Tom and Val Ewan, Co-Directors
Director Tom Ewan and his wife, Val arrived at Rawhide Ranch on a sunny day in the spring of 2000 and Tom was right - The joys of camp are right outside our windows each and every day. Tom hails from Central Illinois and his youth development background includes a degree in Jr. High Education from Illinois State University plus 20 years in program development and management for Boy Scouts of America in Chicago and Cleveland. Tom is also a volunteer with the American Camp Association and very active with the local Rotary Club.
Val, also an Illinois native, is a graduate of Bradley University (IL) with a degree in Economics. Before arriving at Rawhide Ranch, she served as a Museum Services Coordinator in the Chicago area. Val keeps busy with behind-the-scenes work at the ranch and also is active with the local fiber arts group in Fallbrook.
Tom and Val have two grown daughters, Maggie who has settled in Anchorage, Alaska and Alissa who lives with her husband and the world’s best grandson in Nashville, Tennessee and a foster cat named Harley.
Raina Baker, Assistant Director
Raina was born in the incredibly small town of Chimacum, Washington located on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula. Raina’s passion for horses was innate and presented itself very early on although she was not born on a farm or a ranch. Her parents told her she could get a horse when she knew how to take care of one of “those really big animals.” Raina spent years pedaling her work skills, and unknowingly gaining an incredible work ethic by offering to clean stalls, horses, tack, buck hay, cut lawns, and babysit for the opportunity to ride. Raina spent most of her time in an attempt to beg, borrow, & ride any horse she could – which ultimately helped her skills & abilities develop quickly. She was blessed to get her first horse Tiki at the age of 14 and could be found participating in 4-H, The United States Pony Club, local play days, and trekking around the local trails on her beloved horse. Raina attended Washington State University where she pursued her degrees in Opera and Sociology. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in May of 2001 and moved to San Diego to start working at Rawhide Ranch in 2002.
Raina has worked in many different capacities, teaching, training, and working with the horses, campers, and staff at Rawhide. Her desire to continue within the camping industry in a supervisory and leadership role led her to complete her Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University in May of 2009. Raina has worked at several different types of camps accumulating over 28 years of summer camp experience ranging from camper, CIT, counselor, specialist, program staff, and program director. Raina returned to Rawhide Ranch in September of 2010 as the Assistant Camp Director where she has the opportunity to combine working with the horses, campers, and staff in a training and educational capacity everyday. When Raina isn’t working she loves music, hiking, beach volleyball, riding her horse Wyatt, spending time with friends, and traveling to as many parts of the globe as is possible.
Gretchen Conwell, Program Director – Animals/Horses
Gretchen was born and raised just outside the town of Bellingham, in beautiful Washington State. She got her first stinky little pony when she was 7 years old named Misty Blue. She and her pony competed in 4-H and local county shows competing in western games and equitation. Eventually Gretchen sold Misty Blue and started riding at a hunter/jumper barn throughout her school years. Gretchen was incredibly active in 4-H and FFA giving her the opportunity to start her progression of knowledge of Beef and Dairy Cattle, Pigs, and Sheep – as well as many other animals. After she graduated from High School she left for sunny Southern California where she attended the former Rawhide Ranch Vocational College, earning her AA degree in Animal Husbandry and Facility Management. She has been working at Rawhide Ranch in many capacities, finally landing in her current position as Animal & Horse Program Director in spring of 2008. She is married to her wonderful husband Bobby and proud mommy of Kadence who is the newest member of the Rawhide Ranch family.
Jena Kruhmin, Program Director – Groups & Summer
Jena was born and raised in North County, San Diego. Her equestrian adventures began at age 7, when she began English riding lessons at a local stable. Throughout her childhood and teenage years, she was extremely dedicated to both of her passions- horses and ballet dancing, and was a very diligent and successful student in school. Jena began her Rawhide Ranch career at age 10, as a summer camper. All it took was one week and she was hooked! While at Rawhide, Jena was exposed to the Western riding world, and learned numerous skills in horse and animal husbandry. She also learned the invaluable skills the camp teaches to all children; independence, accountability, responsibility, friendship making, and self-discovery (just to name a few!). Throughout her life, Jena’s heart has never been too far from the Ranch. She has participated in Rawhide’s LIT and CIT programs, has been a summer camp counselor, worked part-time throughout her high school and college years. And finally, after earning her BS in Food Marketing and Agricultural Business Management from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in 2011, she joined the Rawhide Ranch team full-time as a Program Director.
DeeAnn Laird, HR/Program Director – Teen Programs
DeeAnn grew up here right here in southern CA. She first came to Rawhide Ranch as a senior in high school in response to a newspaper ad seeking summer counselors. She was given the opportunity at 17 years old to work weekends in the spring while the former owners kept an eye on her determining if she would be a good fit. As luck would have it, she past the test and fell in love with the Rawhide experience. She spent five life changing years at Rawhide working into a leadership role and during this time earned her AA at Riverside Community College. DeeAnn then moved to New Zealand for a short time where she worked as a child advocate in a battered women’s shelter. Upon returning to the United States, she earned her BA in Sociology from CA State University Fullerton. DeeAnn spent five years teaching third grade in a local private school. During this time, her life intersected with Rawhide once again in 2001 where she was given the opportunity to create the current CIT/LIT program with former Assistant Camp Director, Paul Tate. It is exciting to watch our CIT/LIT participants as they help to foster the same positive experiences they’ve had at camp with our campers. DeeAnn is also involved in human resources for the ranch and enjoys being part of the process that welcomes in new members to the Rawhide family. She is proud to be a part of such a unique place where she has met so many special people (young and old) over the years. Rawhide holds fond memories for many of us that have walked it’s dirt roads. It really is life changing!
Jose Larios, Maintenance Director
Jose grew up in Jalisco, Mexico and moved to Escondido, CA with his family in 1992. Through some of his younger years in San Diego, he was able to work here at Rawhide Ranch under the original owners, Chown Quarter Horses. After he graduated from High School, Jose attended the University of Colima in Mexico, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Shortly after graduating from the University of Colima, he arrived back at Rawhide Ranch and started working as a part of the maintenance team. In 2006 Jose earned his current position as Maintenance Director, where he works incredibly hard with his team ensuring that the nuts and bolts of Rawhide Ranch remain in place and in working order.