Future of Imus Charity Ranch Questioned

The Associated Press
Saturday, April 14, 2007; 11:38 PM

RIBERA, N.M. -- 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."

The ranch's list of contributors is not public information, but it has relied heavily on corporate contributions.

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