November 25, 2021
When asked to join the board of directors at WellFully, Tim Rogers immediately said yes with one stipulation — he would get to be involved directly and plan activities. Since joining the board two years ago, Tim has done just that taking participants kayaking, hiking, to baseball games, to big game feeds, and Christmas tree hunting. He even introduced some to the art of making S’mores, something many had never had before.
“It was an easy decision,” Tim said of joining the WellFully organization. "I’ve been on other boards where you are totally hands-off, so this has been fun, all the interactions with the participants.”
In only two years on the board, Tim has had a huge influence on the WellFully youth.
“He’s more than a board member, he is intricately involved in the mission we have in helping these kids,” said Rich Cartney, WellFully chief operations officer and Tim’s childhood friend. WellFully is the only organization in western South Dakota providing inpatient drug rehabilitation and residential behavioral healthcare for adolescents in crisis. Since 1990, the organization has served boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 17 who have significant mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral challenges.
WellFully provides three different inpatient programs, according to Burke Eilers, chief executive officer, a co-ed addiction recovery, a co-ed behavioral unit, and a girls’ psychiatric residential treatment facility. The hope is to add a crisis center for suicide within a few months, he added. WellFully also has an outpatient after-school program where youth come for two hours, three days a week, and provides resources and support even after someone graduates from the program. “We want kids to know that we are here for the long game,” Burke said. “We really push the point that we believe in you and know you will do good, but life throws you curves and if you run into one you can always come back.”
Burke said during group discussions they always start with talking about Lakota values and generosity, they discuss the importance of money versus time. Tim is giving of his time and that is important to the kids, Burke said.
Prior to joining the board, Tim was asked by Rich to talk with the youth about the significance of making the right choices. “We both grew up poor on the North side of town,” Rich said. “Tim told the kids that there is another way, that there is hope.”
Both Tim and Rich know of friends and family members who went down the wrong path. “Growing up then and even now there are constant bad influences,” Tim said. “You can go either one way or another and there is always a huge opportunity to go the bad path, but fortunately I chose this path.”
During that first talk, Tim, director of environmental services for Black Hills Energy, connected with the youth. And since then, has continued to impact those he interacts with. “You see the transformation of these kids from the first time they enter the program and even after a few weeks when they are clean.” Tim’s daughter Mikayla, who is pursuing her Doctor of Music at Florida State University, has also been involved with organizations joining in kayaking with the kids and playing Christmas music for them one year.
Many of the youth at WellFully have been abused and neglected and have never experienced an actual Christmas, eaten at a restaurant, or gone out for ice cream - simple things that most people take for granted. “Many of the kids come through here have never experienced dignity. They’ve never experienced people caring about them. We are showing them and introducing them through Tim and others that the world is not all a bad place,” Rich said. “This place touches so many people and we couldn’t do what we do without people like Tim.”
Tim believes he is making a difference in the lives of the youth at WellFully, however, it is the entire organization working together that helps lead the youth to live successful lives.
“I’m just one small piece of the big puzzle.”