We were honored at our Blue Jean Ball fundraising event for our Cherry Ridge Therapeutic Learning Programs when Peyton was brought forward and said “Hi” to our audience. I am pleased to announce I had actually met him before this evening when he attended our Cherry Ridge Farms Dances With Nature program last October. In my station, that Fall day, he got to feed an apple slice to our miniature horse, Misty, then led her alongside his wheelchair in the arena while he had music accompanying him.He truly likes his music!
Introducing Peyton. He visited our farm last October. He wanted to say hi.
My first interaction with special needs was decades ago. When I was a small child we had moved to the country and had few neighbors. I was to learn that our neighbor had a mentally handicapped son. Mother explained to the best of her ability what that meant and what we might encounter to give us a better understanding. To this day, years later, this scene is still very fresh in my mind.
It was a warm day and we accompanied Mom to Gloria’s farm to see her backyard flower garden, situated behind a two story, Civil War era brick, a widow’s watch on top, with lovely rock pathways around it and in her garden, too.
Upon our arrival, Mrs. Turner invited us in to meet her youngest son Bobby. Then she asked us if we cared if Bobby came outside with us to play while they went to her garden? Being very young, we didn’t quite know what to expect, but we said yes.Outside, Bobby joyfully stole the show.
In his backyard, near the garden, he had a mechanical merry go round. I don’t know if that is what it is really called—each sat on a seat in a circle facing one another, and each person pushed the handles forward then pulled back and the whole lot of us four kids started going round, and round like a merry go round. We got up great speed, indeed. Bobby was across from me with a smile.
We offer many therapeutic programs at our farm for special needs.
To this day, I still remember Bobby laughing out loud having the time of his life. We all couldn’t help but laugh, too. His was contagious. Soon, we had that thing going full tilt, when suddenly he let his hands loose of the handle and raised them in the air and smiled even more brilliantly. Of course we gasped at first when he let go, seriously scared that he would fly off, but no, he didn’t. His strong legs held him on. I think he loved the great out doors and the breeze blowing in his face just like us—of course he did—maybe more.
We lived next door to Bobby for three years and visited on occasion. Of course on visitingwe couldn’t wait to ridethe mechanical contraption, expecting, waiting, watching for that magical moment when he would let go, giggling, with a smile reaching as far as the east is to the west, raising his hands in the air as if praising God. Still to this day, I’ve never forgotten that scene of Bobby’s incredible joy.
So Here’s the Thing: To this day, I feel it was the way Mom handled our introduction to special needs that made the difference. Bobby was a bit different, maybe more than a bit, we kids could tell, but we were to respect that and be kind. And we were. I heard it just the other day, from a young person, ‘Kind is cool.’ And that is how we should be toward those with special needs, like Bobby. Don’t you agree?