program and riding lessons, trail riding, go-karts and driver safety training, swimming, rock wall climbing, archery, BMX biking, zip and slacklines, ball hockey, basketball, and a waterfront for canoeing. Winter activities offer the same horsemanship program, sledding, snowshoeing, skating and hockey and sleigh rides.  

The Ranch offers rental packages for groups of any size. The Ranch regularly hosts such organizations as Camp Kerry, CNIB, Girl Guides, Coding Camp-Brilliant Labs and Canadian Parents for French, as well as youth groups, international students and business conferences, to name a few.
Snider Mountain Ranch - Assistant Director Rosy Berti
Rosy described the Ranch's New Horizons Program. Developed in 2016, the program is provided free to 45 “at-risk” youth, serving to provide opportunities for skills mastery and mentorship.

"Once a month, the same group of kids are brought for a weekend of camp through the winter and spring months. The kids are provided opportunities to try baking, music, painting, woodworking and other life skills, delivered in a safe, encouraging and fun environment."

Program mentors teach skills necessary for personal growth, work ethic, initiative, responsibility and communication, which also helps with their future employability. The Ranch staffs a 3:1 staff ratio, teaching coping and conflict resolution strategies, along with an entrepreneurship program. Measured outcomes show an increase of 43.6% in participant's growth mindset, 26.8% in work effort, 11.5% in self-esteem and 11.8% in their sense of purpose. 

Snider Mountain Ranch wants to give potentially at-risk youth the opportunity and confidence to see their future possibilities in a whole new way. Rosy shared a quote she overheard from one of the New Horizons campers:

"I learned how to be nice and kind to other people; I learned how to skate. I learned how to get back up and try again."
Snider Mountain Ranch - Meets Sussex Rotary
Duane shared that the focus of Snider Mountain Ranch revolves around "love, hospitality, excellence and fun," and that this focus doesn't stop with campers. The leadership team at the facility believes in investing in the lives of the staff as well, many of whom stay connected with the Ranch for years to come.

Duane and Rosy concluded the presentation with another video and offered for anyone interested to reach personally to them or visit the online presence at or on Facebook.

Lisa thanked Duane and Rosy for their informative presentation and presented them with a children's book that will be donated in Snider Mountain Ranch's name at the local Sussex library.