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'It doesn’t happen anywhere else' The transformation inside Green Hill Therapy

It's a safe space for children with special needs to grow physically and mentally. While the coronavirus has changed things, the mission remains the same.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A horse farm in Eastern Jefferson County is a favorite destination for kids with special needs, but as with most organizations, it’s had to transform itself in recent months with the pandemic.

The moment you walk into Green Hill Therapy’s horse arena, your eyes will wander.

"We want to make sure we have a lot to choose from for anyone who walks through that door," Sarah Halfacre, the facility's executive director said.

Green Hill Therapy provides year-round physical and occupational therapy to children ages 2 to 19, regardless of their ability to pay. 

It’s best known for its use of horses and aquatherapy, but the coronavirus put a halt to both back in March. The horses no longer visit the arena.

Credit: WHAS

The pool remains closed, but with the community’s help, staff turned the empty space into a theraplayground.

"As you look around the arena, we’ve got some great equipment and therapy tools, however, we wouldn’t have this without donations. Ninety-five percent of what you see here was donated from organizations like Crusade for Children," Halfacre said.

It's a crucial investment during a time when the number of children looking for support with Green Hill Therapy is up.

Credit: WHAS

"Children have not been in school, they’ve not been in daycare and summer camps, so they’re missing out on that social interaction," Halfacre said. "Their routines have changed. They’re not receiving their school-based services they normally would. So, we’ve become that place that provides all those things."

It's a safe space to learn and develop, both mentally and physically.

"It’s functional, it’s fun, it’s meaningful and it’s still exciting for the kids to come and work. The kids work hard. The work we do here is hard, we just don’t want the kids to know how hard they’re working," Halfacre said.

At the end of the day, it’s a victory.

Credit: WHAS

"I can’t even count on two hands how many times I’ve heard children say their first word, take their first steps, have their first real social interaction," Halfacre said. "I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s absolutely my favorite thing about being here. It doesn’t happen anywhere else."

The clinic reopened in May and is on track to have 500 therapy visits. Even with the challenges of the pandemic, the therapists have come up with innovative ways to help children meet their goals.

Like most businesses, Green Hill Therapy was hit hard by the pandemic. The organization lost a significant amount of revenue when it was forced to close in the spring. The clinic also relies heavily on donations, so the cancellation of in-person fundraising events has also made an impact. 

Donations to support Green Hill Therapy and the children it serves can be made online.

Contact reporter Brooke Hasch at bhasch@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@WHAS11Hasch) and Facebook.

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