LYON - Parents want their children to experience inclusion, independence and joy. And there is a place near Lyons that can help with that. It is called the Sleepy Teepee Ranch.
It is a working hay ranch that welcomes visits from special needs groups. Owners Jim and Jeri Wall take time out of their day to accommodate groups from across Colorado.
"We are so blessed to have this and if you don't pay it forward what good is it?," said Jim Wall.
"Just the look on their faces when they feel the breath of an animal or the whisker of the animal on their hand. I mean, you cannot find that in a classroom," said Jeri Wall.
Jeri speaks from experience.
"I was a Jefferson County Adapted Physical Education Teacher for 27 years," said Jeri.
So, visitors to the Sleepy Teepee Ranch are usually groups with special needs, like the Longmont Down Syndrome Grandparents group.
They often bring whole families of excited, and sometimes timid participants, but Jeri and Jim are there to encourage the kids.
"It's ok, be real gentle. It's ok, it's ok. You did it! Give me five, give me five! Good boy! Cole, you want to do one?," Jeri says to a group of kids wanting to feed the donkeys.
The animals are more than fun for the kids. For some, they offer a way to overcome sensory integration issues, and that builds confidence.
"I think it's good for them, it's good for the animals, and it's good for our hearts," said Jim.
"You are glad there are people out there who have dedicated their lives and give of their time and energy, and it's expensive! And they're just making a real commitment to serving our population," said Mac Macsovits, Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association.
It is a commitment of inclusion that Jim and Jeri Wall have made for more than seven years.
"The special needs kids were such a part of my life for so long that when I retired from Jeffco I didn't want to give them up," said Jeri.
"We just love to see their faces light up and love to give them some enjoyment because that makes this place special," said Jim.