...to enrich the lives of families with special needs children
through customized therapeutic experiences
Monday, August 9th, 2004
Lou Castriota Jr. gazed at the illustration of Leg Up Farm and could envision one day scooping up a handful of dirt with a shovel to break ground on the project.
"After seven years of working on the project, we're actually seeing how the building is going to come to life," he said. "We're trying to create the look of an English riding stable. To a child, it's going to look like a fun place to go; it's not going to look institutional."
Castriota said he received the illustration in July. It was designed by architect Ruth Landsman of Seth Harry and Associates, a firm that specializes in designing therapeutic riding facilities.
Leg Up Farm will be an all-inclusive therapy facility set on 18 acres in East Manchester Township, where traditional programs such as occupational and physical therapy will be offered alongside such non-traditional programs such as hippotherapy (horseback riding).
Castriota has been spearheading the project since 1997, and said several crucial steps have taken place recently. On May 25, the East Manchester Township Planning Commission recommended for approval the 89,000-square foot facility's land development plan. What remains is for the township board of supervisors to approve the plan, which Castriota thinks will happen in October.
"We are now designing the interior and the exterior of the building," he said.
He's also formed a programming committee, made up of York County medical and educational professionals, who will weigh in on what is to be offered at the facility.
But what appears to be one of the project's biggest challenges is its $9 million price tag, half of which Castriota is hoping to receive from Gov. Ed Rendell.
"I continually send them (the governor's office) updates and ask for them to release the funds," he said.
Leg Up Farm continues to receive donations from businesses and grants from the federal government, such as the $175,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In September, the 3rd Annual Matthew Allen Potter Memorial Golf Tournament at the Country Club of York will benefit Leg Up Farm.
Matthew, a 7-year-old York Township boy, was fatally injured on a ride at the York Fair in September 2001. Matthew's grandfather, Ken Potter Sr., former president and CEO of Martin's Potato Chips, is organizing the tournament.
Castriota called Potter "a great advocate and champion of the project."
Potter said his love for children and the fact that Leg Up Farm is such a unique project keeps him reaching for his long list of contacts to help spread the word.
"It's really a needed project -- it's going to be fabulous," he said.
Castriota, 33, of New Freedom, began planning Leg Up Farm after recognizing the difficulty in shuttling his daughter Brooke, now 8, to various therapies. Brooke suffers from mitochondrial disease, which is similar to cerebral palsy. After consulting parents and therapists, Castriota developed the idea for the farm, where he thought it would be much easier on parents and children with disabilities to offer a wide range of therapies under one roof.
Castriota said that after seven years, he keeps from getting discouraged by focusing on small accomplishments, knowing that they will eventually lead to his goal of breaking ground.
"Concentrating on that next step really keeps you motivated and excited," he said.
By TED CZECH, The York Daily Record/Sunday News