By Kelly Legg

Angela and John Spillis had a vision to help abused horses. Through hard-work, prayer and community support, the Rugged Cross Youth Ranch and Rescue (RCYRR) helps heal the hurting. RCYRR is a faith-based, nonprofit organization that rescues abused and neglected horses and helps them heal so they may trust again. In addition, the horses are then paired with children who have emotional, physical and spiritual needs. The ranch pairs one child with one horse and one leader.

The ranch currently supports 12 horses that meet the needs of the kids who visit daily. “We want people to know no child will ever be turned away no matter what race, background, or religion,” said Angela

The ranch runs on donations by individuals, local businesses and sponsorships. Professional therapists and counselors as well as dedicated volunteers to help care for the animals and meet the ranches manpower needs, all free of charge. It takes a lot of hard work to meet the needs of the horses and children and the ranch is truly a family-affair.

“We have put our whole beings into this and would do it all over again. We do whatever we have to do – work horses, give kids lessons, muck stalls, and build stalls, cut grass, whatever it takes to get things done,” said Angela. “We just feel so blessed to be able to be a blessing to others. All four of our kids are involved, from our 22-year-old son to our 4-year-old little girl.”

RCYRR is celebrating the second annual A Christmas To Remember, which will bring more than 28 kids and 10 staff to celebrate on Christmas day.

“This day is filled with many activities, including a visit from St. Nick bearing gifts for the kids, a traditional Christmas meal, a roping demonstration and this year we are adding a new outfit for Christmas Day for each child,” said Angela. “We also do hayrides, pony rides, cookie decorating, potato sack races and many, many more activities.”

“We believe that there is healing in mentoring and giving love which gives hope for all of God’s creations,” said Angela. RCYRR is located at 6530 Lithia Pinecrest Rd., in Lithia. For  information on donating, sponsoring or bringing a child please contact the ranch at 679-8386 or visit

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.