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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : latest news July 23, 2016

9/8/2010 7:55:00 AM
Rusty's Morningstar Ranch 25th anniversary

Philip Wright
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD - Rusty's Morningstar Ranch in Cornville -- a home for adult men with autism -- will celebrate its 25th anniversary Sunday, Sept. 12, at Blazin' M Ranch in Cottonwood.

Rusty's, which now serves as home to eight men, was founded in 1985 on the love of a mother for her autistic son. Carlene Armstrong was an activist in organizations for autism. She was frustrated and disappointed with the available programs for people with autism.

Carlene was determined that her son, Rusty, and a few other men would have a place to live and thrive in a supportive environment. She and her husband, Jack, sold their home in Flagstaff to start Rusty's Morningstar Ranch.

Carlene and Jack have both passed on, but their vision, and their son, Rusty, still live on at the 10-acre RMR at the edge of Cornville.

The celebration will begin at 4 p.m. at the Blazin' M Ranch, at 1875 Mabery Rd., adjacent to Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

Marla Guerrero, executive director of RMR, hopes that many people will come out to help celebrate and raise money for the ranch.

"Blazin' M Ranch just went through a major remodel, and they changed the menu," Guerrero said. "So if anyone has been to the Blazin' M before, it will be different."

Activities include dinner, a silent auction, a live auction, a dessert auction and the famous Blazin' M Ranch Cowboy Show.

Laura Nagle, an architect from Williams, will speak about how autism has affected her life. Nagle has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

Guerrero said several "big ticket" items are included in the auction. One is a vacation package for two to Seattle. That trip includes airfare, hotel accommodations and a lot of tickets to see attractions, such as the zoo and a museum, around Seattle.

Another auction item will be a scenic flight over the Verde Valley. Guerrero said there will also be some beautiful Western artworks and an ornate Chinese table. Included in the Western art offerings will be signed chaps and a lithograph from actor Don "Ike" McFadden, well known for his many roles in Western movies.

In addition, there will be about 30 to 40 items offered during the silent auction, which will be open through dinner and half way through the dessert auction. Guerrero said the dessert auction will include some great items.

"It's from a variety of people, individuals and restaurants," she said.

Guerrero said that Rusty's is one of only about 30 programs in the U.S. that offers long-term residential care for adults with autism. With the dramatic increase in people being diagnosed with autism - 1,300 percent in the past 10 years - the lack of facilities has been called a national crisis.

Rusty's Morningstar Ranch is debt-free, and an endowment has recently been established. Guerrero said that in order to help replicate Rusty's unique program to other places, a strategic plan, a building plan and a fundraising plan have all been developed.

Tickets are $40 and are available by contacting Jade or Marla at (928) 634-4784 or via email to

Taylor Waste

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