Welcome to Erik’s Ranch & Retreats! I’m so glad you have stopped by to look around. A question commonly asked of our concierge staff at the front desk is, “What IS this place?” And it’s a question that occurs more frequently than one would imagine. And we absolutely love it. Because there’s never a dull moment when you’re the first-of-its-kind not-for-profit model in the nation that is changing the autism paradigm for the more than 500,000 young adults with autism that will reach adulthood in the next decade.
So have a look. And see for yourself what we are up to within these pages. We have made monumental strides. I have outlined below our purpose and model for those visiting for the first time, as well as our progress this year. Please continue to check back periodically for more inspiring, uplifting, noteworthy, humorous and deeply profound moments that occur daily at Erik’s!
Thank you for walking beside us on this most incredible journey and for your boundless enthusiasm, generosity, tenacity and most of all, your friendship. I wish you all a joyous and beautiful holiday season full of light and hope.
Defining Our Purpose
Our story began in 2008 as Kathryn Nordberg, Founder & CEO of Erik’s Ranch & Retreats, searched for options that would provide her son, Erik, a moderately functioning young adult on the autism spectrum, the kind of life he, and countless others like him, deserve – full of possibility, independence, purpose and hope.
Autism affects more children than diabetes, AIDS and cancer combined, with 1 in 68 diagnosed today. As these children reach adulthood, many over age 18 are living in their parents’ homes, unable to get or keep a job, have no friends and subsequently suffer from depression and other mental health issues in addition to their autism. As parents decline, these adults will be placed in group homes or institutions, so the capital investment in housing is inevitable. Our solution to this epidemic is that we provide individual housing and meaningful employment in a single model allowing our members to 1) match their strengths and passions to their employment; 2) have many supported positive social and recreational opportunities enabling independence; 3) provide surroundings that encourage family and community participation; 4) become productive tax-paying citizens; 5) thrive and are included/accepted members of society and educate the larger community.
Erik’s Ranch & Retreats, LLC, provides independent living, working and social environments for young adults with autism on behalf of Erik’s Ranch, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Not only are both locations home to young adults with autism, but what sets Erik’s Ranch & Retreats apart is that these young adults operate boutique-style guest accommodations at our two destination locations: the Retreat in Edina, Minn., and Erik’s Ranch, in Paradise Valley, Mont. We are working tirelessly to change society’s perception of autism by focusing on what young adults with autism can do versus what they cannot. Our goal is provide hope and a future of possibilities for the more than 500,000 individuals with autism who will reach adulthood in the next decade.
It’s been a phenomenal year, and our momentum continues to forge full speed ahead. Aside from launching our lovely new website, here are this year’s highlights:
First and foremost, our seven members are thriving. This time last year, many were testing the waters of independent living, forming new friendships and finding their individual daily rhythms. This year, one member launched his own company. Another has regular speaking engagements. Three care for their own pets. A handful work 40 hours per week. One member has his very own art gallery. All member jobs support our guests while they stay with us and are suited to each member’s talents and expertise as tour guides, concierge staff, bakers, sous chefs, gardeners, artists- and musicians-in-residence – whatever their passion. Many sought recreational outings outside of their comfort zones, including a day spent kayaking down the St. Croix River. Our model is working and our members are forging lives full of meaning, independence and purpose!
- We received a $170k donation to launch the renovation of 8 guest rooms, and they are completed and lovely!
- We have received $100k in guest donations at both the Retreat and the Ranch! Guests continue to stream in, both curious and inspired by our unique model, and we have received rave reviews on AirBnb, Expedia and TripAdvisor. YTD, we have had 352 nights booked at the Retreat and 209 nights booked at the Ranch! Here’s what they have to say:
“… This will be my FIRST choice when staying in the Twin Cities from here forward.”
– Nancy, Marshfield, Wis.
“This is an idea I would like to see duplicated throughout the country.”
Guest from Walnut Creek, Calif.
“Erik’s Ranch is a jewel box of a house in a wonderfully secluded and picturesque location.”
Mary, Santa Barbara, Calif.
“The perfect way to experience Big Sky Country…giant windows reveal views of snow-capped mountains. Sunrise and sunsets guide your days…”
Kristi, Phoenix, Ariz.
- We are back seeking donations from foundations again, and have been successful so far! Both Northern Tier and Browning Kimball have provided donations to us.
- We launched An Evening With, our tri-yearly event in which we pair one of our members with a distinguished guest, whose passions and interests align. The evening includes a presentation, silent auction and hors d’oeuvres. So far, we have had two events, which have grossed $35k!
- Erik’s Equestrian Center has launched club and special needs lessons in EDINA! Our numbers are off the charts compared to last year! We have 63 riding lessons participants; 82 camp kids; 16 participants in riding club and have hosted 12 birthday parties and group events!
We received a donation of a $10k lead gift for the kitchen renovation.
- We partnered with the Ernie Els Foundation for our second year and participated in its #GameON Autism Golf Clinic at Hazeltine that focuses on developing life skills, encouraging social interaction and promoting healthy living through golf for children and young adults on the autism spectrum.
- We were quoted in Inc. magazine alongside Temple Grandin about autism and employment.
- We had a phenomenal summer giving carriage rides on the Edina Promenade thanks in large part to our partnership with THINK Mutual Bank and the Original Pancake House. Buttercup, our regal Belgian, Erik and Maddy gave tours Sunday mornings and we had 75 carriage guests weekly!