...to enrich the lives of families with special needs children
through customized therapeutic experiences
Friday, September 25th, 2009
Friday, September 25th, 2009
Friday, September 11th, 2009
Lou Castriota Jr. sat atop a mound of dirt in recent days surveying a field and trying to imagine the transformation that will occur during the next several months.
Come May, Castriota's dream will come to fruition in its most tangible form. That's when contractors say Leg Up Farm will open its doors to special-needs children and their families.
Thursday he and more than 100 supporters grabbed shovels, dug in and turned dirt in celebration of the official groundbreaking for the therapeutic, not-for-profit facility in the 4800 block of East Manchester Township.
The project will be built in two phases. The first is a 16,500-square-foot facility for therapeutic and educational services. Phase 2 is a 30,000-square-foot attached indoor riding arena and horse barn for equine-related activities.
The facility is expected to open in May when 32 staffers and 150 volunteers are in place, Castriota said.
A long journey: Castriota spoke briefly prior to the dig, pausing several times as he fought back tears that he says are the sume of a long journey, filled with innumerable prayer-filled walks on that 18-acre property off Sherman Street Extended.
During those strolls, the New Freedom husband and father of four said he tried to imagine all that the farm should consist of and what it could offer hundreds of parents who struggle daily to meet the specials needs of their children.
For adults, the farm will provide resite in the form of a deck overlooking the valley below.
The children will benefit from physical, psychological and social therapies, as well as from a less grueling schedule being shuttled from one place to another to obtain care they need.
Castriota said the idea for the farm began in 1997 when he and his wife, Laurie, wanted to give back to the community and help children with special needs. They initially wanted to open an equine therapy center, combining their love of horses with their love of children.
Six months after their initial discussions, their then-infant daughter Brooke, now 13, was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, which is similar to cerebral palsy.
But the couple learned in short order the difficulty in finding all of the services necessary for children with special needs, including Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, genetic and metabolic disorders, autism and cerebral palsy.
Older children left out: The Castriotas found Pennsylvania's early intervention program for special needs children helpful. However, the program only serves children up to age 3. After that, Castriota said, children are dependent either on school systems or private doctors for therapeutic programs.
So the equine therapy center morphed into a one-stop healing center where children could obtain physical, psychological and social therapies. It would offer under one roof these therapeutic services, along with education and advocacy for special-needs individuals, infants to adults up to the age of 21 and their families.
Two years would pass before Castriota found the site, which was donated by local resident and ecologist Barbara Warren, who offered a portion of her farm bordered by pines. All that remained was securing some $9 million to build the facility and operate it for the first year.
His daughters donated money -- one of them giving her weekly paycheck -- and organized fundraisers. In all, the family, friends and other supporters raised $1.5 million since forming the not-for-profit in 1997. Several years later, he secured a $5.6 million loan split between USDA Rural Development and York Traditions Bank.
Castriota stood Thursday during the groundbreaking ceremony listening to a slew of supporters, ranging from contractors to legislators. Each said they had doubts but began to believe mostly because Castriota was not giving up.
Just as he'd secured the land and the loan, he garnered their loyalty.
Castriota stood with his family with nothing to do but listen to accolades about his perseverance. They said his vision and work will serve hundreds if not thousands of children in coming years and decades.
"All the kindness and support I've received today is just overwhelming," Castriota said after the ceremony. "I don't have the words for the gratitude I feel."
Services: Leg Up Farm, Inc. will offer tailored programs and services on an outpatient basis for special needs individuals from infants to adults up to age 21. Initial services include: physical, occupational and speech therapies; therapeutic recreation; hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding; education Paws for Reading program; and summer day camps.
Learn more about Leg Up Farm online at www.legupfarm.org or by calling 717-266-9294.
By KATHY STEVENS, The York Dispatch
Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Leg Up Farm is a project Lou Castriota Jr., president and chief executive officer of the center, has been planning for more than a decade. It will become reality when the 52,850-square-foot facility opens in May.
The center in East Manchester Township will offer therapy and support services for children with disabilities and their families. The services will include physical, occupational, speech-language and creative arts therapy, as well as horse-assisted activities, therapeutic recreation and farming adventures.
Leg Up Farm intends to cater to infants, children, adolescents and young adults up to age 21 who experience developmental delays and physical disabilities from a number of medical condistions, including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism and learning disabilities. The center said it expects to be able to serve more than 1,000 children within the first three years of operation.
Central Penn Business Journal