When Capt. Tony Ardizzone and Marion County Sheriff John Layton went searching land for an Indiana Sheriff’s Youth Ranch, they found themselves in rural Clay County.
Ardizzone, one of Layton’s reserve deputy sheriffs, purchased the 62-acre parcel along Indiana 59, helping fast-track the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association’s plans for an outreach program geared toward future law enforcement officers and at-risk children.
That investment gained the attention of the national sheriffs’ association, which recently named Ardizzone America’s Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year.
Layton nominated him.
The association provides education, training and information resources to sheriffs, deputies and other law enforcement officials across the country, according to the organization’s website.
“That was a very humble and honoring award to win,” Ardizzone told the Tribune-Star in a phone interview Tuesday.
Ardizzone first joined the department in 1985 as a reserve division deputy, according to a news release from the national association. He eventually became supervisor of the unpaid reserve officers.
He first left the force in 1996 to focus on his day job as vice president of his family’s Ardizzone Enterprises Construction. Ardizzone now serves as president of the Indianapolis-based property management company.
Rejoining the sheriff’s department in 2014, he teamed up with Layton to develop the youth ranch concept. The national association supports similar programs throughout the country, such as Arkansas, with the goal of teaching children responsibility and building self-confidence.
The men spent about a year traveling the state for a suitable location. A ranch property a mile north of Interstate 70, south of Brazil, appealed because of lakes and an on-site veterinary clinic.
In November, Ardizzone and his family agreed to purchase the land with their own funds. The family also agreed to finance construction. They are leasing the property to the state association for $1 per year until enough funds are raised for building the camp.
“That gave us the ability to move forward on this,” Ardizzone said.
Ardizzone laughs that he “put the cart before the horse” in purchasing the property before funds were available, but said the ranch had been a dream project of Layton’s and the association.
He said $650,000 of the $1.8 to $2 million needed to develop the site, he said. He expects fundraising to be a two-year process.
The association sees the ranch as an extension of summertime youth camps in Pine Village, Ind. and Morgantown, Ind. for middle and high school students.
Campers are offered leadership classes and explain the day-to-day role of police officers. Activities include obstacle courses, swimming and marching.
The association wants to expand the camps to meet growing populations, including those with special needs, said executive director Steve Luce.
“We feel like this is a project that can really build communities of trust,” he said.
For Ardizzone’s part, the ranch is an opportunity for sheriff’s departments throughout the state to scout future officers and help non-violent juvenile offenders develop a stronger positive relationship with law enforcement.
“It’s going to create a very, very positive impact,” he said. “If it’s successful for one kid — in my eyes — it’s successful, period.”
In the meantime, the ranch’s existing veterinary clinic has been converted to a facility that will be Indiana’s first state-certified K9 training center.
Anyone interested in donating or sponsoring the ranch can contact Luce at 317-356-3633.
Reporter Nick Hedrick can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nick on Twitter @TribStarNick.