Whispering Hope Ranch Expands Services

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Whispering Hope Ranch, a Rim country retreat for children with special needs and their families, is continuing to expand through the generosity of its supporters.

The ranch's roots are in a vision Diane Reid had back in the late 1990s.

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The staff of Windermere Majestic Rim Properties devoted their annual community service day to making improvements at the Whispering Hope Ranch. The staff, including Carol Nichols, Ken Wagner and Kristin Croak, tightened fencing among other projects.

"I had gone through a divorce and needed a place for my special needs horses," Reid said. She saw the 47-acre ranch, east of Christopher Creek, and knew it was the perfect place..

"I got this picture that I was supposed to do this," she said.

The ranch was not only for her horses, but other special needs animals and it was also a place where special needs children could interact with the animals.

"It's a loving, non-judgmental place," Reid said.

Since 1998, Whispering Hope Ranch has been providing its special services.

Now the ranch is being expanded by Reid, with the help of her board and staff and innumerable volunteers. When the new facilities are completed, there will be room for approximately 126 people each week.

The capital campaign began in 2001 and Reid said the new, improved Whispering Hope Ranch should be open this summer.

"I have an incredible board and people supporting me," she said. "Our president, Jonah Shacknai, is a tremendous leader and has overwhelming generosity."

Reid said he has pledged a substantial amount of his personal wealth and helped to secure several million dollars in grants.

The ranch has two full-time staff members on the property, plus three other employees. There is also an executive director and assistant at the ranch's Scottsdale office, Reid said.

"And we will be adding staff to accommodate the added facilities," she said. There will also be a need for seasonal employees, preferably high school seniors or recent graduates, to serve as cabin counselors and activity supervisors, Reid added.

About 70 percent of the site work for the expanded facilities has been completed. Permits from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality are expected within the next couple of weeks and then framing can start, Reid said.

Volunteers, like the staff of Windermere Majestic Rim Properties, members of the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity construction committee and Eagle Scouts -- who have all completed projects at the ranch -- are still needed to help with the construction, she said.

The ranch has enjoyed ongoing Rim country support from Ken and Elyse Waters of the Waters Family Foundation, Star Valley Veterinary Clinic, Energy West, Rim Country Classic Auto Club, John and Ann Walsh, Payson Concrete and Materials, The Rim Club, Marilyn Hamm and those who are "Friends of Whispering Hope."

Reid said the ranch also has benefited from the efforts of its executive director, Mary Clark; board member Bob Mayfield, who has overseen project design and construction the past three years; and John Ross, former Payson fire chief, and Rick Ryan, master plan reviewer, for their consultation on fire and safety codes.

To find out more, call (928) 478-0339, or visit the ranch's website, www.whisperinghoperanch.org.

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