The Imus Ranch is a working cattle ranch of nearly 4,000 acres (16 km²) located in Ribera, New Mexico, 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Santa Fe. It was founded in 1999 by long-time radio personality Don Imus and his wife Deirdre as a charitable organization that seeks to ensure the continuity of the lives of children who are afflicted with cancer or serious blood diseases. The charity’s goal is to provide children ages 10–17 with an experience of living life on a functioning cattle ranch free of charge, to build up the child's self-confidence and sense of accomplishment, in the company of similar children facing serious illness. More recently, it has also opened to siblings of SIDS victims. It is incorporated in the State of New York and registered under subsection 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code as a non-profit organization.
A portion of the historic Santa Fe Trail passes through the ranch.
The ranch consists of a village of eight buildings constructed to emulate an Old West town, including a general store, a "marshal's office", and a "saloon" (in reality, an infirmary where the young guests receive their medications at the saloon's "bar"). The main ranch house is a 14,000 sq ft (1,300 m2) adobe hacienda with American Indian rugs and rustic chandeliers in the great room. It has five bedrooms for the ten children who attend each week in the summer, a library, and a dining hall serving all vegetarian meals. The design was largely under the direction of Deirdre Imus at a cost of construction placed at more than $25 million.
There are bunk houses for doctors, other medical staff and ranch hands. The Hackensack University Medical Center provides physicians, nurses, and guidance counselors who attend the ranch sessions.
For seven days, each child is expected to perform chores and tasks as if they were a cowboy, such as caring for all the needs of a horse to gain self-esteem. The ranch operates all year but hosts children only when school is not in session, during eight one-week sessions. Nearly half the children are from minority groups and 10% are black.
During the typical day, the children do chores beginning early in the morning, feeding the various ranch animals, watering plants, gathering eggs, and saddling horses for a two-hour ride led by the Imuses. Recreation includes swimming, board games, and pool. In a concession to the serious health needs of the campers, the ranch also has qualified personnel present to treat medical needs.
During the summer months, Imus broadcasts his nationally syndicated radio program, Imus in the Morning, from a studio at the Ranch. Occasionally, children attending the Ranch appear on the program along with his wife Deirdre and son, Wyatt.
Imus, who was raised on an Arizona ranch as a youngster, became interested in helping children stricken with cancer after he participated in a New York radio telethon in 1988, raising money for a charity assisting such children. After his marriage to Deirdre Coleman in 1994, the couple decided to build a western ranch where cancer-stricken children could regain their self-esteem, by engaging in authentic ranch work. Deirdre Imus said in an American Profile magazine interview: "After working with these kids, we noticed a common theme: they had cancer but they were like normal kids, except they lost their self-esteem. We found no one was actually restoring their self-esteem or dignity."
Initially, the Imuses used more than $1 million of their money to purchase 810 acres (3.3 km2) for the ranch in 1998. The ranch cost almost $25 million to construct, raised through a public foundation they established. The ranch now costs $1.8 million annually to operate.
In March 2005, a Wall Street Journal reporter wrote an article critical of the Ranch and the amount of money spent on each child. In 2006 the ranch spent $2.5 million on 90 children who visited the ranch, or $28,000 per child. Accusations of accounting irregularities and personal use of the charity’s assets were investigated by both the Attorney General of New Mexico, Patricia Madrid, and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. No charges were filed in New Mexico. New York closed its investigation on March 24, 2005.
The Imus Ranch's annual operating cost of $1.8 million is raised by various corporate sponsors and individual contributions, enabling the youth to attend at no charge.
Numerous large corporations donate significantly to the Ranch. Major donors have included Reader's Digest, for which the Ranch’s “locale” has been named, Unilever, and Wrangler Jeans, among others. General Motors donates vehicles for use on the ranch. Buildings at the Ranch have been named for major corporate donors.
Each spring beginning in 1990, WFAN conducted the WFAN Radiothon to benefit children's causes. The Radiothon is now conducted on WABC radio in New York. As of 2005, the Radiothon raised more than $30 million for the Ranch along with Tomorrows Children's Fund and The CJ Foundation for SIDS.
Imus Ranch Foods
Organic food items and cleaning products are sold in large markets and online under the “Imus Ranch Foods” label. All after-tax profits from the sale of these products are donated to the Ranch.
In 2004, Deirdre Imus wrote a book entitled The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys, published by Rodale Press (ISBN 0-87596-919-4). All after-tax profits from the sale of the book have been donated to the Ranch. On April 10, 2007, a second book by Deirdre Imus, entitled Greening Your Cleaning, was released by Simon & Schuster (ISBN 1-4165-4055-5).
In September 2008 the Imus Ranch Record, a country music CD, was released. Called "pairings of artists and material that are inspired, and often inspiring, and nothing if not eclectic", by a New York Times critic, sales of the album benefit the ranch. Featured artists who agreed to record for the project include: Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless, Randy Travis, Little Richard, and Lucinda Williams.
- "Don Imus has prostate cancer". The Associated Press. March 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
- Keel, Beverly (August 21, 2005). "The Imus Ranch; Don & Deirdre Imus work to restore kids self-esteem". American Profile. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
- Baker, Deborah (April 16, 2007). "Radio Host's Firing May Be A Death Knell for His Charity". The New York Sun. Retrieved 2007-04-20.
- Robert Frank, "Don Imus's Ranch for Sick Children Draws Scrutiny", Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2005.
- Baker, Deborah. "Future of Imus Charity Ranch Questioned". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Sharpe, Tom (March 25, 2005). "Imus queried about ranch". The New Mexican. Archived from the original on 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Frank, Robert (March 25, 2005). "Spitzer's Office Closes Its Inquiry Into Imus Ranch for Sick Children". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Steinberg, Jacques (September 9, 2008). "Singers Aid a Charity and the Man Who Runs It". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
- "Introduction to the Imus Ranch", MSNBC.com
- "About Imus Ranch Foods" Imus Ranch Foods official website