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"Six degrees of separation" is the theory that every person on the planet is six or fewer steps away from each other. In more common terms, it's the concept of “a friend of a friend of a friend.”
The theory was first proposed in 1929 by Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, and has proven to be true for a Centennial couple, who has spent years looking for a place to build a ranch where people with developmental disabilities, like their son Ross, can live productive lives.
“We started the Tall Tales Ranch nonprofit more than three years ago, and originally thought we would have to buy a piece of property in the middle of nowhere,” said Susan Mooney, co-founder of Tall Tales Ranch. “This was really one of those things where a friend of a friend who knew of Schweiger Ranch put a few of us together to talk.”
The result — Schweiger Ranch, a historic 38-acre ranch located just east of I-25 and Ridgegate Parkway, in Lone Tree, has offered Mooney a long-term ground lease on the property, which will become the home of Tall Tales Ranch.
Mooney said they came up with the idea for Tall Tales Ranch after their son Ross, who is now 23, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain disease that deteriorates the white matter in the brain and eventually leads to death. Ross led a typical life, with lots of friends, and loved to play sports and dreamed of being a police officer when he grew up. At the age of 14, after years of Mooney watching their son's personality morph into one they didn't recognize, Ross was diagnosed with x-linked adrenoleukodystrophy. He received a bone marrow transplant which halted the progression of the disease, but left him with an acquired brain injury.
As the Mooneys searched for long-term options for Ross, they were disappointed to find that typical group homes weren't a good fit for their son, who preferred to be outdoors and loves all things animal- and country-related.
“As Ross's parents, we want for him what all parents want,” said Mooney. “A safe, supportive and wonderful place to live. A place where he is able to experience community, responsibility, challenge, fulfillment, and acceptance for the unique man that he is.”
Mooney said they hope to break ground as early as 2021, and they envision a residential home on site that would house a mix of people with intellectual developmental disabilities and neuro-typical people. Residents would run a community center barn and a coffee shop, and care for animals on the ranch.
“We also want to use it as a training center to teach job skills and employment skills to other people in the community,” said Mooney.
Elizabeth Matthews, executive director of Schweiger Ranch, which is also a nonprofit, said the addition on the property, which will cover just over two acres, will benefit the community and Schweiger Ranch, as well as those with disabilities.
“Between the two nonprofits there's a great synergy. We have similarities that really kind of work together,” said Matthews. “The ambassadors from Tall Tales Ranch can work on the ranch and work with the animals. We can do more with the ranch when we have more people there, and it will create a great sense of community and better opportunities for Lone Tree residents and the surrounding communities.”
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