Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

February 2, 2014

Ranch saves teen’s life

HAHIRA — Many adults can reminisce fondly about their childhoods. Many enjoy recalling the years of their youth when they didn’t have a care in the world.

However, not every adult is blessed with such fond memories. Mark Carron, a now-19-year-old man, is one of those who has never really known a time of carefree fun.

Born to teenage parents, his father left upon hearing of his mother’s pregnancy. Just 16 years old, Carron’s mother was left alone to care for an infant without any parental preparation. Spending the majority of his young life bouncing from home to home and state to state, Carron had attended seven or eight different schools by the time he was in the third grade.

He and his mother eventually landed in Georgia, but stability was not part of Carron’s life. He turned to alcohol and smoking when he was 13 years old. Education fell to the wayside; he was kicked out of school in the seventh grade for missing too many days. However, it was at this time that a family named the Vanhorns took him into their home. They attended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints together and this seemed to be the move that Carron needed.

While this family cared for Carron as their own and gave him the structured life he desperately needed, his adolescence got the better of him. Upon entering the ninth grade, he longed for his freedom. He moved back with his mother and fell back into his old ways. Only a few months after returning to his mother, their landlord told them on a Friday that they were to be gone by Monday.

Finding himself lost again and with nowhere to go, he didn’t follow his mother. He made the choice to turn to Tara and Brian Parker, the parents of one of his close friends, Christian Parker. The Parkers contacted the Georgia Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch, which came out and spoke to Carron about coming to stay at the facility. Thankfully, through the efforts of various coaches and other people involved in Carron’s life, he was able to get into the ranch in January 2010 and has been there ever since.

The Georgia Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch provides a safe haven for children who need help. It is a common misconception that these kids are involved in some trouble with the law. These are simply children who needed a new start on life and a family to help them. Children on the ranch have houseparents who strive to keep them on the right path. While there are many fun activities taking place at the ranch, children’s stay there is no picnic.

“They made sure you knew this was a gift and not a given right,” says Carron, who further explained that all are expected to adhere to rules and respect authority figures. Excelling at the ranch, Carron was given the honor of Rancher of the Year and intends on coming to the college dorms at the ranch in the future.

Now a Lowndes High School senior, Carron is a true success story for the ranch. His former 2.7 grade point average moved to a 3.4 and he will be proud to call himself a high school graduate this May. He also has been able to participate in sports, which is one of his greatest loves. A jack of all trades, he competes in track, wrestling, and is a football player.

“Mark is the difference,” says Tara Parker. “He is the reason he is where he is.”

While his success can be attributed to his personal character and will to better his life, he says it is because of all of the support he has received.

“A lot of good people have stood behind me,” says Carron.  

After graduation, Carron will be headed to Fort Benning to begin his life with the Army.

“I’m joining the Army because I want to give back to those I care about,” Carron says. “Family is very important to me and the more I can give back the better.”

One such family is the Parkers. Both Tara and Brian feel that Mark Carron is just as much their son as their biological kids. Because of his success, the Parkers wanted to thank the Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch.

On Saturday, Brian and Tara Parker gave Carron a check for $3,500 that will benefit the Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch in his honor. The check is courtesy of Packaging Corporation of America where Brian Parker serves as controller.

“If you help him, it will always be fruitful,” says Brian Parker.

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