...to enrich the lives of families with special needs children
through customized therapeutic experiences
Friday, November 23rd, 2007
Lou Castriota Jr. says witnessing his project, Leg Up Farm, evolve from dream to reality is not a matter of "if" anymore -- it's a matter of "when."
It's a moment Castriota's waited 10 years for, he said. He first incorporated the nonprofit in 1997, with the dream of creating an all-inclusive physical- and occupational-therapy center for children with disabilities in York County.
Castriota said Tuesday that York Traditions Bank has agreed to give Leg Up Farm $5 million to build a 50,000-square foot facility in East Manchester Township.
Once the building is constructed, Leg Up Farm will receive another $600,000 in working capital, Castriota said.
"All the pieces are coming together. If everything goes as planned, we're on track to break ground in the spring," Castriota said.
Project is Born
Castriota, of New Freedom, began planning Leg Up Farm after experiencing difficulty in shuttling his daughter, Brooke, to various therapies. Brooke suffers from mitochondrial disease, a condition similar to cerebral palsy.
Castriota, an advertising executive, began speaking with parents and therapists. Why not have every therapy under one roof, making it easier on the children and their parents?, Castriota said.
In addition, he thought a farm setting would be the most appealing to children. If they pull up and see something like an English riding stable, it will look like a fun place to go, not like a cold institution, he said.
Castriota established a board of directors and a programming committee made up of York County medical and educational professionals, who weighed in on what would be offered at the facility.
More traditional therapies, such as physical and occupational therapy, will be offered, in addition to less-well-known therapies such as horseback riding and gardening, he said.
The wide range of therapies offered would help treat children with conditions such as autism, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injuries and attention deficit disorder, according to Leg Up Farm's website.
Castriota also began soliciting donations, with one of the project's most successful fundraisers beginning in 2002.
The Matthew Potter Memorial Golf Tournament -- named in honor of a boy who was fatally injured on a ride at the York Fair on Sept. 10, 2001 -- raised more than $160,000 in five years.
Friday, Leg Up Farm received a $35,000 grant from Met-Ed's Sustainable Energy Fund. The grant will allow Leg Up Farm to design a more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient building, Castriota said.
"It's just another piece of the puzzle coming together," Castriota said. "We want to have a healthy building for the children we serve."
The environment is important to Leg Up Farm's programs, such as nature walks and horseback riding on trails, he said.
There have also been disappointments along the way. In June 2000, then-Gov. Tom Ridge signed a capital budget bill promising $4.56 million in redevelopment assistance funds for Leg Up Farm. Since then, Castriota has been lobbing Gov. Ed Rendell to release the funds, to no avail.
"We could still use the money; it would be an asset to the facility," Castriota said. "I keep working on it, but we're trying to proceed as if we didn't have it."
With the groundbreaking now planned for spring 2008, Castriota is aiming for a spring 2009 opening, he wrote in an e-mail earlier this month.
Castriota said he's looking forward to another fundraiser, this one involving his father, Lou Castriota, Sr.
On March 15, 2008, the Strand-Capitol Theatre will host Pete McTee's Clubhouse, a live version of the children's show that the senior Castriota developed and hosted on WPMT-TV for nearly 14 years.
Lou Castriota Sr. plays Pete McTee, a clown who, along with his gang, will perform fun skits between other kid-oriented entertainment acts, Castriota said.
Donations for Leg Up Farm can be sent to PO Box 345, York 17405. The nonprofit's phone number is 266-9294.
By TED CZECH, The York Daily Record/Sunday News