Acting as parents: Couple expecting eight children
Published 2:27 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2006
By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features writer
Young married couples usually start thinking about starting a family at some point, but not many start with eight at the time.
Carl and Kathryn McInnish are doing just that. In a couple of weeks they begin a new adventure being house parents to possibly as many as eight boys who will be between the ages of six and 18.
Big Oak Boys' Ranch is located on 143 acres in Southside, just outside of Gadsden. It has nine residential homes, a transitional apartment home, gymnasium, equine center and swimming pool.
The children live in a normal home, with as many as eight boys, and a Christian couple serving as the “mom and dad.” The boys have assigned chores and each home has a ranch chore.
Big Oak Boys' Ranch is one of three facilities that grew out the desire of John and Tee Croyle to help hurting children. John Croyle turned down a promising professional football career in order to start the children's homes.
Over the years since the Boys' Ranch was built in 1974, John Croyle and others, including his son, Brodie, have spoken to thousands about the facilities, which now include Big Oak Girls' Ranch and a private school, Westbrook Christian School.
Carl McInnish Jr. was one of the many that heard Croyle speak.
The homes at Big Oaks Boys' Ranch are not run by a church, but they are geared toward letting the boys grow up in a Christian home.
Carl and Kathryn will be leaving Brewton in a couple of weeks for the Ranch, where they will put in two months training before being put in charge of one of the homes. It took eight months, lots of prayer and five references from family and pastor to make it possible for them to take on this massive task. It won't be easy as any parent can tell them.
Each home has “parents” who give their lives in full time Christian service to provide the consistent love, discipline and direction that the children need.
They all live in a neighborhood type setting. Westbrook Christian School was acquired by Big Oak in 1990. In order for the students to be among the children of the outlying community, the student body includes both boys and girls from the surrounding community.
Carl McInnish was born and raised in Brewton, son of Dr. Carl and Becky McInnish. He attended the Brewton City Schools and graduated from T.R. Miller in 1998. He was athletic in school and played football at the University of Alabama, not with a scholarship but as a walk-on. He graduated from college in 2002 with a degree in hospitality management.
An education is not the only thing he found at the University, he also found his future wife there.
Kathryn also graduated from the University of Alabama and received her bachelor's degree in hospitality management and minored in business.
After graduation they both went to Dothan, Kathryn's hometown, to work.
In 20004, they came to Brewton because of Carl's mother's health. He worked with mental health and was a caseworker both in Brewton and Atmore. He has also been conducting a ministry to inmates at the Escambia County Correction Facility. He is very interested in anything done outdoors and does personal fitness, nutrition and sports.
Kathryn was born in Birmingham, but grew up in Dothan. She graduated from Dothan High School in 1996. She was in the band and played the flute and piccolo.
After her graduation, she worked for a year in a nursing home in administration.
She transferred to the University of Alabama where she met Carl. She graduated in 2002 and returned to Dothan to be near her grandmother who was in very bad health.
After the couple moved to Brewton, she got a position at NDI and later went to work for her father-in-law in his optometry office.
She loves to cook, which will come in very handy when she has eight boys to feed.
The couple is now attending First Presbyterian Church in Brewton where they are very active.