John Gillespie grew up on a farm in Appleton, Wisconsin, and attended a one-room school. When John was in second grade, a family moved into the area and their daughter, Jan, a third-grader, started attending the school. They became best friends and have been married for 60 years.
After taking several teenage foster boys into their home, John and Jan founded the Rawhide Boys Ranch in 1965. The following year they enlisted Bart Starr, of Green Bay Packer fame, and his wife, Cherry, to partner with them. Over the next 35 years Rawhide became one of the most successful residential programs in the nation for teenage boys placed by juvenile courts. John and Jan personally had 351 teens live with them for one to three years each, in addition to their two sons. When the Gillespies stepped down, the ranch had a full-time staff of 145 men and women working with 200 young men a year on a $10 million yearly budget. The website is www.rawhide.org.
In 2001 John founded a non-profit charity that provides historical information about the founding of America and supports U.S. veterans' needs. He also founded
Vision 2 Serve, a ministry that provides vision planning, leadership development and fund-raising for churches throughout the nation. He is also Director of Development and serves on the board of The Way Outfitters, Inc., a charity that provides outdoor adventures for disabled and terminally ill teenagers and disabled U.S. veterans. His relationship with The Way Outfitters founder Roger Devenport began several decades ago when as a teenager Roger was sent by a juvenile court to the Rawhide Boys Ranch.
John and Jan have two sons, three grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a dog. Their vision in life has always been serving others and sharing their love for the Lord. Their life verse selected prior to their marriage is Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."