It’s a beautiful day in Rio Verde. The sun is out, there’s not a cloud in the sky and the horses roaming on the spacious, 15-acre ranch help create a serene and picturesque atmosphere.
It’s late July, which means temperatures of more than 100 degrees. Reigning Grace Ranch is quiet, because the heat makes it difficult to host its numerous programs for youth and families. But that difficulty will soon be replaced with a new opportunity. A new project – for years, just a dream – will be a reality in 2019.
Thanks to the generosity of the estate of Bill “Cowboy” Phipps, a new covered arena is under construction at Reigning Grace Ranch (RGR). Phipps, whose stage, movie and TV career spanned more than 50 years, starred in 1950s sci-fi films and most notably, was the voice of Prince Charming in Disney’s “Cinderella.” Recently, his estate granted $635,000 to the nonprofit ranch – a place of healing and empowerment for children and families, as well as, a healing sanctuary for horses.
“Before his passing, Bill made a commitment to RGR. He loved all of the stories I told him about what Amanda and Christopher Moore have built and wanted to help support the future plans going forward,” said Bob Johnson, Phipp’s business manager and trustee.
Phipps passed away on June 1, 2018, in Santa Monica, Calif. at the age of 96. He grew up in poverty during the Great Depression. His parents divorced when he was six and he lost his mother at the age of 16, due to an illness. World War II would take his brother, an Army fighter pilot. Overcoming these difficulties early in his life, Phipps would eventually create a career in Hollywood. His first movie, “Arizona Ranger,” was made in 1948. He went on to star, or appear in, more than 200 movies, most of them westerns or cowboy movies.
“Bill knew what it was like to grow up poor and without much family,” said Johnson. “That is why he fell in love with RGR and their love for foster kids. He wanted to help the kids so that they could ‘realize their dreams’ just like Bill did in Hollywood.”
Now, thanks to Phipps’ commitment, a dream will be realized that will help young people “cowboy up” and strive to reach their dreams.
The new covered arena will allow Reigning Grace Ranch to offer programs year-round, providing equine-assisted experiential learning and therapy to children and families struggling with adversity.
“With Bill’s generous donation and Bob’s support, RGR will now be able to offer our rescue and mentorship program 365 days a year,” said Amanda Moore. “With new summer programs and the ability to provide wheelchair accessibility, it will truly be a game changer for RGR! We are looking forward to expanding our reach and helping more families.”
Construction on the covered arena is underway. A public ribbon cutting is scheduled for February 2019.
“We are looking forward to inviting the entire community to come and celebrate the grand opening of the arena and to experience, first hand, the tranquility and refuge that is Reigning Grace Ranch,“ said Moore.
Smiling down on the new arena will be one very proud cowboy. From a view on high, Phipps will tip his hat in salute to a dream realized. A dream that he was committed to bring to life, said Johnson.
“RGR had a special place in Bill’s heart, and his gift reflects this.”
Learn more about Reigning Grace Ranch and the new arena at https://azrgr.org.