Rainbow Acres eases minds of parents

Jeff Pitts shows off his ribbon. He has been at Rainbow Acres since he was 18.

Jeff Pitts shows off his ribbon. He has been at Rainbow Acres since he was 18.

If you are a parent of a child with developmental disabilities, do you lie awake at night wondering what will happen to your loved one when you are gone?

A little more than 34 years ago, two loving parents made the decision to move their 18-year-old son, Jeff Pitts, who was diagnosed with mild to moderate mental retardation, to Rainbow Acres, a nonprofit, faith-based assisted-living facility empowering adults with developmental disabilities with hope, health and happiness. Within five years of moving to Rainbow Acres, both of Jeff's parents and his sister died unexpectedly. But Jeff has thrived in the idyllic setting of Rainbow Acres singing with the Rancher Choir while traveling all over the country and Brazil as an ambassador for the program.

Families who have moved their child to a new home at Rainbow Acres proclaim their joy at finding a setting that truly puts their minds at ease for their loved one's future. Jeff Pitts' aunt, Shirley Wilkinson who lives in Chandler, had this to say about her nephew's life at Rainbow Acres, "I don't know what we would have done without Rainbow Acres. We cannot say enough about all the things they have done for Jeff. All his needs are met."

More than 84 Ranchers (residents) live in modern group houses on 27 acres in the beautiful Verde Valley, a little more than an hour from Phoenix and Scottsdale. Eight stucco-and-stone houses are grouped on cul-de-sacs that would fit in anywhere in north Scottsdale, and feature large living rooms with flat-screen television sets, built-in bookshelves filled with books, artwork, and potted plants, an oversized dining table, a modern kitchen and 10 single bedrooms neatly decorated and personalized for each Rancher.

Gary Wagner, president and CEO for Rainbow Acres, says, "I don't know of another place in the country that has new residences for people to live in. Most facilities were built 30 or 40 years ago. This modern open setting in God's country is unlike any place else on earth." Ranchers have taken up residence at Rainbow Acres from all over the country, as well as from Japan, Sweden and England. A unique exchange program with adults from England is currently under consideration.

Ranchers, ranging in age from 18 to 75 and with a variety of disabilities ranging from genetic disorders like Down's Syndrome and Fragile X to results of crises experienced during the birth process, embrace an active and fulfilling life with new friends and new skills. In the morning, they work in the arts and crafts center making mosaic stepping stones, glass votive holders, stained glass containers, wind catchers and woven rugs and placemats. The weaving room has eight looms and processes to turn scraps of donated fabrics into weaving threads. High-quality gift items are sold from the art classrooms, but will soon be showcased in a gift shop.

Almost 50 staff members live with the ranchers, coordinating craft and vocational training, cooking, providing on-site health and wellness care, as well as accompanying ranchers on their many trips on and off the grounds. Several ranchers are employed by local community-based businesses, such as Sedona Recycles. A life-long learning center features computer classes, literacy classes, and even group music lessons on the Yamaha Clavinova Connection pianos.

Recently, an equestrian program was begun providing riding therapy for the Ranchers. A tested theory shows that the motion of being on a horse releases therapeutic chemicals in the head and neck. A recently developed therapy called neurodevelopmental therapy developed by Glenn Doman and Carl Delacato is also available at Rainbow Acres, along with other current massage therapy programs and the latest support programs. The "whole life" approach is followed at Rainbow Acres - support for all areas of human development.

Rainbow Acres was started in 1974 by Dr. Ralph Showers, a Baptist minister who lost both his arms in a high voltage accident. In a single instant, he joined the world of people with disabilities and became even more dedicated to achieving his dream of providing a place where disabled adults could live with meaning, purpose, dignity, and spiritual strength.

A capital campaign to build a new community center and several more houses on the grounds is currently underway. Due to facility expansion, there are available openings for new Ranchers. For more information or to visit Rainbow Acres, please call (928) 567-5231 or www.rainbowacres.com.

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