I just returned home from a most inspiring conference called "Growing Together: Kids, Animals and Sowing the Seeds of Resiliency" held at Green Chimneys in Brewster, New York (the history of its name can be read here, the list of speakers can be seen here, and informational videos can be seen here).
I'd been to Green Chimneys twice before. However, when I arrived there to attend the meeting and to present the keynote address, I was shocked at how much it had grown and when I saw all they had done in the intervening years, including their Clearpool Campus (details about their expansion offered by its executive director, Joseph Whalen, can be seen here).
Green Chimneys, founded by Sam and Myra Ross, grabs you the second you enter the grounds and see gorgeous landscapes and you meet numerous diverse nonhuman animals (animals) and humans, including the amazing staff and lucky kids who attend school there. In many ways the nonhumans and humans educate, help, and heal one another.
The mission statement of this most wonderful place reads as follows:
"Helping our young people to maximize their potential by providing residential, educational, clinical and recreational services, in a safe and supportive environment that nurtures connections with their families, the community, animals and nature. From the start, Green Chimneys' philosophy has been based on the belief that if children are given a chance to explore and discover their inherent strengths in a safe and structured nature-based environment, their self-esteem, compassion, coping and social skills will improve. The concept of an enriched treatment setting that brings people together with animals and plants in a mutually beneficial relationship lies at the foundation of the Green Chimneys approach. Human-animal contact - and contact with all aspects of nature - can have a profound effect on people; these elements are an integral part of the Green Chimneys campus and organizational identity. Each of our programs celebrate the dignity and worth of all living things and our goal for our children, our staff, and all who partner with us is to bring knowledge and meaning to our relationships with the world, and with each other."
You can read about their residential treatment center here.
When I arrived this time I was met by Michael Kaufmann who directs The Sam and Myra Ross Institute and the Farm and Wildlife Center. Before I could even say "Hi Michael, I'm glad to be here," Michael, with contagious zeal, started walking around showing me the facilities and introducing me to humans and other animals and telling me all about Green Chimneys' remarkable growth and amazing achievements. Their Farm and Wildlife Center is now home to over 300 farm animals, permanently injured or imprinted wildlife and horses. The main purpose for each animal's presence is to thrive in the care at Green Chimneys and play a supportive role in educational and animal-assisted therapy for children with special needs. By sponsoring an animal, you are directly supporting the daily care for our most popular teachers - our animals!
While the people whom I met were wonderful beings, I also met other fascinating beings including some horses, goats, mules, pigs, rats, snakes, and birds who are lucky to be there. I also met two Bactrian camels, Phoenix and Sage, who arrived at Green Chimneys from Sacred Camel Gardens.