Canyon Ranch Institute

Who says there’s no good news in the papers these days? Ronda Zuniga of Tucson, Arizona, would disagree. She’s a single mother who read an article about the Canyon Ranch Institute® Life Enhancement Program® (CRI LEP) for Families, a health-focused program offered through Tucson Medical Center. Ronda felt it would be just right for her and her 5-year-old daughter, Monet.

“I liked the different approach to health, not so clinical,” says Ronda, who had gained 100 pounds since her daughter’s birth. “There was no special diet, just a healthier lifestyle.”

The three-month group experience is based on the seven-night Life Enhancement Program® at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. It’s tailored for low-income families and provided at no charge to them by Canyon Ranch Institute’s partners. Similar CRI programs are already successful in the South Bronx, central Missouri, Cleveland, Georgia, Massachusetts, and several other U.S. sites. This new version was adapted to include children ages 5 to 9 with their parents or guardians.

Canyon Ranch Institute Executive Director Jennifer Cabe says, “I’m very proud of our Canyon Ranch Institute team for developing this innovative program.” Ronda would be the first to say it’s working.

“Every Tuesday night we go to the Boys & Girls Club,” Ronda says. “Monet goes off with the kids group, and the adults talk about topics like portion control, grocery labels and stress management. Then we’re back together for group exercise and a healthy dinner. We’re learning healthier ways to eat. On Saturdays we have outings to a park or Sabino Canyon for outdoor exercise. Monet loves that.”

The mission of Canyon Ranch Institute is to expand health awareness and opportunities to underserved populations. Tucson Medical Center (TMC) – a nonprofit hospital that’s served the community for 65 years – is the sole sponsor of the CRI LEP for Families in Tucson. It is committing funding along with the efforts of physicians and wellness professionals, such as nutritionists and physical activity experts. The goal is prevention today instead of filling hospital beds later. Mary Atkinson, TMC Director of Wellness, says, “This program is a perfect marriage between Tucson Medical Center and Canyon Ranch Institute. We’re both striving to improve the health and well-being of the families we serve.”

Ronda readily took to the food and lifestyle changes, eager to improve the blood test results she received from her Life Enhancement Program assessment. “At the start of the program, we get a membership to the TMC gym, so I work out there or walk in the canyon almost every day. I made a new friend in the program – we support each other exercising.”

Classes about nutrition have been extremely helpful, Ronda says. She’s started shopping and cooking differently. “I serve vegetables twice a day, and Monet is trying new foods.”

Ronda especially values the private consultations with specialists. “I can ask the personal questions I need answered.”

Every week, Ronda says, she gets a consistent message and encouragement from the CRI LEP professionals at TMC. “They keep telling me to take it slow, that managing my weight is not about a race but a lifestyle. Even when I'm in the grocery store, I hear them in my mind: ‘Haven’t had enough fiber today? Pick a more nutritious snack.’ I didn’t expect that!”

To commemorate its 35th anniversary and to further support our community efforts, Canyon Ranch has generously donated 25 scholarships to CRI. We’ll give these complimentary stays to people who work in low-income and medically underserved communities, helping to enhance the health and wellness of the local population. Visit for more information and scholarship application.

(Please note: These scholarships are separate from the Inspiration Awards)

Canyon Ranch Institute® is a nonprofit public charity that makes Canyon Ranch healthy living programs and education available in low-income communities everywhere. To learn more, volunteer, or add your support, please visit: Or follow us on Twitter @CRIhealthyworld