Recreation, Sports, Leisure, Athletics


Where Spirits Soar

Wheat Ridge, CO


The mission of Nighthawk Ranch is to provide a safe, healing environment for 10-18 year olds recovering from cancer with the goal of increasing self-esteem and hope for the future.

Ruling Year


Executive Director

Tom Evans

Main Address

12150 W 44th Ave Unit 203

Wheat Ridge, CO 80033 USA


Cancer camp for children age 10-18.





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Recreational and Sporting Camps (Day, Overnight, etc.) (N20)

Cancer (G30)

Wildlife Preservation/Protection (D30)

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

Often times, children who have been diagnosed with cancer can not attend a traditional summer camp program. Given their medical diagnosis, several physical, emotional, and social implications are involved. Spending so much time in the hospital or in treatment clinics isolates children and impacts with educational, social, and emotional experiences. They need a place where they can explore nature and animals, connect with others facing the same medical crisis, and know that they are safe and well cared for in a supportive and medically appropriate environment. We believe that the experiences at Nighthawk Ranch provide campers an opportunity to explore, take risks, share, learn leadership skills and just have fun. We have found that the successes they have at camp and relationships that they build with campers and volunteers help increase their self-esteem and hope for the future. The positive impact lasts long after a camper returns home.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Nighthawk Ranch Summer Camp

Nighthawk Ranch

Where we work

Charting Impact

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

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What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

The mission of Nighthawk Ranch is to provide a safe, healing environment for 10-18 year olds recovering from cancer with the goal of increasing self-esteem and hope for the future.

Many camps for kids with cancer are available all over the country, each offering water sports, ropes courses, archery, arts and crafts, and other camp-like activities. And these are all great – we have them too! We also spend a night camping under the stars where you can enjoy the tradition of s'mores and stories. Campers can try their hand at building a log cabin. Nighthawk Ranch also offers a great music program featuring outstanding talents – and there are lots of instruments to play.

As the sun rises, Nighthawk Ranch is already bustling with activity as the goats, cows and horses wait to be fed. Our campers awaken early, enjoy a quick snack (breakfast comes after the animals are fed) and then turn their energy and attention toward a day that will be packed with ranch projects and horsemanship sessions. Our horse trainer, Justin Dunn, is well known for training horses and in particular for training mustangs. He builds relationship with the animals and rides bitless, spurless, and shoeless. Justin carefully pairs each camper with their horse for the week and then moves on to teach them about relating to their horse. A camper can put aside his or her own troubles in the immediate job of caring for the horse. Horses are large and strong, which challenges a person to overcome his fear in order to work with the animal. Horses mirror moods, too; they respond negatively to negative emotions, teaching the camper that his behavior can affect others, and making it necessary to modify behavior in order to work successfully with the animal.

The Equine Program is not only one of the most unique aspects of Nighthawk Ranch but it is also one of the most favorite, according to campers. Horse maintenance including food, supplies and riding equipment all come with a very heavy price tag. Nighthawk Ranch looks forward to partnering with The Quick Foundation to help assist with the cost of this program. Not only are the campers receiving educational information about the horses, they are also learning practical applications such as how to groom, feed and ride a horse. The mustangs at Nighthawk Ranch come from a Wild Horse status and once trained by Mr. Dunn, they are safe for campers to ride. Nighthawk Ranch is committed to caring for these animals and we hope to pass our passion for horses onto our campers. The goal of the program is to help educate the campers about the horses and use the experience and interactions as a useful tool in helping increase their self-esteem.

In a 2010 New York Times article, written by Barron H. Lerner, M.D. he writes, “I ultimately concluded that a randomized controlled trial wasn't needed to ascertain the value of camps — or ranches — for children with cancer. There is little not to like about giving children who have had a rough ride a week of something totally different that caters to them exclusively." In the same article he shares that a 2005 study of 34 campers found that the experience helped them “navigate the challenges of adolescence as a cancer survivor." (Lerner 2010)

We strive to support and expand Dr. Lerner's findings and existing empirical research by measuring participants' feedback after a ranch experience. During the first four year's of sessions, surveys were sent to parents after the child's visit to the ranch. A likert scale and ranking systems were used to evaluate the ranch experience and included questions ranging from how safe the participants felt to their assessment of the ranch grounds and activities. All responses were compiled and could be stratified by age, gender and level of medical condition.

Survey responses have until now been primarily been used to ensure the security of participants with previous medical conditions and the relevance of the activities across the week. This year, we are assessing ways to expand our data collection process to measure outcomes. Questions related to the participants' abilities to apply skills gained at the ranch to daily living activities and within their lives, and assess their levels of increased self-sufficiency are being designed now. We are also exploring ways to increase the survey response rate.

The more elusive traits such as a boost in self-confidence that we also strive to develop could be somewhat more fully measured as we reach out to participants themselves some years after they have experienced the program. The participants can potentially evaluate the program themselves from an adult perspective. In the meantime, we have a return to the ranch request rate of approximately 80% and six participants who've graduated into volunteer counseling positions. Even based on our current years of experience with the ranch, we maintain a relationship with a large network of participants and their parents that is evidenced through ongoing communications, donations from the families and requests to volunteer.

Following all summer camp sessions, Nighthawk Ranch sends a survey out to the campers, their families and to our volunteers. The purpose of the survey is to evaluate whether or not Nighthawk Ranch was accomplishing it's mission, which is to provide a safe, healing environment for 10-18 year olds recovering from cancer with the goal of increasing self-esteem and hope for the future. We have received very favorable responses from campers, camper families and volunteers. In fact, of the responses received in 2018, 100% of campers and their families felt that Nighthawk Ranch provided campers a safe and healing environment. We also received a high level of response and praise for helping to increase camper's self-esteem and hope for the future. Nighthawk Ranch would be happy to provide the complete survey and results to any interested party.

Nighthawk Ranch is always looking into new ways to accomplish our mission. The Board and Program Directors review all surveys each year in order to determine program adjustments for the following year. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our programming and to be able to accept campers requiring higher level accommodations. We have recently been able to accept two visually impaired campers and were able to adjust our programming to fit their needs. Nighthawk Ranch is currently raising funds to purchase our own horses that will remain at camp year round. This allows the Equine Director to work with the horses for longer periods of time prior to camp and also provides the horses a chance to acclimate to the altitude. All this will create a more healthy environment for the horse which ultimately benefits campers.

External Reviews




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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members, Senior Staff, Full-Time Staff and Part-Time Staff.


This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members, Senior Staff, Full-Time Staff and Part-Time Staff.

Diversity Strategies

We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
We have a diversity manager in place
We have a diversity plan
We use other methods to support diversity