Majesty Outdoors brings hope to single-family homes.
By: Kathleen Naderer
“Youth and developing programs – that’s our passion,” explains Terry Ray of Majesty Outdoors. Ray’s calling is to help – to, as he describes, “reach out to those who do not have a voice.” Their mission, according to him: “Building a generation of hope by shattering the cycle of fatherlessness, through a fearless foundation of love, hope and direction.” Connecting single-family kids with mentoring programs helps provide fulfilling, character-building and life-changing experiences. The organization has operated chapters in Dallas, Flour Bluff, Hays and Mercedes, Texas, aiming to reach 50 chapters nationwide within the next few years.
“Growing up, I thought I had it rough,” Ray says. Yet, the statistics around fatherlessness in homes continue to rise, adding to an astounding 90 percent of runaways who stem from fatherless homes. In addition, nearly 71 percent of high-school dropouts – and 85 percent of young people in the prison system – also come from homes without a consistent male figure in the household. (Ray’s source for this information is “The Fatherless Generation,” by John Sowers.) Through interactive programs, Ray has found success in raising the self-confidence in these kids. “It’s exposing the children to what they don’t realize they are capable of,” he explains.
Joining the Majesty Outdoors cause, Ray and his wife took a leap of faith by leaving his ministry with the Salvation Army. “My son was diagnosed with two rare blood diseases,” Ray says. “I said, ‘O.K., God, whatever it is, we are going to stand in your pathway, and you make it happen.’” An accidental career move led Ray to join the Salvation Army in 1990. Assigned to a simple kids’ program in St. Louis, Mo., his career changed overnight.
Approached by an officer to teach a Sunday school class one Saturday, “I expressed I was uncomfortable with it. The officer, not taking no for an answer, said, ‘I need you to do this. See you tomorrow!’” Yet, Ray’s love for the work grew. “Working with those inner-city kids made me realize what I wanted to do.” His personal love for music also became a way to communicate with the kids. Incorporating music, “I began with a drum-line and pulled in guitars and added voice and brass instruction later.” He recalls from his early days at the Salvation Army Temple Corps in St. Louis, “Music was something that changed my world. I realized it was a gift.” A gift – among many he brings to Majesty Outdoors.
His wife, Sharon, also serves the nonprofit sector. Together, the Rays have contributed their time to program development and communities in Arlington, Va., Charlotte, N.C., Minneapolis, Minn., and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “As we served in the Salvation Army, we were identified as builders in both programs and facilities.” While serving the Salvation, Ray helped lead efforts in Biloxi, Miss., recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
The Ray & Joan Kroc Center is a 53,000-square-foot recreation center hosting 1,700 members with everything from a football stadium to an indoor water park. “That’s kind of how all of these things developed,” he explains. “My passion became communicating the mission to strengthen families and impact generations to come. If you want to make a better city, start with making better kids – providing opportunities that open up the world to them!”
Ray continues to explain the reality of fatherless families: “It is a global issue. Our mentors really understand that. That epidemic is very quiet in our country. When families split apart, it’s not only the parents that need support. The children are often lost in the shuffle. Single moms and, even more so, grandmas do incredible things to keep their families together.”
Ray’s enthusiasm and compassion extends to military families. “If a father is deployed, we get the children in touch with a chapter and leaders,” Ray says. “That’s where Majesty Outdoors is changing the tide of fatherlessness. Their perception is that no one else is experiencing what they are experiencing – that they are alone. That is where the mentoring program is most effective. We make sure they understand they are not alone. People care.”
The mentoring program has weekly classes and monthly options for kids to meet with their mentoring group. “It allows students to get involved in arts and outdoor education, service projects or conservation and recreation activities,” he explains. Partnering with local organizations, like Youth Odyssey, provides kids with opportunities they might not ever have experienced.
“Majesty Outdoors has attracted national attention by using the platform of their television show,” Ray explains of the program’s reach. The television program is featured on the Pursuit Channel, Direct TV, Dish Network and online venues. Featuring real-life mentors and kids hunting and fishing, “The stars of that hunting and fishing show are fatherless teens,” Ray says. “We get them out of their comfort zones. You don’t have a whole lot of technology when you are out on a boat or in the woods. So the kids have to put their ‘stuff’ away and communicate!”
With expansion in 2017 and 2018, “this is an exciting time to be with Majesty Outdoors,” Ray says enthusiastically. Supported though grants and foundations, they remain strong due to individual donors and local fundraisers. Weaving in the support of other like-minded organizations, Ray pulls in his involvement at the Rotary Club and Clergy Alliance.
Trailblazing international connections, Ray recently connected with an Australian group, In 2 Life. “They have been able to make an impact in reducing the number of teen suicides,” he explains. “We’ve also been approached by a group of men from China who have requested to be trained in our program to take to the school systems in rural areas.” Ray concludes, “As Majesty Outdoors prepares to launch an updated nationwide curriculum and program, it would seem God has much bigger plans for this man [Ray] and this organization!”
Upcoming events include:
• Inaugural gala on May 13
• Fishing tournament in July (open to public)
For more information, go to www.majestyoutdoors.org.
Photos courtesy of Majesty Outdoors