Eagle County camp’s construction is humming along | VailDaily.com

Eagle County camp’s construction is humming along

CVR Roundup River Ranch DT 9-16-10

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Butch Cassidy would approve of Roundup River Ranch.

Cassidy, his partner the Sundance Kid and their Hole in the Wall gang were famed for hiding out in a remote spot in Wyoming’s Grand Tetons. They’d feel right at home at Roundup River Ranch – easier to get to than the Hole in the Wall, but still beautiful and somewhate remote. The man who brought Cassidy to life on the big screen would approve, too.

When it opens next summer, Roundup River Ranch will join the network of Hole in the Wall camps for children with life-threatening diseases. That network was started by actor Paul Newman, and is supported, in part, through sales of the “Newman’s Own” products found in grocery stores nationwide.

Given that Hole in Wall camps have Newman’s name attached, it’s hard to become part of the network. But even still under construction, it’s clear that Roundup River Ranch is going all out to live up to the Newman Foundation’s high standards.

A recent tour of the construction site gave people associated with the ranch up the Colorado River Road a chance to show off.

Pavement was being laid at the camp’s entrance and up to the greeting hall/medical center. The dining hall – a big red barn – is complete on the outside. Camper cabins and several other structures will be finished before next summer, when the camp welcomes its first kids.

Those kids will be welcomed with open arms, and the kind of staff you need when dealing with children fighting diseases including cancer, brain injuries and epilepsy, as well as kids dealing with the effects of organ transplants. There will be eight staff members for every 10 kids, and the medical center will be equipped to handle everything from scratches to seizures.

The landscaping and a pond will be finished by the time the first kids come, meaning kids can fish, ride horses, practice archery and generally live the life of a kid at camp.

“This can change your life,” said Rick Hermes, whose company has donated $1 million worth of its design and development services to the camp.

It can help change the lives of the kids’ families, too. Ruth Johnson, executive director of Roundup River Ranch, said while kids are welcome, their families are asked to stay elsewhere. That will let the professionals at the camp care for the kids, while exposing them to activities – like riding horses – that might terrify a protective parent.

“But the parents need a break, too,” Johnson said.

The kids will be allowed to “celebrate Colorado,” Hermes said. That means much of the camp is geared toward outdoor life. In fact, the dining hall is really the only place at Roundup River that can hold all the campers and staff. But there are limits. The camp is at a friendly 6,300 feet, meaning most kids can handle the elevation, especially since most will come from a seven-state area surrounding Colorado. And all the buildings have plenty of shade, so kids can get out of direct sunlight and still enjoy the outdoors.

Everything about Roundup River Ranch is big, starting with the dream. Fund-raising started in 2006. By last year, the group had raised $20 milllion to cover the land purchase, construction and the first two years of running the camp. The biggest boost – $7 million – came from a single donor, Denny Sanford. Donations big and small made up the rest, from checks with lots of zeroes to cut-rate or free materials and services.

The fund-raising will have to continue as long as the camp operates.

Kids come to camp at no cost to their families, but hosting one camper for one week costs about $2,500. The math adds up to a need for about $2 million per year to keep the ranch running.

So far, the fund-raising has been coming along, but there are plans to host donors at the ranch during off-seasons, perhaps with some of the valley’s top chefs working in the dining hall’s giant kitchen.

But first, there’s the matter of getting the camp finished. It’s a job that’s far from finished, but well begun.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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