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Croyle talks ball, life

With story after story, John Croyle demonstrated how one person could make a difference in another’s life.
Croyle, the featured speaker at Tuesday’s Brewton Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet, is the founder of the Big Oak Ranch. Since 1974, Croyle and his wife have met the needs of more than 1,800 children by giving them a solid, Christian home and a chance to fulfill God’s plans for their lives.
During the night’s event, Croyle shared how he meets that mission.
“I found out early in life what I was put on this Earth to do,” Croyle said after chronicling his college football career under legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He told of meeting a teen that worked as a pimp for his prostitute mother. Croyle said he talked to the boy about becoming a Christian. The next summer, Croyle said, the boy repeated what he’d been told nearly verbatim.
“That’s when I knew I had a gift of working with young people,” he said.
For more than 40 years Croyle has operated the Big Oak Boys’ Ranch in Gadsden. It wasn’t long before the ministry grew to include the Big Oak Girls’ Ranch in Springville and the Westbrook Christian School. Children are referred by private sources.
To date, more than 2,000 children gone through the program at the ranch.
Croyle shared stories of abuse, of success and of how to be a better parent.
“I hope to challenge you,” he said. “There are three ways you can impact your child – as a positive, as a negative or not at all. I encourage you to invest in your children’s lives. It will make you better.”