Thank you for being part of the Excel Kids family! We wanted to provide a short update on what has happened over the past year. We just concluded our first year at our own farm (Standing Oak Farm) and it has been an AMAZING year. Your support and prayers have been a tremendous benefit to us as we make progress!
Before I get started, I want to extend a special thanks to a few friends that have been particular blessings and have been instrumental in making this happen.
- Freddie and Alice Guyer – my folks have been a great blessings and enthusiastic supporters of Excel Kids. Beyond that, they were the ones that put up with me for so many years without giving up. Their example of love and dedication helped shape who I am. They are also the primary funders of the Alice Day Fund to directly cover costs of therapy services for families that cannot afford it.
- Kirk and Marti Leone, Carriage Farm – Marti provided a great home for us for many years. She was very patient with us and helped us gain the knowledge we needed to have our own equine farm. This was particularly helpful and amazing given that therapy was not really part of their farm’s mission. Despite being odd ducks at Carriage Farm, they supported us through it all. We will always remember our time there with fondness!
- Gina Miller, Gina Miller Realty – Gina was one of the first folks to hear about our vision at our daughter’s birthday party. We had no idea what a powerful advocate and supporter she and husband would turn out to be. They have been with us from the beginning and through the arduous property search, and search again, and search again. They have supported us with information, contacts and finances. Gina has proven be a great realtor and even greater friend.
- Wesley Fowler and Michael King – These two young men provided invaluable work when we needed the most. Our first few months were hard and fast and they were made more bearable with their help.
- Alex and Grace Green family– We were blessed to have them live with during the first few months at the farm. They helped with the work on the farm, the logistics of the household and were just great house mates. We loved our time with them and the memories we created.
Thanks for staying with me so far. Without further delay – Let’s get to it!
Fun with moving!
We landed at our own farm on December 20th, 2018. Apparently, moving is a bit like war (or so I have been told). You prepare and plan and as soon as it starts, the plan is essentially out the window. We set the close date to celebrate our anniversary, but as such, we were not actually going to move that day, but wait until after Christmas. We moved that day. We needed to get everyone settled and we needed to do some work to prepare for the horses coming over. We definitely were not going to bring them until the end of January. We brought them at the end of December. We were not going to be open for services until the end of February. We started services a week after the horses came over. Add to the mix, a new puppy and 2 new baby goats and you can imagine that our winter was CHAOS. Despite the chaos we managed to get through it with a lot of joy and only a few apologies between family members. We had the help of some great young men and with their help were able to transform a tractor shed that had been transformed into a goat barn into temporary horse stalls in time for our fur crew to come home. The last few days found us working in the wettest winter we have known in North Carolina.
Bringing our equine herd home presented its own challenges. They have never pastured together as a full herd and the geldings had never pastured with a mare. After a few experiments and mix options we finally were able to get them all in together. Bellarose still does not like a stall, but she certainly likes being in the larger herd. The little boys are convinced she fancies them, and we certainly are unable to persuade them otherwise.
Our poultry barn renovation into horse barn has been a work in progress. The going has been slow mostly because it seems as though there is always something else that needs done at the time. So far, we have gutted it down to the posts, shoveled out tons of mystery material on the floors, rerun the water lines, poured the center aisle concrete, installed a comprehensive drainage system to prevent the infiltration of ground water, created dry wells under each stall, and have staged the stall kits in their respective locations. Thanks to many of you, we have enough funds raised to get the tongue and groove wood to complete the stalls. After, we finish fencing the winter pasture, we hope to wrap this one up!
Speaking of fencing, we have spent a great deal of time replacing the wire fencing with wood fencing. While the wire is great for the goats, the horses can push through it. So far, we have fenced the therapy paddock and installed a loading platform, fenced off the orchard, and put in close to half of the winter pasture fencing. We are hoping to complete that by the New Year.
Hit the Trail
The other big project of our first year was some forestry management. We were able to have professionals come in and thin the forest of some of the smaller trees and clear portions of the trail. We recently completed the trail around the property, so now it is possible to ride around the perimeter of the entire property.
All of the proceeding was progress toward our vision of a therapy farm with an entire tool chest of therapy options.. Every day that we make progress allows us to reach more children in more ways. Our model is a unique one, but it has also proven effective and sustainable. Raising special needs children is expensive, physically exhausting and emotionally taxing. We wanted to provide a place of healing, happiness and eliminate the financial hurdle that many services require. Our therapy services are provided on a donation basis. Sometimes families are able to donate for their session. Sometimes they are not. Between the Alice Day fund and the revenue from the farm experience and pony parties, we have been able to provide services to every child that has desired it.
In 2019 we hosted over 250 children at the farm. That makes it all worth the effort. We are grateful for a fantastic 2019 and we look forward to a even more incredible 2020!