On the evening of April 18th, legislators, philanthropists, state employers, prison officials, ministers, national evaluators and researchers, and social service agencies convened at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, which is perhaps best known as the site of the the 1994 film "The Shawshank Redemption", starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.
The event featured a dinner buffet by Mansfields’ own Ed Pickens Café on Main, music performed by the Columbus jazz ensemble Rorschach Trio, opening remarks by Ohio State Representative Mark Romanchuck, and a moving keynote address from Nicky Cruz, best-selling author of eighteen books, including the all-time Christian classic, Run, Baby, Run and the subject of the 1970 movie The Cross and the Switchblade.
In 2013 the Ohio Legislature passed a resolution designating April to be the Forgotten Victims of Crime Awareness Month. This event, titled Let’s Go Change the World!, was dedicated to raising awareness and support for this group, which consists of the children and families of the incarcerated. The nearly 220 guests jam-packed the Reformatory’s Central Guard Room to the max, and had the opportunity to hear directly from some of the clients that The RIDGE Project serves. Jensine DeAnda, a recovering drug addict and recent TYRO graduate, spoke at length about her struggles and how RIDGE has helped her find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. “I am a true TYRO now – a woman of honor and of my word,” Jensine remarked. The TYRO programming is the flagship service developed by RIDGE co-founders and co-executive directors Ron and Cathy Tijerina.
The featured keynote address came from Nicky Cruz, whose inspirational journey through abuse and abandonment by his own parents, to a place of peace and hope, brought the room to a standing ovation. At the end of his story, Mr. Cruz remarked, “What The RIDGE Project is doing is so important. I’ve had a chance to connect with Ron, and his vision for the TYRO program and how it can help so many is amazing.” Mr. Cruz is the president of Nicky Cruz Outreach, and Executive Producer of TRUCE, an international discipleship and evangelism ministry dedicated to reaching and mentoring young people. The Wall Street Journal described Nicky as the “Billy Graham of the streets.” You can learn more at nickycruz.org.