...to enrich the lives of families with special needs children
through customized therapeutic experiences

May, 2002

Therapy Center Would Provide ‘Team Approach’

The idea has been developed. The architectural plans have been drawn. The land has been found.

The next thing Lou Castriota, Jr. needs is money.

It’s been five years since Castriota conceived an idea for a pediatric therapy center that would focus on recreational activities. Now the York County resident is preparing to launch a capital campaign to raise the $7 million to $9 million needed so the nonprofit center – called Leg Up Farm – can open in East Manchester Township in 2004.

Leg Up Farm’s fundraising efforts have gotten a jump-start with a $60,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Castriota said he hopes the project will receive additional state funds in addition to the funds raised through the capital campaign.

“There’s a lot of fragmentation in therapy today,” he said. “We want to bring everything together under one roof and have a team approach to providing therapy to children.”

In early 1997, Castriota started developing a plan to establish a therapeutic horseback riding center for children with special needs. Castriota, who is the national sales manager for a Baltimore television station, said he grew up around horses and wanted to share his love of horseback riding with others.

Later that year, Castriota’s then 1-year-old daughter, Brooke, was diagnosed with mitochondria disorder. Castriota said the disorder affects his daughter’s motor skills, and her symptoms include balance problems and hand tremors. He said Brooke’s condition made him want to help more children, and he decided to expand his plans beyond horseback riding.

The result is Leg Up Farm, which Castriota said would offer a number of different styles of therapy for children, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, music therapy and art therapy. The center would offer recreation areas, such as hiking trails and a fishing pond accessible to people with disabilities.

Easter Seals South Central Pennsylvania already offers recreational therapy programs for children, said Matt Ernst, a recreational therapist for the York Township-based nonprofit. These programs include horseback riding, aquatic therapy and baseball programs.

The programs help the children become physically stronger and also help them build socialization skills and self-esteem, Ernst said.

“Therapy is hard, and it’s usually not fun,” Castriota said. “When you make therapy fun, the children are getting stronger without them even knowing it.”

In March 2001, Barbara Warren agreed to donate about 15 acres from her 200-acre East Manchester Township farm to serve as the home of Leg Up Farm, Castriota said. Plans call for a 77,000 square-foot center to be built on the site. The building will include an indoor horseback riding area, an aquatic therapy center, a library and classrooms, Castriota said. Leg Up Farm would have about 25 full-time employees, he added.

Leg Up Farm could be used by other York-area nonprofits so children with and without disabilities can interact with one another, Castriota said. “My true hope is that we can make this a success so that it can benefit the community,” he said.