The Imus Ranch was a working cattle ranch of nearly 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) 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 sought to ensure the continuity of the lives of children afflicted with cancer or serious blood diseases. The charity's goal was 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. In later years, it also opened to siblings of SIDS victims. It is incorporated in New York State and registered as a non-profit organization under subsection 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. It closed following the 2014 season and was initially offered for sale for $32 million in October 2014.
By 2017, the Ranch was put up for auction by Thomas Industries, Inc., an industrial auction house that specializes in auctioning off printing companies. They listed the ranch for sale as a combined acreage of the Foundation, the Imuses personal property, and State leased adjoining land as totalling less than 3,000 acres. The deadline for auction was originally set for June 15, 2017, with a minimum bid of $5 million. As of December, 2017, however, the property is still listed for sale.
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" (actually 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 Native American rugs and rustic chandeliers in the great room. It has five bedrooms for the ten children who attended each week in the summer, a library, and a dining hall which served only vegetarian meals. The design was largely under the direction of Deirdre Imus, who never had any training in finances, design, or much of anything, at a cost of construction placed at more than $25 million.—money that was sent in for kids with cancer, not for interior decorating.
There are bunk houses for doctors, other medical staff and ranch hands. The Hackensack University Medical Center provided physicians, nurses, and guidance counselors who attended the ranch sessions.
For seven days, the children were expected to perform chores and tasks as if they were cowboys, such as caring for horses, in order to gain self-esteem. The ranch operated all year but hosted children only when school was not in session, in eight one-week sessions. Nearly half the children were from minority groups; 10% were black.
During a typical day, the children did 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 included swimming, board games, and pool. In a concession to the serious health needs of the campers, the ranch also had qualified personnel present to treat medical needs.
During the summer months, Imus broadcast his nationally syndicated radio program, Imus in the Morning, from a studio at the ranch. Occasionally, children attending the ranch appeared on the program along with his wife, Deirdre, and son, Wyatt.
Imus, who was raised on an Arizona ranch, 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 cost $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 stayed at 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 the New York State Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer. No charges were filed in New Mexico. New York closed its investigation on March 24, 2005.
Numerous large corporations donated significantly to the ranch. Major donors included Reader's Digest, for which the ranch's "locale" was named, Unilever, and Wrangler Jeans, among others. General Motors donated vehicles for use on the ranch. Buildings at the ranch were named for major corporate donors.
Each spring beginning in 1990, WFAN conducted the WFAN Radiothon to benefit children's causes. The Radiothon was subsequently 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 were sold in large markets and online under the now-defunct "Imus Ranch Foods" label. All after-tax profits from the sale of these products were donated to the ranch.
In 2004, Deirdre Imus wrote a book, The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys, published by Rodale Press. 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, Greening Your Cleaning, was published by Simon & Schuster.
The Imus Ranch Record, a country music CD, was released in September 2008. A New York Times critic called it "pairings of artists and material that are inspired, and often inspiring, and nothing if not eclectic". Sales of the album benefited the ranch. Artists who agreed to record for the project include Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless, Randy Travis, Little Richard, and Lucinda Williams.
In his broadcast on September 9, 2014, Imus announced the discontinuation of the ranch program, after 16 years of operation, due to his "health and other issues". The property will be sold, he said, with proceeds from the sale going to a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation. In October 2014, the ranch was offered for sale, with an asking price of $32 million. After not selling for almost three years even when the price was reduced to $19.9 million, the closed property was scheduled for auction on June 15, 2017, at a starting bid of $5 million. As of December, 2017, the unsold property is still available by "private negotiation".
- "Don Imus has prostate cancer". The Associated Press. March 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
- Keel, Beverly (August 21, 2005). "The Imus Ranch: Don and Deirdre Imus Work to Restore Kids Self-Esteem". American Profile. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
- Richard Morgan (May 2, 2017). "Don Imus' ranch in New Mexico headed for the auction block". New York Post. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- "Imus Ranch". Thomas Industries. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
- Baker, Deborah (April 16, 2007). "Radio Host's Firing May Be a Death Knell for His Charity". New York Sun. Retrieved 2007-04-20.
- Frank, Robert. "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 April 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Frank, Robert (March 25, 2005). "Spitzer's Office Closes Its Inquiry into Imus Ranch for Sick Children". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Steinberg, Jacques (September 9, 2008). "Singers Aid a Charity and the Man Who Runs It". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
- Gerew, Gary (October 21, 2014). "Imus Ranch for Sale with $32 M Price Tag". Albuquerque Business First. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
- "Introduction to the Imus Ranch", MSNBC.com
- "About Imus Ranch Foods", Imus Ranch Foods website
- Auction house selling the Ranch