Farm Day Accessibility

Farm Day Accessibility

Madeline Puckett

“When Family Hope Foundation hosted a family event at Critter Barn, we witnessed the variety of opportunities for people of all ages and diverse abilities. There was a unique experience for every guest.”

Family Hope Foundation recently held a family event at Critter BarnTheir new location provides an accessible learning experience for everyone who wants it—a perfect fit for our mission and guests.  We had so much fun spending time with our community on that day.

We witnessed the joy and power of connection animals bring into our lives!

Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces was amazing—I knew they were experiencing a special kind of happiness, interacting with the animals. 

I’ve always been an animal lover—growing up with at least four pets in the house at all times. There really is a special bond between humans and animals that is unique! 

Speaking of animal lovers, I recently had the opportunity to chat with the Founder and Director of Critter Barn, Mary Rottschafer. I wanted to thank her for our partnership in this event, but I also wanted to know more about her and Critter Barn’s resources. I wanted to share this information with our families.

After graduating from Hope College, Mary initially worked in Music and Education. She had a passion for teaching and educating, especially kids with disabilities. What started as a hobby evolved into Critter Barn—a community highlight for children and families. 

Having a farm and working with animals was something Mary enjoyed doing in her free time. Eventually, family, students, and the community would gather to see the farm her family built. People visiting the farm had a wide range of abilities, and Mary saw the animals’ impact on visitors.

That joy and impact she saw in the faces stuck with her. She was able to dovetail her passion for teaching and love for animals to create what we know today as Critter Barn—a wonderful organization with a bountiful array of accessibility resources for everyone. 

She described Critter Barn as “a catalyst to break down barriers.”   This is a statement we can certainly get behind!

When Family Hope Foundation hosted a family event at Critter Barn, we witnessed the variety of opportunities for people of all ages and diverse abilities. There was a unique experience for every guest. 

Just take a look at their selection of mobile chairs!

Families could borrow one of the mobile chairs with a platform attached to the front. This allowed wheelchair users to handle and pet certain animals, like rabbits!

Mary also made sure that Critter Barn would have large, accessible bathrooms. The large bathrooms allow for full wheelchair access. There is also equipment in certain stalls to assist with movement in and out for wheelchair users. 

Critter Barn also has a Barnyard Crew program, expanding accessibility in more ways imaginable. The program allows individuals with disabilities to experience things such as:

  • One-on-one coaching to help feed animals
  • Animal therapy sessions
  • Volunteer groups and activities
  • Personalized farm visits

Mary’s experience educating individuals with disabilities allowed Critter Barn to thrive in our West Michigan community. The Critter Barn Family Event reminded me of a few things about Family Hope Foundation: 

A handful of our therapy providers offer horseback riding as physical and emotional therapy. Like I said, the connection between humans and animals is truly special! We see remarkable outcomes from scholarship recipients receiving hippotherapy.

It also reminded me about something we often discuss at Family Hope Foundation—the importance of community. As I was scrolling through our Facebook, I noticed comments on our Critter Barn post thanking us for the opportunity to participate in the family event. 

The word “opportunity” stood out to me. It reminded me of our taglinegiving the gift of ability.

We wouldn’t be able to put on these events without the support of our community. The support given by the community and the opportunities provided is a loop that keeps on givinggiving the gift of ability.

A super special thanks to Koele Godfrey Investment Group for sponsoring this event. They are a wonderful example of support we receive from our community!

We enjoyed engaging with our community at the Critter Barn. We look forward to seeing you again for more Family Fun Events!

Madeline Puckett
Program Coordinator

p.s. Are you looking for more activities to enjoy as we move into fall? Check out just a few more accessible businesses in our West Michigan Community—we’ll be highlighting more in the coming months!


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