- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

RICHMOND, Ill. (AP) - A nearly 30-year-old therapeutic farm that owners say is bursting at the seams soon will have a new space to call home.

Main Stay Therapeutic Farm in Richmond is a nonprofit organization that serves adults and children with special needs through therapeutic riding, equine and animal-assisted and adaptive garden programs.

Main Stay has treated clients with traumatic brain injuries or those on the autism spectrum. It also serves clients with cerebral palsy, developmental challenges, Down syndrome, stroke survivors and individuals with memory or behavioral issues.

Clients range in age from 3 to 90, with about 60 percent of clients younger than 18. The riding program serves about 75 to 100 individuals a week, with an additional 20 to 25 in the animal-assisted learning program. Main Stay currently works with 150 volunteers.

Main Stay also collaborates with and provides services to Family Alliance, One Hope United, Child Advocacy Center of McHenry County, Pioneer Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County, Head Start, SEDOM, Garden Quarter, Lake County Mental Health Development and several school districts, among others.

Executive Director Loriann Dowell said the new facility, which the organization has been planning for close to 10 years, is coming at just the right time because it is quickly growing out of its current space.

Construction on the 40-acre farm is well underway, and the facility should be completed in June. Staff members hope to have everything moved to the new facility in the middle of July. Dowell said the relatively mild winter helped move construction along.

The 37,000-square-foot building includes a 20-stall barn, an additional indoor riding area, clubroom space to hold non-riding group sessions, space for the volunteers and office space. The facility also will be temperature-controlled, with the hope of being able to ride year-round. The existing facility will be repurposed and used for the animal-assisted learning program.

“It will afford us with a lot of opportunities,” she said.

Dowell said that in extreme heat or cold, classes often had to be canceled because the existing facility was not temperature-controlled.

Main Stay programs address not only physical needs, but also emotional and mental needs as well.

R.B. McAllister, 69, started attending riding sessions 3½ years ago after he woke up one day in July 2010 paralyzed from the neck down. After several hospital visits and rehabilitation center stays, McAllister started his road to recovery. In addition to equine therapy once a week, he attends aqua therapy, and physical and occupational therapy, to help regain strength and ability.

McAllister has worked with two horses since he began at Main Stay - Louie and Cowboy.

“(Riding) makes me stronger, and I want to work hard to get better,” the Woodstock resident said. “Louie has made a big difference in my life.”

Dowell said McAllister has come a long way since he started therapeutic riding sessions.

“It takes a pretty calm, patient horse to do this because this is not what horses are trained to do,” Dowell said.

Main Stay staff members hope the updated facility will allow them to expand their services to more programs and clients. Main Stay plans to expand its prospective rider list in anticipation of the new facility opening this summer.

“It’s an exciting time for us to be able to breathe a little,” said Sara Foszcz, founder and board president.

Dowell said that with certain therapeutic services being cut from the state, people are looking for alternative kinds of therapies.

“You may start to see a greater need for services like Main Stay,” she said.

Main Stay does not receive any state or federal funding, so the farm relies on fundraising events, grants from private foundations and donations to help cover costs, Dowell said.

Fees paid by clients cover less than 20 percent of costs. Main Stay recently held its annual Black Tie & Blue Jeans Gala on Sunday.

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Source: The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald, http://bit.ly/1s1y1Tn

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Information from: The Northwest Herald, http://www.nwherald.com

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