It was a couple of weeks ago that Spence and I were treated to an experience with a remarkable young man named Kevin. Kevin has a very significant developmental disability, but he makes up for it by being something like a human version of a ray of sunshine! We were fortunate enough to be contacted by his Dream on 3 team to be included in his special Dream day which started with the UNC Men’s basketball team and then they came to us. Kevin said he wants to be a farmer. His family has farmed for generations, and currently he has chickens and his father farms cattle as well as working for Southern States agricultural supply. Kevin and his team, which included his sister, his father, his case worker Mike, and two photographers arrived at Spence’s Farm around 3:30 pm on Saturday February 9, 2019. Kevin greeted me with a big smile and a hug. He was full of smiles and happy excitement! We basically followed the same format as we do for a birthday party. We started with a little talk about what a family farm is like, how we “pay the garden” and “pay the chickens” for the food they provide. Kevin seemed to love every moment, whether it was listening to Spence’s stories and education, or pulling weeds for “animal food” pulling carrots for “human food” or feeding and handing the small animals. He was very timid about the chickens and bunnies. He really seemed to love being around them, and would touch them, but would not hold them or let the chickens eat out of his hand. He really enjoyed gathering eggs, and his father told me that he often checks for eggs at home 3 times a day.
Once we had fully enjoyed the small animals and learned a bit about bravery, respect, communication with animals, and being calm, we headed for the horses. Spence gave his CRAFTS of Partnership speech and demo, and Kevin actively listened and copied all the motions as he soaked it up. Kevin was quite interested in the horses, but they are pretty big! He enjoyed brushing them and making friends with them. Getting on top of one, however, was more of a challenge. He walked up the steps and stood on top and looked at Spring (the horse) with her saddle and stirrups, and tried to get up the nerve to get all the way onto the saddle, but could not quite do it. No Problem! Spence worked his magic, knowing just how to coax the bravest part of Kevin to the surface. Spence had already arranged for another way to get on top of a horse — Indian (Native American) -style! Spence had Kevin’s sister and Mike and Kevin line up behind Tonka (a really big sturdy pony.) They walked up the 3 steps, onto a barrel, then leap-frogged (or scooted, for the less adventurous) onto the horse from behind. There was no intimidating saddle, just a riding blanket strapped to the pony. That did the trick! They all jumped on and rolled off as if they were Native Americans playing. Kevin happily followed the leader and found himself riding a horse! Once he was on top, he was still a little unsure about his balance. Spence worked with him to feel the rhythm of the walking horse and to trust his own balance. Soon, he was able to ride by himself without a lead rope. There was such an amazing amount of joy and pride coming from him as he rode around the ring! His father had told us that he did not think Kevin would be able to ride on a horse at all because he was generally afraid of new things, but he was happily surprised! Kevin gave lots and lots of hugs and high-five’s and fist-bumps throughout the day, but I think he must have hugged Spence 10 times after his horse riding experience. We feel really honored to have been asked to be a part of Kevin’s Dream day, and I think we benefitted just as much from meeting Kevin and his family/team, as they did coming to spend the afternoon with us. His day at Spence’s Farm was described as “magical” by his team. Kevin has such a beautiful spirit, he clearly brings light and joy wherever he goes. After his experience at Spence’s Farm, he has learned that he can be braver than he thinks he is, and capable of doing more than he has ever done before. In fact, it was not just Kevin who benefitted from this experience, Kevin’s entire team was actively participating, and Mike said he was able to do things that he was afraid to do prior to coming to Spence’s Farm (for example, riding a horse.)
One of our guiding principles at Spence’s Farm is to bring out the best in everyone and to help each individual realize their own potential. The garden and animals help us to teach responsibility, bravery, effective communication, how to stay calm and centered, to trust oneself and others, friendship, partnership, and leadership. People seem to understand these concepts easily when applied in the farm setting, somehow it is more natural and immediately applicable. Nature gave us great teachers, and it is our privilege and joy to be able to bring that education to our community.
Mina and Spence
Please check out Dream on 3’s website to see Kevin’s adventure: https://www.dreamon3.org/dreams/kevin-unc-basketball/