Name: Jonathan Sperry
Occupation: Engineer at the Illinois Commerce Commission
Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: I value the chance to support a ministry that reaches out to those who are struggling or discouraged, and to share with them the love of Jesus so that broken lives can be made new.  
One interesting fact about you: I turn into a miserable grouch if I go a few days without jogging. 
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Mocha

Meet the Board

Jonathan Sperry, Treasurer

Occupation: Attorney at Law

Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: My husband and I felt the calling to expand our family through the foster care system and 3 biological sisters were placed in our care in 2014. Throughout the years, our girls move forward, but their loss and trauma is still there. Refuge Ranch has given them such hope to look forward to while learning to trust their horse, their mentor, and know God has a beautiful plan for them, because Refuge Ranch is a part of their healing story. I have seen first hand the healing that takes place by Refuge Ranch being the hands, feet, and hugs of Christ. I’m proud to be a part of this Board bringing hope and healing to at-risk youth and families. 

One interesting fact about You: I helped to start an orphanage in Haiti and have been there many times. 

Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Mocha Chocolate Chunk

Stephanie Barton, Board President 

Occupation: Agent/Owner of Katie Young State Farm Agency

Why you serve on the Board at Refuge - I love the unique and effective connection and healing the Ranch offers in Jesus' name.

One interesting fact about you - My kids are exactly 1 year, w hours and 3 minutes apart in age - and it wasn't planned!

Favorite flavor of ice cream - Jeni's Gooey Butter Cake Ice Cream...but I'll usually take chips and salsa over ice cream any day!

Katie Young, Board Member

Name: Ron Duff, Board President
Occupation: Real Estate Broker with my wife, Suzie
Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: I love that Refuge offers a temporary life-escape for kids, volunteers and anyone who visits the campus. It’s an amazing place and a God blessing. I love that Christ is the center of everything the Ranch is.
God is transforming the ranch into an untypical destination that is very inviting and even fascinating to those who visit. Once there… kids and adults quickly experience a place of community and safety. Most important is that Refuge offers an environment to grow personally and spiritually. I find solace at the ranch. Through volunteer work and service, our spirit and faith get recharged. The kids we serve find hope and healing. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of all of this?  
One interesting fact about you: When it’s windy I still feel my hair blowing.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Definitely Moose Tracks

Ron Duff, Board Member

Name: Suzie Duff, Secretary

Occupation: Real Estate Broker, working with my wonderful husband at RE/MAX Professionals

Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: I am truly blessed to be a part of the Refuge Ranch which allows me to enjoy my love for God’s magnificent creation of animals and nature with the opportunity to serve Him in showing love to anyone that graces the property. As a more recently baptized Christian, I am aware that I have the responsibility of sharing His word and love, and Refuge Ranch allows me this opportunity.

One interesting fact about you: I REALLY like to cook and prepare meals and yummy items for other people. Ironically, that is where I find a lot of joy at the Ranch too! I love the big events that need a meal presented for our volunteers or visitors. It conflicts a bit with my love to 'work the ranch' however, as scooping manure is at the top of my list of 'recreational activities', when I have a little time to spare. I know....that is interestingly 'not right'. I love physical work and getting my hands dirty! I promise, however, to wash up REAL GOOD before serving the chili!!

Favorite Flavor of ice cream: When I was little and we took visits to B&R, I could not pick ONE favorite; so it was a scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge and Pralines & Cream. A grocery store run would have to be Mint Choco Chip or now....Moose Tracks....They didn't have yummy combos like that when I was growing up. The choices are endless! Thanks...I am now craving some ice cream!!!

Suzie Duff, Secretary

Title: Program Director

Kierra worked at Refuge as a Ranch Hand during college and graduated in 2018 from North Park University with a degree in Non-Profit Management. She oversees all aspects of our Bits of Hope Mentoring program and development. She is joyful and compassionate and we are so happy to have her as part of our team!

What do you love about working at the Ranch: I love that I am part of a community that pushes me to grow deeper in faith in Christ and also serve alongside of those people.

One interesting fact about you: I am probably drinking coffee right now.

What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: When I’m not at Refuge I’m probably working on my fixer upper house with my husband or relaxing on my porch with a cup of coffee. 

Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Mint Chocolate Chip

Meet the Staff

Kierra Boyce

Title: Volunteer Director

JJ started at Refuge at the beginning of 2020. She left a full time career as a military chaplain because she felt that God was calling her to serve at the Ranch. We are humbled by her sacrifice and thankful for her passion for the heart of God!

What made you want to work at the Ranch: It’s the perfect fit of horsemanship and sharing the love of Jesus

One interesting fact about you: Been to all 50 states!

What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: Sew, cycle, swim, kayak, and whatever sounds fun!

Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Moose Tracks!

Jenny Jo, aka JJ Nielsen

Title: Equine Director

Lisa is responsible for all things equine at the Ranch. She works with our green horses, helps our horses (and humans) problem solve through challenges, oversees vetting, herd health and management. We are so thankful for Lisa’s experience, wisdom, and example of striving to live out the Gospel in every area of her life!

What made you want to work at the Ranch: I am thrilled that God has called me to use my passion for horses in service to Him! I love being a part of the Refuge Ranch community and encouraging others in their walk with the Lord.

One interesting fact about you: I was a stay at home/homeschool mom of 3 for the past 26 years, life-long lover of horses, and I play the banjo with my church worship team.

What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: I enjoy spending time with my family, which includes 5 grandchildren, trail riding & working with my horses, bicycling with hubby Jim, gardening, and playing the piano. 

Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Moose Tracks

Lisa Cannon

Title: Founder, Executive Director

What made you want to work at the Ranch: Refuge is a culmination of my love for Jesus and His unrelenting mercy, my love for horses, and my passion to share the same freedom I have found with others who are hurting. I never could have imagined He would allow these things to come together the way they have at the Ranch. Every day here is a gift and I can’t imagine doing anything else!

One interesting fact about you: I have 7 kiddos! Life here is crazy and fun and never dull!
What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: Herd kids, thrift shop, browse antique stores, and watch the sunset.

Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Coffee - specifically Daily Grind at Scoup Du Jour

Chris Daniels, Founder, Executive Director

Title: Adaptive Riding Director

Jen is the Director of our Freedom Reins special needs riding program. She is certified as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor through PATH International. We are so thankful for her unique skill set she brings to the team as well as her love for the kids and family she serves.

What made you want to work at the Ranch: I am most excited about working for an organization that is founded and focused on God’s grace and mercy. I am really looking forward to working with staff and volunteers who love Jesus as well as using my gift as a riding instructor to benefit the Adaptive Riding program participants!

One interesting fact about you: I am a minister’s wife and we have been married/doing ministry together for 11 years! We have two girls: Harper, 6 and Evyn, 4. My horse was a 10th wedding anniversary gift from my husband. We cancelled our anniversary cruise and bought the horse instead. His name is now...wait for it...Cancelled Cruise.

What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: When I am not at the Ranch I am usually home with my two girls or helping out at our church. I teach 2s and 3s Sunday School and sing on our praise team.

Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, but I also really like Caramel and Hot Fudge Sundaes!

Jen McCormick

Title: Ranch Hand & Volunteer Assistant

What made you want to work at the Ranch: Everything! The Ranch combines my love for people, the outdoors, horses (and all the animals), Jesus, and kids all in one place. Being able to serve on staff here is literally a dream come true!

What is one interesting fact about you: I absolutely love cooking, baking, and feeding people!

What do you do when you’re not working at Refuge: I keep busy with my daughter, MiaJean! We love to be outside as much as possible; playing tennis, in the garden, kayaking, swimming, and walking our husky, Odin! We also love being in the kitchen together, hanging out with friends, and snuggling up on the couch watching movies

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream: I’ve never been much of an ice cream girl but if I am going to eat it, it’s usually Baskin Robbins cookie dough ice cream.

Chavet Johnson

Title: Lead Ranch Hand & Program Assistant

What made you want to work at the Ranch: Since I was once a kid in sessions at the Ranch I was so excited to be on the flip side!

One interesting fact about you: I am a vegetarian!

What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: Usually somewhere on a horse or working toward my degree in Equine Assisted Therapy!

Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Strawberry and Coffee! (Not together)

Liz started attending sessions at Refuge as an elementary student and we had the joy of walking alongside of her for many years. What an incredible joy it has been to watch God bring her full circle as she now pours out the hope and healing she has received from Jesus into those coming behind her!

Liz Mayes