How It Works
Erik’s Retreat, originally built as a retirement home by Wayne Field in 1970, was named the Roybet, in honor of the distinguished Renaissance artist. Not only did Field love art and beauty, he embraced Reverence for Life, the vision of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who said, “As we know life in ourselves, we want to understand life in the universe in order to enter into harmony with it.” Field believed that life is dear, and he poured that philosophy into creating an environment filled with beauty, kindness, care and respect. We embrace his love of life and desire to share it with others. Field’s legacy imbues Erik’s Retreat, and is the foundation for our program. To that extent, young adults with autism can have it all at Erik’s Retreat: a home, a job and a social life with the dignity, security and safety they rightfully deserve.
Learn, Live, Work, Belong
We proudly offer an innovative living, working and social model for members and upscale volunteer guest accommodations at both the ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana, and the urban retreat in Edina, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis). Not only are both locations home to young adults with autism, but what sets Erik’s Ranch & Retreats apart is that these unique destinations are run by the members who live there. Our members are employed as concierge staff, artists-in-residence, IT specialists, gardeners, sous chefs – whatever their passion. Our guests, voluntourists (volunteers) and other visitors to Erik’s Ranch & Retreats are a source of revenue, making our model completely self-sustaining.
Erik’s Retreat also has its own tour guide program, Erik’s Minnesota Adventures, which allows members to lead tours for guests at the Retreat or guests from the community, all of whom volunteer their time to attend these exciting adventures that promote our cornerstone guiding principles – bidirectional integration through voluntourism, individual community building and lifelong learning – all of which cultivate social development. Tours range from visiting the announcer’s box at Canterbury Downs, to enjoying a sunrise walk at a local bird sanctuary, a wine and tapas tasting, or a Segway® tour around our beautiful city lakes, just to name a few. Volunteer tour guests, or voluntourists, have an important role: by virtue of being guests on a tour, they provide tour guides with rewarding jobs; by listening and learning, volunteer guests help build tour guides’ self-esteem, self-worth and sense of accomplishment.
A Home of Your Own
As we explored the world of form and function, we interviewed individuals on the spectrum, parents, architects and builders to discuss our ideas for functional, sensitive and beautiful designs. We considered sight, sound, touch, smell, movement, light and more. Flooring, lighting, faucets, counters, cabinets and blinds were chosen to minimize sensitivities and allergies yet provide functionality and efficiency. Each unit is approximately 650 square feet with a living and dining area, bedroom, bathroom and full kitchen.
We also understand the requirements and demands for those with autism who would like to live a more independent life. Independence is available with behind-the-scenes support, if necessary. With the help of 24-hour staff, security and the use of technology, we provide our members with the independence they desire and offer their families peace of mind that their loved ones are safe and successful in their new home. Our model serves young adults on the spectrum, who have varying needs. At Erik’s Retreat, members live as independently as possible based on their desire for support. Some may simply need to sign out when they leave and sign in upon their return. For others, a check-in system or technology may be used to track locations. Video cameras are used in all public places. Safety is our first priority and utmost concern.
Erik’s Ranch consists of four properties located in the heart of the Absaroka Mountain Range only 40 minutes from the north entrance into Yellowstone National Park that are available for guest accommodations: the Guesthouse, Sophia’s House, the Lodge and Pool House. Young adults on the autism spectrum have the opportunity for employment at Erik’s Ranch assisting with all guest services, the equestrian program and groundskeeping. In addition, they lead tours that they help create based on their passions and interests including trail rides, wildlife hikes, Native American artifact viewing, fly fishing, rafting – and more – where they are the stars, not the outcasts. Our principles and care model is identical to that of Erik’s Retreat: bidirectional integration through voluntourism; individual community building and lifelong learning. Where vision knows no bounds.