By Ashley Hughes
At the Burke Center for Youth in Driftwood, the motto is “It’s better to build children than repair adults.”
Pathfinders Ranch, a residential treatment center for boys, opened in 1973. The original founders, Rosemary Burke and Charlie Campise, still work there, 41 years later. They take boys who are unable to live in a family setting due to traumatic life events including abuse and neglect.
The center can accommodate about 20 residents at a time.
Executive Directory Kay Urbina has been inspired working for the Burke Center for Youth. She even met her husband on the job.
“I feel like I’m fulfilling my highest purpose here,” Urbina said. “I couldn’t go back to the corporate world.”
Each child is offered an individualized program at Pathfinders Ranch. Therapists are available onsite to every boy at any time. The boys typically stay at the ranch between nine and 18 months.
“The kids are just the most fabulous kids you will ever meet,” Urbina said. “They are the best boys and it’s so hard to see them go. An intercity gang boy will come here and think they’re in the wrong place, they’ll be looking for a jail or an institution. That same toughest gang boy will end up going to a boy scout meeting.”
Urbina started as a part-time case manager at Pathfinders Ranch in 2001. This was the same year she helped restart the horse therapy clinic.
“I was a one woman rodeo,” Urbina said. “I felt like a real cowgirl.”
She spent two months every single day getting horses that hadn’t been ridden in seven years into rideable shape. Since then, about 350 kids have gone through that program. She taught the program on and off for 11 years.
“I sold my big house and bought a Wimberley farm,” Urbina said.
All of the horses they receive for the program are donated. Urbina said when the boys select the horses, they often are attracted to the ones that have the same kind of behavior problems as they do.
“These kids impact all of us,” Urbina said. “They have made bad choices because of events that went on in their home lives, but they aren’t bad people.”
Urbina explained that one woman named Margaret, who the boys refer to as “the cake lady,” makes birthday cakes for every boy’s birthday. She asks them their favorite flavor and has never missed a single birthday. One time, one of the boys decided that he would fib about his birthday so that he could get his cake sooner. Six months rolled by and Urbina realized that same boy’s real birthday was coming up again already. Urbina let Margaret know not to make that boy a cake again for the trick he had played.
Margaret’s response? “Oh, just let me make him another one.”
“This is not something that can be done in isolation.” Urbina said. “These aren’t children from the community, or even children that will be going back into the community, but the community is supportive anyway.”
Urbina is in charge of organizing a “Fun-Raiser” at Dripping Springs Ranch Park so the center can build an additional dormitory to accommodate 20 more young men. They currently receive an average of six referrals a week and often have to turn people away.
The fun-raiser, with radio personality Bama Brown as the emcee, features music from Grammy award-winning songwriter Susan Gibson, who is from Wimberley. She wrote the Dixie Chick’s hit “Wide Open Spaces.”
The event features local organizations and food vendors, including a barbeque buffet from Railroad BBQ. Wimberley Brewing Company will supply the beer. HEB is also supporting the event through a significant sponsorship.
Burke Center for Youth hosts this fun-raiser annually, but this is the first year it will take place at the park.
“This year the event will be larger, more laid back and sort of a barbecue hoedown,” Urbina said.
In past years, the fundraiser was a formal dress-up event held at a restaurant in Driftwood.
“It will be more casual and hopefully expand to a larger population,” Urbina said.
There will be a silent and live auction. Prizes include things like six-day African safari and what Urbina called a maxed out bright red golf cart with a stereo.
“This is a community effort and a labor of love,” Urbina said. “People have came out of the woodwork to ask what they could do to help us. Everyone who has worked on it has Put their all in it.”
Urbina is hoping for 200 guests and hopes next year’s event will be so successful that not everyone will fit at the venue.
“This is family, it really is,” Urbina said. “We want to do everything we can for these young men.”
The event takes place at 6:30 p.m. June 11.