Surrounded by lush landscape, Arion Therapeutic Farm in southeast Kelowna was founded in 2009 as a small, equine-assisted therapy pilot project.
Fast forward to 2018 and the farm has expanded to include animals of all types, education and family programs, volunteer opportunities, tours and one-on-one workshops.
The sanctuary helps all types of people in the community – from those with physical and mental disabilities, trauma and mental illness, to seniors looking to reconnect with nature, and even at-risk youth.
Founder and director Heather Henderson said the magic of the farm lies with the animals.
“It’s the unconditional love they give us,” Henderson said. “These animals bring amazing peace and calm to anyone, really.”
Many visitors end up being regular volunteers, helping to run the facility and welcome new guests.
Sarah Phillion is a student with special needs who first visited Arion about a decade ago. Now a daily volunteer, she’s completing her schooling on the farm.
Sarah’s most cherished part of the job: caring for the horses.
“Blue’s one of my favourites”, Sarah said. “I just feel less stressed and more relaxed.”
Seniors are another group that benefit from getting back to nature.
Eighty-six year old Edgar Anderson and some of his friends from the retirement home visit regularly to help around the farm.
“It makes me feel good to volunteer and get out in the fresh air. Being in the retirement home, there isn’t much to do,” Anderson said. “I was born on a farm, so animals are just nice to see.”
The sanctuary carries many expenses, and keeping it active and thriving is a community-wide effort.
Henderson and her team rely on fundraisers to stay afloat.
To get involved, the public is invited to Farm Fest 2018. Live music with Lee Dinwoodie, line dancing and hay rides will entertain visitors of all ages and proceeds will used to maintain the farm and animals.