updated 7/2/2004 12:26:07 AM ET 2004-07-02T04:26:07

This is the place to learn everything you always wanted to know about the Imus Ranch, and probably quite a few things you don’t.

The Imus Ranch is an authentic, working cattle ranch nestled beneath a majestic mesa in the rolling hills near Ribera, New Mexico, 50 miles northeast of Santa Fe. Its sole purpose is to provide the experience of the great American cowboy to children suffering from cancer or serious blood disorders, and children who've lost brothers and sisters to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

It is extremely important that all parents and children understand the fundamental philosophy of the ranch: it is not a camp! It is a working cattle ranch. Our objectives for the  kids are to encourage in them a sense of achievement, responsibility and self-esteem through hard work and fun, while restoring their pride and dignity. Many have become convinced that because they are sick they are not normal. At The Imus Ranch they quickly discover they can do anything any other kid can do. Each child who visits the ranch is treated as a typical kid. Our policy forbids any mention of illness by ranch employees. The child life specialists, the doctors and nurses are responsible for addressing such issues when and if they come up.

Of course, the children themselves are free to initiate conversations on any appropriate matter with anyone. The Imus Ranch will always respond with patience, love and understanding.

The ranch is a magnificent facility. Nearly 4,000 open acres surround an old western town that rivals any movie set in Hollywood. All of the kids become part of our extended family living together in a stunning 14,000 square foot adobe hacienda; the architectural masterpiece that comprises the main ranch house. Their days are spent side-by-side with Don, Deirdre, Fred and the Ranch wranglers doing chores and learning to care for and ride their very own horse. As they round up our Texas Longhorns, herd and feed sheep, buffalo, chickens, goats and donkeys, the kids not only become intimate participants in the dawn to dusk rhythms of the ranch but also develop enriching lifetime bonds with animals. Often, it's been demonstrated that when children suffering from these frightening illnesses are given the opportunity to participate in programs such as those offered by the Imus ranch, the experience can actually contribute to healing and recovery.

The ranch also features a state of the art greenhouse and two acre garden, gigantic old-time barns, an indoor riding arena, an outdoor professional rodeo arena, a gorgeous, magnificently designed swimming pool, miles of trails and thousands of trees. There are two ponds for watering cattle that also contain hundreds of fish; trout in one, bass in the other.

The ranch has been designed to host ten children, two child life specialists, a doctor, a nurse, and EMT personnel for each session.


YOU AND THE IMUS RANCH

Think of  your visit to the ranch as a summer job. Our experience has taught us that some kids think we're kidding when we say you will be working. We are not. You will be required to perform daily chores. You will be responsible for your very own horse and required to pitch in feeding all of the other animals. You should think of yourself as an unofficial employee of The Imus Ranch and a member of the Imus family. We understand that the ranch is not for everyone. There are certain fundamental physical requirements and other considerations that you should discuss with your parents, your doctors and your child life specialists. Below is a list of frequently asked questions and answers that may help you decide:

Who selects the children who go to the ranch?
The Tomorrows Children Fund and the C. J. Foundation for SIDS. New Mexico children and kids from other areas are selected by the hospitals or organizations they are associated with. The ranch provides advice about physical requirements but does not exercise any decision on who is ultimately selected.

How old do I have to be to come to the ranch?
Between 10 and 16 years of age.

What are the physical limitations?

You must be physically fit enough to work and ride a horse. The work can be demanding and you should consider that when making your decision whether to come to the ranch.

What does my trip to the ranch cost?
Nothing. All expenses are provided including airfare and transportation to and from the airport in New Mexico.

How far is the ranch from the airport?
A little over a hundred miles. Travel time is about an hour and a half.

How long will I be at the ranch?
Seven complete days. You leave on the morning of the eighth day.

What kind of activities will I be participating in?
You will be required to do daily chores (helping collect laundry, working in the garden and the greenhouse, pitching in in the kitchen, and performing other ranch chores). You will be responsible for feeding, grooming and care of your own horse.

What's a typical day?
6:00 a.m.             Rise and shine
6:30 a.m.             Feed your horse and other animals
7:00 a.m.             Breakfast
8:00 a.m.             Chores or horse lessons
12:00 p.m.           Lunch
1:00 p.m.             Rest and relaxation
2:00 p.m.             Chores or horse lessons
5:30 p.m.             Feed your horse and the other animals
6:30 p.m.             Dinner
7:30 p.m.             Evening activities (fun stuff)
9:30 p.m.             In your room and lights out

What happens if I don't feel well and can't participate in regular activities?
It is important to remember when you choose to come to the ranch that you are agreeing to a certain level of responsibility. Not feeling well enough to do chores is understandable... not wanting to do them is not. We will always leave it up to you, the child life specialists and the doctors to make the final determination on the status of your health. Regardless, you will always have things to do and someone to love and help you.

What happens if I get sick and am not able to fly home?
The saloon (infirmary) has been designed, stocked, and staffed by the Hackensack University Medical Center. If you need special medical attention, but do not need to be hospitalized, there are two bedrooms in the saloon for you to stay in that are identical to those in the main ranch house (they are beautiful). All decisions on the status of your health, in these cases, will be made exclusively by the doctor. The ranch will ultimately do whatever is recommended, including flying your parents to the ranch, or you back home -- all at the ranch's expense.

What is the ranch telephone policy?
Parents may always call the ranch office.  In the case of a genuine emergency, children will be available to take calls. In all other instances children are not allowed to make telephone calls. The ranch policy is identical to many camps kids attend in which they are not allowed to call home for the initial ten days they are at camp. Kids are at The Imus Ranch seven days. 

May I bring a cell phone, computer, walkman or CD player?
No. The child life specialists are responsible for enforcing this policy.

What should I bring to the ranch?
a light windbreaker jacket
two swimsuits
hooded raincoat or poncho
two sweatshirts
two or three pairs of comfortable jeans
five long sleeve (light) shirts
one pair of hiking or other type of boots. (Remember, you will have cowboy boots and they are comfortable)
one or two pairs of sneakers
two pairs of pajamas
seven or eight pairs of socks
seven or eight pairs of underwear
five or six T-shirts

The ranch supplies all linens, blankets, pillows and towels.  So remember... the ranch will supply cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans and shirts and Resistol cowboy hats. You'll be given Imus Ranch baseball caps and T-shirts as well. They are fabulous. You should bring a toothbrush and any other special toiletry items you require. The general store will be stocked with almost everything else you might need ...toothpaste, soap, shampoo, sun-screen... whatever.
If you do not have any of the above listed items contact Samantha Gordon at the TCF, or the Imus Ranch at (505) 421-IMUS.  Anything you need will be provided so don't worry about it!

Is there a laundry policy?
Yes. We have complete laundry facilities so it's no big deal to wash, say, your favorite pair of jeans every night. You and the child life specialists are responsible for washing your own clothes and setting up your laundry routine. The head of housekeeping will help you master the machines in the laundry room. You're expected to observe all laundry room rules including removing lint from the dryers after each use and keeping the room clean. Please report any machine malfunction immediately. And very important:  all of your clothes must be marked with a laundry marker.

What's the weather like?
New Mexico has a dry, warm, agreeable climate. The Imus Ranch elevation is nearly 7,000 feet. During the summer, our average daytime temperature is 85 degrees (though it can get into the 90's). The thin, dry air radiates heat quickly after sundown and summer nighttime temperatures average a cool 50 degrees. Summer also brings frequent gusty afternoon thunderstorms and breezes. It is comfortable even when it's hot, although you have to be especially careful when exposed to the sun because you can burn quickly. Plenty of sun screen is essential and should be applied every two hours. In the winter, snow falls throughout the state and January temperatures vary from about 55 degrees in the south to an average of 35 degrees in the north where the ranch is located.  It is not uncommon to have three feet of snow at the ranch in December.

Is there a swimming pool?
Yes.  The pool is chlorinated and swimming is strictly supervised and only allowed when there is an accomplished, accredited life guard on duty. The pool is a replica of an old time swimming pool hole and the design and landscaping are striking.

Will I be able to write and receive letters or send and receive E-mail
Letters, yes.  E-mail, no.

Do I need spending money?
We can't think of any reason you would. In the unlikely event you do, the ranch will provide it.

What will I be eating?
A healthy diet of all-natural, organic whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables. We are a vegan ranch.  We serve no meat, fish, poultry or dairy products. We can and will respond to basic special dietary needs, but our menu generally reflects an all-American cuisine in both selection and preparation. We are non-denominational in all respects including the preparation and serving of foods.

What if I don't like the food? Will I starve?
No. We'll find something healthy that you do like (pizza?). Almost everyone who has been to the ranch loves the food and goes home with a new and enlightened attitude about their diets.

Where will I sleep?
In the main ranch house in your own room with one other child. Each room has its own individual bathroom and shower.

Do I get to pick whom I room with?
You should work that out on your way to the ranch with the advice of the child life specialists.

Will girls and boys sleep in separate rooms?
Yes.

Are sleeping quarters air-conditioned?
Yes.

Where do the child life specialists stay?
In the main ranch house in bedrooms next to yours.

Will there be someone at the ranch who I know?
Yes. Other kids, the child life specialists and the doctors and nurses.

If I get scared or lonely will there be someone to talk with?
Yes. The child life specialists. In addition, you will make new friends at the ranch.

How many nurses and doctors will the ranch be staffed with?
One doctor. One nurse. Two child life specialists. One or two EMT specialists.

Who are the medical staff?
The TCF and The Hackensack University Medical Center supply the medical staff personnel. When children sponsored by organizations other than TCF and Hackensack visit, the ranch itself will make arrangements for necessary medical personnel including child life specialists. The Emergency Medical personnel are supplied by the ranch and are licensed by the state of New Mexico.

Where is the closest hospital?
Santa Fe, New Mexico.  40 minutes by car.

If a medical emergency arises, will the infirmary be stocked with all necessary medications for each child?
We have been assured by the TCF and The Hackensack University Medical Center that to the degree that it is practical and possible, it will be. Each group of children will be accompanied by doctors and nurses who they're familiar with. They are ultimately responsible for your medical well being and we have placed our trust in them, as have you.

How will discipline be handled?
All discipline will be administered by the child life specialists with the exception of fundamental guidance from the ranch managers (Don, Deidre & Fred) and ranch hands in instructing the kids about chores and activities, and to insure safety. For example, if Don asks a child to perform a chore and the child refuses, a child life specialist would then be summoned to reconcile the matter. Under no circumstances will any ranch employee discipline, reprimand or chastise a child for any reason. All disputes will be resolved by the child life specialist. Children are expected to follow instructions and to cheerfully perform their chores and assignments and to follow safety instructions at all times. It cannot be stressed enough... in choosing to come to the ranch you have agreed to participate in all of the activities with good humor and enthusiasm to the best of your ability.

Will there be volunteers assisting at the ranch?
No. All employees are paid and have passed stringent security clearances and background checks. They will abide by a basic manual instructing them in their relationships with the children. They and the children will be closely supervised at all times by Don, Deidre and Fred Imus. Remember, there are only ten kids per session. Close personal supervision and care are assured.

What is the role of the child life specialists while they are at the ranch?
To supervise the children when they are not engaged in ranch activities... in the evening, from dinner until breakfast the next morning and during the hour or so they have after lunch. We have discovered that when child life specialists or doctors or nurses participate in ranch activities with the kids it detracts from the experience of the children and defeats the fundamental purpose of the experience of The Imus Ranch. It is important to remember the child life specialists and the doctors and nurses are not volunteers. They are paid full salaries and on occasion need to be reminded that they are not on vacation. We remind them. The ranch requires that the doctor and nurse be present at the infirmary (not out jogging or bird-watching) during the hours the kids are engaged in ranch activities. Similarly, EMT personnel stationed at the infirmary are expected to be present there, available and ready for immediate duty when and as needed.

Who selects the doctors, nurses and child life specialists?
The Hackensack University Medical Center, the Tomorrows Children's Fund, The C.J. Foundation for SIDS and other organizations who send children to the ranch. The Imus Ranch ultimately reserves the final determination on the suitability of all personnel.

May staff (doctors, nurses, child life specialists, EMT personnel) bring family members?
No, they may not.

Where do the doctors and nurses sleep?
In one of the bunkhouses in the town or near the main house.

What if my child cannot attend the entire session?
We are not prepared to accommodate partial sessions.

If it rains, what happens?
The animals still have to eat. Aside from that, we're prepared with an indoor riding arena, an art barn and a great house for lots of interesting things to do, rain or shine.

If a child gets homesick, what happens?
Parents can help a lot by letting kids know that getting homesick is not unusual (even for adults). Remember, the kids are going to be with people they know. Further, the child life specialists we've met have terrific natural rapport with the children which will help enormously to ease any anxieties. In the end, the ranch will do whatever it takes to make everyone happy.

May kids leave the ranch and return home before their session ends?
Of course.

Will the ranch allow children who are on medical maintenance?
Yes. As long as they meet the basic physical requirements the ranch has outlined and have been approved by the hospital.

Will there be formal religious services?
No, but children and staff will be allotted the time they request for any observance they feel appropriate.

Is there a policy manual for the ranch?
Yes. Each employee has one and much of the information is contained in the information you are reading.

Malpractice insurance?
Malpractice insurance is the responsibility of the hospital, the TCF and any other organization that provides doctors, nurses and child life specialists. The ranch carries significant liability insurance and each child and their parent will be required to sign a standard release/consent form.

Is Hanta virus an issue?
We will take every precaution and will not place the children at unnecessary risk while always relying on the advice of medical staff.

Guns?
All guns are under lock-and-key and protected by trigger locks. It is a cattle ranch in New Mexico and there are coyotes, mountain lions and wild dogs. Our only goal is to protect the children and we will be rigorously responsible in that effort.

Well then, is the ranch safe?
Yes. It is foolish, however, not to be prepared.

There are lots of animals -- horses, cattle, sheep, buffalo -- are they safe?
Yes. Accidents, of course, can happen. But with close supervision, a competent medical staff and cooperative kids we should keep mishaps to a minimum and of little consequence. But again, it is a working cattle ranch in New Mexico and we can't be too careful.

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