Down Home Ranch

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Many disabled adults want to be more independent, to live on their own and to make friends who accept them as they are. One program that addresses that desire is called the Down Home Ranch where adults with Down syndrome and autism live and work together. And as Kim Riemland (reem land) reports, residents say they do feel “at home” here.                

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(Locator: Elgin, TX)

Julia Burns, Down Home Ranch Resident: “I have visions of angels, real angels, in my room. I feel so comforted, so loved out here.”

After three decades with her parents, Julia Burns now lives at the Down Home Ranch … and says she’s becoming more independent.

Julia Burns, Down Home Ranch Resident: “I do a lot, a lot more responsibilities out here than I do at home.”

Julia is one of a dozen residents on the Texas ranch not far from Austin. They live in group homes on the 267 acres and work in the ranch’s greenhouses, feed the horses, and learn about life.

Liz Smith, Down Home Ranch Resident: “I’m just trying to find where I belong, you know, in this life.”

(Shoots and scores, cheers)

In the summer, Down Home Ranch holds week-long camps for children and adults with special needs. Instead of catch and release at the fishing pond, they practice something different … “kiss and release”… kissing the fish before they’re returned to the water.

Julia’s church also reaches out to residents of the Down Home Ranch. First United Methodist Church in Elgin hosts programs for the ranchers and plans to start a sign-language choir.

The Rev. Jim McClain, First United Methodist Church, Elgin, Texas: “We recognize and meet each person where they are, not where we think they ought to be or where we hope they will be.”

The ranch was started by Judy and Jerry Horton, whose daughter, Kelly, has Down syndrome.

Judy Horton, Down Home Ranch Co-Founder: “We wanted a place where Kelly’s needs and the needs of people like her would be addressed first.”

And Down Home Ranch has become just that place.

Julia Burns, Down Home Ranch Resident: “I want to continue to live out here for the rest of my life.”


Down Home Ranch hopes to expand and double the number of Ranchers, as permanent residents are called. One of the biggest projects of the year at the ranch is growing poinsettias to sell before Christmas.

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Also, see: Texas ranch provides special place for special needs