The Spirit's Respite Ranch senior's program is one popular program offered at the facility. (Photo submitted)

Spirit’s Respite Ranch continues to grow as they head into the Summer.

By Sam Donnelly

Spirit’s Respite Ranch has added new programs and clients as they continue operations for their second year.

Spirit’s Respite Ranch is a non-profit organization north of Stettler which offers animal therapy to those with special needs or conditions such as PTSD.

“To have a special needs child, you don’t belong in a lot of places. We want to make you feel at home here,” said Janelle Robinson, co-founder of Spirit’s Respite Ranch.

To get to the ranch from Stettler, go 3 miles north on Highway 56 then go right on township 39-4. At the T intersection go left. The Ranch should then be on your left.

Robinson started the ranch with her husband Kent after they realized how hard it was to find support for their autistic son.

The ranch gives people with special needs and conditions the opportunity to come out and help with the animals and other farm chores.

According to Robinson, visitors help with everything that goes into running the ranch from feeding and watering the animals to fixing a broken fence if need be. They also provide horse riding training, with all the profits going towards running the ranch.

In the last 18 months, Spirit’s Respite Ranch has seen a lot more visitors as people have learned about the facility and other organizations have offered their support.

“We have a huge amount of people reaching out with anxiety who just want a reprieve from this crazy world,” said Robinson.

According to Robinson, there are over 50 kids in riding lessons at the moment.

Local programs have also started to take notice of the ranch. Local seniors’ homes have started to come out to enjoy the ranch; even some local high school students, some with special needs and some without, come to the ranch for work experience opportunities. Local 4H students have also come out to spend time with seniors during their visits.

Local organizations like Kids Sports Canada have also shown their support by providing funding for families that cannot easily afford the horseback riding lessons.

Going into the summer, Spirit’s Respite Ranch plans to continue their weekly Wednesday visits for special needs people as well as their senior visits.

According to Robinson, they will be offering programming, giving visitors access to a behaviourist, speech-language pathologist and an occupational therapist.

She also said that three of their frequent volunteers have also gone on to get their equine-assisted therapy certification allowing them to use the horses to better soothe and help visitors that need it.

Robinson went on to say that it’s often easier for people to relate and work with a horse than with another human being.

The Summer months will also see Spirit’s Respite Ranch’s day camps where children can come for a day on the ranch with activities and time with the animals.

Spirit’s Respite Ranch is always looking for support to help keep its programs going.

You can sponsor a special needs rider for $275, sponsor a family visit for $75 or sponsor one of the Wednesday Special needs visits for $500.

Any donation is welcome and appreciated. If you are interested in donating to the Spirit’s Respite Ranch you are invited to visit Spirit’s Respite Ranch’s Facebook Page or by calling 403-741-5687.

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