Imus Charity Ranch Future in Doubt
One fallout of the Don Imus firing is that his charity ranch for sick kids may go under, reports AP’s Deborah Baker.
Don Imus’s banishment from the public airwaves also deprives him of a critical platform to raise money for the sprawling Imus Ranch, where children with cancer and other illnesses get a taste of the cowboy life. Before he was fired last week for calling the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos,” Imus pointed to the northern New Mexico ranch to make his case that he is “a good person who said a bad thing.”
With Imus out of a job, some wonder whether the pipeline to charity money will eventually dry up. Just as corporate sponsors backed away from his radio show, “I think you’ll see a similar effect on the charity, where the corporate donors will find a less hot-button charity to support,” said Trent Stamp, president of Charity Navigator, a New Jersey-based charity watchdog group.
Imus said he and his wife Deirdre are round-the-clock surrogate parents to the youngsters who spend a week at the property, nearly half of whom are from minority groups and 10 percent are black. “There’s not an African-American parent on the planet who has sent their child to the Imus Ranch who didn’t trust me and trust my wife,” he said on his show. “And when these kids die, we don’t just go to the white kid’s funeral.”
Kansas horseman Rob Phillips says he still plans to give the ranch proceeds from a 500-mile charity race he’s staging this fall. But Phillips worries that without Imus’s radio forum, the ranch and other charities will suffer. “He had a capability to get on the air and raise a tremendous amount of money for these causes,” Phillips said. “I don’t see anybody else doing that.”
Stamp said donations may increase in the short term because of the heightened attention — “the celebrity factor ratcheted up to a new level.” The Imus show’s annual two-day fundraising radiothon, benefiting the ranch and two charities that refer children to it, had raised more than $2.3 million as of Friday, according to Deirdre Imus, who hosted Friday’s show. But in the long term, Stamp predicted the firing would cause “irreparable harm.”
Now, as Radley Balko noted recently, this may not have been the most efficient charity anyway. Baker notes that,
It’s an expensive operation. The ranch hosted 90 children from March 2005 through February 2006 and spent $2.5 million — or about $28,000 a child — according to its most recent federal tax filings. That’s at least 10 times what the Make-A-Wish or similar camps spend on kids, largely because the Imus operation is a year-round, working cattle ranch, Stamp said.
It’s also rather comical to have kids working on a cattle ranch and then serve them a vegan diet. After all, production of meat, dairy products, and leather are why people raise cattle. A ranch is a large operation if the only goal is to play with your pet cows.
Still, people willingly gave their money to the operation and by all accounts the kids enjoyed a rather unique experience. While money is fungible there’s no guarantee that all the money Imus would have raised will go to another charity, let alone that this particular group of kids will benefit.