Philanthropy and Civic Involvement

Wildwood Hills Ranch:
Creating Opportunities for Disadvantaged Children

The National Restaurant Association – Restaurant Neighbor Award

The National Restaurant Association and founding partner American Express are pleased to honor restaurant companies that have gone above and beyond in giving back to their communities through the Restaurant Neighbor Award program. Each year, four national winners receive $5,000 each to continue their charitable works. Michael Whalen won the award for the 2011 Cornerstone Humanitarian Award. Upon receiving this award The Wildwood Hills Ranch received a check for $5,000.00.

About the Ranch:

Who we are – There is nothing like Wildwood Hills Ranch anywhere in the Midwest. Our 400-acre facility is set in the scenic hills of Madison County, just south of Des Moines. Our organization was founded in 2001 and offers life-changing opportunities to at-risk and disadvantaged children. Kids from across the state are offered hope and love while being challenged to grow into leaders and people of integrity who contribute to the communities they live in.

Who we serve -Ranch youth development programs provide ongoing learning opportunities, therapy, and support to impoverished, abused, and neglected children. The ranch serves over 1000 children per year.Children come from severely impoverished, low-income families in both rural and inner city neighborhoods across the state of Iowa and surrounding border communities. They are currently suffering or are at risk of: physical and/or sexual abuse; neglect; parental drug and alcohol abuse; gang violence; instability in family relationships; absence of one or both parents; repeated or permanent out of home placement in foster care; juvenile delinquency; increased poverty; and teenage pregnancy and parenting.Our goal is to implant and nurture Iowa identity, Iowa dreams and Iowa opportunities for thousands of Iowa’s at-risk youth.

How we serve -Throughout each phase of Ranch programming, children are engaged with trained, caring people who are willing to provide hope, demonstrate love, and model character traits that will help each child move forward on a path to a brighter future. Trained staff and volunteers help teach children the meaning of honesty, integrity and respect – the core values that many of these youngsters are unaware of simply because of the situations life has dealt them. Core programs offer scholarships for transportation and year-round experiences to at-risk children who will benefit from a positive change of environment and a program that focuses on character, leadership, and teamwork.


Civic Involvement:

Our restaurant and hotel staffs take pride in being a vital part of their community.  Heart of America is frequently featured in news articles and recognized in local communities because of the involvement of team members in community organizations as well as their support of special projects.  Each location’s leadership has the unique autonomy of participating in special events, donating time and services, and contributing to the success of several worthwhile organization.  The spirit of giving not only helps the community it is personally rewarding to the staff.

Heart of America Group members are encouraged to participate in bettering their communities and participate in numerous civic organizations.

Civic Involvement of HOA Group Members

  • Altoona Development Project
  • Adopt a Highway – Pewaukee, WI
  • Hearts and Hammers
  • March of Dimes Chef’s Auction
  • International Council of Shopping Centers
  • Iowa Restaurant Association
  • Iowa State University Scholarship
  • Junior Achievement
  • Wisconsin Restaurant Association
  • KZZQ Radio (Mike Whalen Co-Founder) – Des Moines, IA
  • Kiwanis Clubs of Des Moines
  • Machine Shed Des Moines – Thanksgiving Day Meal Gratis
  • Scott Community College – Culinary Advisory Board
  • Special Service Area Advisory Board – Moline, IL
  • Tocqueville Society
  • United Way
  • Wildwood Hills Ranch (Mike & Kim Whalen Co-Founders) – St. Charles, IA
  • World President’s Organization