Texas Man Brings Christmas to Children’s Home for 37 Years

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All photos courtesy of Brandon Grebe of New Horizons.

With all the hubbub surrounding the holidays, it’s easy to forget that for some people Christmas never comes. When Fred Placke was a 12-year-old boy, his father announced one night, “We’re not going to do Christmas anymore.” Placke says, “My dad was not a religious man. And he drank more than he didn’t.” For a young boy, an announcement like that from your father is devastating. Placke hadn’t realized how much Christmas meant to him before his dad’s announcement, but afterward, he made a vow that he would do what he could throughout his life to help kids that have no Christmas.


Fred Placke and student at New Horizons.

Placke kept true to his word. As a student at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Placke became involved with a foster home. He raised money to take the kids to Six Flags by running a raffle. “I was stepping on eggs,” he says not realizing at the time that in the ultra-conservative and religious town his raffles might be perceived as gambling. But the raffles continued. And soon, Placke even had the minister of the local Church of Christ drawing the winning tickets.

After 10 years in Stephenville, someone told Placke about a need at a children’s home called New Horizons in Goldthwaite about 70 miles southwest of Stephenville. Del Barnett founded New Horizons in 1971 to help children who’ve experienced extreme trauma, abuse, or neglect. The residential therapy center sits on 150 acres on the Pecan Bayou in Goldthwaite and consists of four houses for about 70 kids. The facility provides clinical programs with licensed therapists to get the children back on track so that they can assimilate into foster homes and public schooling. The grounds include a school, fishing ponds, a horse therapy program, and campgrounds in addition to the living quarters and school.

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