Barn Buddies is a community inclusion and life skills program for young adults (ages 21 and older) living with developmental disabilities who are looking for meaningful opportunities to give back to the communities that have supported them.
In the summer of 2022 Alatheia launched the Barn Buddies program, a life skills and community inclusion program for adults with special needs.
Barn Buddies, Barry, Danny, and Harli, work on developing life skills such as following directions, self-control, communication, punctuality and kindness. They also learn to groom, muck stalls, lead horses to and from their turnouts/stalls, while gaining a knowledge of barn life routines. The activities each Barn Buddy works on is centered around his or her individual interests and abilities, Alatheia’s needs, while learning to work independently and safely.
Their day begins in the barn where they meet to talk about the day’s to-do list. They then break out to work on group projects or their unique independent tasks. Daily charts help each buddy feel the value of being on time, completing goals, improving their self-confidence, and the importance of using kind hands. Most of all they build friendships and leave Alatheia knowing they are giving back to the community and the Fjord horses they have grown to love.
Many thanks to:
- Seth, a young man who lives with Down Syndrome, who captured our hearts last summer and became the inspiration for this program.
- the current Barn Buddies who every day remind us of the joy and goodness of the Alatheia life.
- Barn Buddy Leader, Laura Turner, for her vision, patience, and dedication to the Buddies.
- Our donors who make work like this possible.
Harli was diagnosed very early on at just 6 months old with Kabuki Syndrome. She later got a secondary diagnosis of Autism around Junior High age. Kabuki Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder with a wide range of complications. At birth and diagnosis, we had no idea what the future would hold for her. At this stage of the game Harli is now an adult, and is somewhere in the middle on the functionality scale.
Back in 2011, I had never even heard of Hippotherapy when my friend said she was going to take her daughter. Last time I checked, we lived in America and the only hippos here were at the zoo! I soon learned that it was actually horses, and having had been somewhat of a country girl myself, I could not wait to get Hari into the program. Within just a short time Harli was already making big strides in proving that she was going to do things I had never imagined or dared to hope for. The first major “moments” was when Nancy had thrown a ball to Harli as she was riding and Harli actually caught the ball. This was something Harli had not been able to do standing on solid ground, and I had my first tears of hope and joy that this precious child WOULD be able to do some of the simple things that others take for granted.
Fast forward to 2022, and Harli has now become a volunteer helper known as a Barn Buddy. She spends a couple of hours two days a week alongside Alatheia staff learning how to care for the horses and the facility. Working a typical job is not really an option for Harli, and from this Barn Buddy experience she gains friendships, feels valued, and is able to give back to a purpose greater than herself.
Barry is a funny, loving, enjoyable young man. He is 30 years old. He loves reading; he enjoys history, sports, all things Native American. He enjoys learning about different languages and dialects. He has a great sense of humor and he loves puns! He plays the acoustic guitar in his free time. He is a twin and loves his twin brother who is severely medically fragile.
Barry was born “Twin B” of a 10 weeks early, premature birth. He had a very difficult beginning to life. He was at Seattle Children’s in NICU for the first 14 months of his life. He was immediately placed on a ventilator at birth and at 7 months old he had a tracheostomy placed. He was fed through an n/g tube for quite some time and then a g-tube was placed. He eventually came home on a ventilator with 24/7 nursing care. He was in his crib for the first 3 years of his life and learned sign language to communicate. He didn’t start to eat real food until he was almost 11 years old. He was gradually weaned off of the ventilator at age 8, but continued to need his trach. When he was 11 y/o he had a major reconstructive airway surgery to eventually remove the trach. A year later his g-tube was removed and he was free from all artificial medical apparatus. His vision was affected from the premature birth. He has severe nystagmus which means that his eyes don’t ‘team’ and they move very rapidly back and forth when he is trying to do daily activities. There are a lot of things that Barry will never be able to do because of his poor vision but he tries very hard to accomplish daily tasks.
Our family recently moved to Wenatchee from Bothell. When we told Barry that we would be moving he researched the area and found Alatheia as THE place he wanted to work with. Within 3 weeks of moving to town, we made a connection with Nancy and she graciously invited Barry to come out, take a tour and meet the team and the herd. There was an instant bond with the entire team at Alatheia and there was a perfect place for Barry’s special needs with The Barn Buddies program. Barry enjoys working with his new friends and meeting new people. He is really enjoying being outside, working with the horses and feeling like he is contributing to his community and Alatheia. This experience has helped Barry feel appreciated and welcomed by his peers.
We are grateful to Laura for the vision of having a place for adults with developmental disabilities to be part of a loving community. The Barn Buddy program allows each individual to grow and thrive as a contributing and valuable person. A big thanks to Nancy for letting this program become a reality and a big thanks to the volunteers that assist with the Barn Buddy program.
Danny has Down Syndrome. He grew up being a very happy, loving person, welcoming everyone with hugs. He not only steals the hearts of people he meets, but animals too. We call him the animal whisperer because animals just seem to gravitate toward him. He has endless love for them, even those who aren’t so loveable. He brings joy to us all.
He has been involved in a variety of activities over the years. When he was younger he loved riding up at Alatheia. He was even able to eventually ride without someone leading the horse. As Danny got older he became more involved in school activities like sports, play performances, band and Mariachi. It was hard for us to find the time to ride, so we had to give it up for awhile. He really missed the horses.
As the pandemic progressed in 2020, Danny went from having everyone at the high school giving him high fives as he walked down the hallways greeting them, to sitting at the computer with me doing online school at home. He missed out on so many fun events that we were all looking forward to attending. Danny‘s gregarious personality regressed to him hardly speaking or even smiling. He missed his friends. It was a depressing situation for all of us. We didn’t realize how anxious he had become about this change and our new normal.
Then in June of 2022, he was out of the school system. I desperately wanted to find activities to help him regain his self-worth, confidence and social skills. He volunteered at Alatheia with a friend that summer. He reconnected with the horse that he used to ride. He was feeling successful with jobs well done. The more he helped there, the more independent he became with certain tasks. Just being around the horses, caring for them and working outside with these amazing people, brought him so much happiness. We have slowly seen the euphoria that he was born with, shine again.
Being a Barn Buddy has given him a purpose. The Alatheia staff, volunteers and fellow Barn Buddies have become new friends who all work together to accomplish more than just the chores on the ranch. Everyone needs to feel valued and this program has done so much more for Danny. We appreciate all who have helped Danny to thrive in his journey. Danny loves being a part of this special program. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to Danny’s well-being.
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