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Autistic youngsters meet animals they
By Margaret Gillerman
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
FRANKLIN COUNTY--As horses neighed and roosters crowed,
Dakota Simon leaned over a fence at a farm for abused or unwanted
animals and fed a homemade biscuit to a grateful hound called White Dog.
"I love animals and I just think they need help, like us," said
Dakota, 13, one of a group of autistic youngsters who made a project of
raising money to help creatures like White Dog — blind, deaf and rescued
from a puppy mill.
The youngsters baked dog biscuits as a project at school, Giant Steps of
St. Louis, which specializes in children and adolescents with an autism
On Wednesday, the students visited the
non-profit Shannon Foundation farm in rural Franklin County, to deliver
biscuits and a check for $520 they earned selling them.
with disabilities are more typically on the receiving end of community
service work, said Betty Berger, the school's director. The biscuit
project put kids such as Dakota on the giving end.
had a job," Berger said as she walked through the wooded rolling hills
of the farm with the students. "Some kids made fliers and others posted
them. Some kids baked the dog biscuits. Some took orders and sold the
biscuits. They learned about money and counting and all about the
The field trip included the opportunity to pet and feed
dogs and a donkey, and to watch an aged red horse named Old Daisy get
her hooves trimmed.
"Daisy came to us and was nearly starved to
death," explained Rhonda Stephens, founder of the Shannon Foundation.
Stephens lives on the 100-acre farm, tending the animals with the help
The animals typically have been rescued from
abuse, are too old or ill for adoption, or belonged to people unable to
care for them.
The menagerie includes about 100 horses, goats,
pot-bellied pigs, emus, llamas, foxes, dogs, cats, deer and rabbits.
Many are friendly enough to come right up to the visitors.
Stephens said the Shannon Foundation is not accepting new animals right
now and urgently needs money for repairs and care of the animals it has.
"Donations are down terribly with the economy the way it is, and
it's extremely rough for us," she said.
The foundation can be
reached at 636-629-4800 or online at theshannonfoundation.org.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 314-725-6758