A Message from the Executive Director – February 2021
2021 is here, and well, it feels a lot like 2020 so far. We are under a Provincial stay at home order, which means that we are unable to offer any on-site programming until restrictions are eased back. This is obviously challenging for all of us. Our participants and volunteers are missing the Farm; and the staff are missing that feeling that comes with seeing the smiles of our participants and knowing the difference our programs make in their lives. However, we must remember, no matter how challenging it is, that we are being cautious now to keep everyone safe so that we can one day return to empowering, inspiring, and changing lives. With that in mind, let’s focus on what is happening at the Farm, as well as what’s ahead to look forward to.
Our Learning-4-Life staff: Jennifer, Colleen, and Brett have become Zoom afficionados and continue to offer the L4L program online four days a week. The beauty of the online environment is that we can accommodate quite a few people at once, and it provides an easy, comfortable opportunity for new participants to get a feel for what the program is like. From yoga and arts and crafts to talent shows and special guests, the online L4L sessions are almost as good as the real thing! If you know of anyone that would like to check one out, please get in touch with our L4L Program Coordinator, Jennifer Crothers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once restrictions are lifted and we are once again able to have people back on site, we will be bringing back a reduced capacity version of therapeutic riding program, as well as the Community Participation program. We are hopeful that we’ll be able to host Spring, Summer and Fall sessions for both programs in 2021. We will be in touch with past participants when we are given the green light, but we are always welcoming new participants in both programs. For more information on our therapeutic riding program, please email Pat Bullock at email@example.com, and for info on how to get involved in the Community Participation program, please reach out to Eleanor Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also be offering day visits for small groups. Our day visits are customized to the interests and abilities of each group. To place a hold on a future date, please email email@example.com. Finally, please keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram accounts for news on future drive-thru events. Last year’s events were a big success and we are itching to plan another fun farm tour for you and your families!
As we close in on a year of living through a pandemic, we ask you to remember that WindReach Farm was started by a man that refused to be held back by life’s challenges. Sandy Mitchell created WindReach in the face of adversity and look at what it has become 30+ years later! Sure, times are tough, and we are all stir-crazy and missing activities and loved ones, but we are resilient and we are only limited by what we believe we can accomplish. Many of you can’t come up to the Farm right now, but you can embody its spirit. If you are missing the Farm, do something to empower, inspire, and change someone’s life that could use a little pick me up right now. It’s what Sandy would’ve done.
A Message from the Executive Director – November 2020
2020 has surely been a year that we will all remember. In the Spring, we were forced to change our way of life virtually overnight. Through the summer, we learned how versatile and creative we can all be and bonded together to make the most of the circumstances we were dealt.
Despite the challenges, 2020 was not without its highlights at the Farm. Our Foundation held its first golf tournament in August and it was a resounding success. We developed a drive-thru concept and have now held eight drive-thru events at the Farm. Our last, the Halloween edition, was by far the most successful with 360 cars completing the course over two days. Please stay tuned to our social media accounts for information on our plans for a safe and festive holiday event. We launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised over $75,000 to date and continues to climb. Many of the folks that have contributed to this campaign and engaged in these events are new to the Farm, and we are thrilled to welcome them to the WindReach family and ask that they continue to spread the word about our mission and the people that benefit from our programs and services. Finally, we had new and familiar partners, such as the Raschkowan Foundation, the Honda Canada Foundation, and Ontario Power Generation contribute generously to the Farm to help us navigate our way through the early, uncertain days of the pandemic.
With COVID-19 in its second wave, we are keeping programs open, but not growing them beyond their current limits until the incidence of daily cases begins to decrease. The therapeutic riding program has 50 riders completing the Fall riding session and will look to maintain those numbers in the Winer 2021 session that begins in January. The Community Participation program has approximately 10 participants engaged in chores and animal care and has the capacity to safely accommodate more. The Learning for Life program continues to connect with participants virtually every Wednesday, but is now also offering in-person programming on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Spaces are limited each day as we are capping the number of people in the program (including staff and support workers) to 10, but we do have room for more participants on Mondays and Tuesdays, and we also have the capacity to open up Wednesdays and Fridays to meet the demand, as needed. With the unseasonably warm November temperatures, a visit to the Farm could be a fun outing for a family looking to get out of the house for an afternoon, or a small work retreat with your staff. We can plan a visit for up to 20 individuals. If interested, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now that Fall is here, we have become accustomed to our new hygiene protocols and are planning for the new year ahead. With things being as uncertain as they are at the moment, it is proving to be a more challenging exercise than usual, but I am encouraged and inspired by the resourcefulness and resilience of our staff and volunteers, and know that we will continue to work together to ensure that WindReach Farm continues to be a place that changes people’s lives every day.
A Message from the Executive Director – August 2020
It’s hard to believe that another 3 months have flown by! 2020 sure has been a different year for all of us. However, despite all of the obvious drawbacks of having to deal with the effects of a global pandemic, there have been some silver linings. I, personally, have noticed that people seem to be more caring, compassionate and patient with each other. Many people have found a slower, healthier pace of life. And it seems that everyone is spending a great deal more time outdoors. We have been forced to be nimble and creative and that has allowed us to discover new ways to interact with our stakeholders, such as the drive-thru experiences we have been offering at the Farm in recent months.
As we reach the halfway point of the summer, we are excited to announce that we are easing back most of our programs. The therapeutic riding program has already welcomed back a handful of riders, and will be opening up further for the Fall session in September. The Community Participation program has seen some of its participants return and is ready to accommodate more. The Learning for Life program has been connecting with participants virtually, but will be bringing back small in-person groups beginning the week of August 10th. Our day visit program is now welcoming groups of up to 20 individuals to come up to the Farm for scheduled visits. Our horticultural therapy program is once again booking in-person sessions. Our mobile outreach program, Beyond the Farm Gate is available to book for outdoor visits to your facility. We are also entertaining requests for small, outdoor facility rentals. We are evaluating each on a case-by-case basis, so cannot guarantee that we will move forward with all requests, but please get in touch with us by emailing email@example.com if you are looking for an outdoor venue for your event.
Woven into the return of all of these programs are some new health and safety protocols. We have developed a set of hygiene procedures that must be followed by all staff, volunteers, and visitors in order to ensure everyone’s safety. These procedures include the need to wear masks when indoors (unless exempt under one of the conditions recognized by the Region), and the need for every visitor to the Farm to complete a series of screening questions each day before they leave their home to come to the Farm.
The programs and services that we are not bringing back yet include the overnight visitor program and open house events. Gatherings with the volume of individuals that attend open house events are still considered too risky at this point, and the immersive nature of the overnight visitor program, and the associated cleaning procedures, are something we are choosing to hold off on until a later date. We will be sure to keep you apprised as more restrictions are lifted and our programs start to expand again.
It is refreshing to feel like we are turning a corner on COVID-19 and getting back to changing lives and delivering on our mission. However, as we do so, we need to keep the lessons we have learned throughout these past few months close at hand and proceed with caution for the health and safety of all of our stakeholders. With that in mind, I would like to publicly recognize the resiliency, hard work and positivity of the WindReach staff and volunteers in helping to keep the Farm running and providing service to our participants throughout these trying times.
A Message from the Executive Director – May 2020
Well…here we are. It’s a rather unprecedented time in all of our lives. Like many other businesses, not-for-profits and charities in our province, country, and the world, the Farm had to temporarily close its doors, or rather our gates, in response to COVID-19. Our new reality is holing up at home, washing our hands constantly, and walking our dogs seven times a day. With everything going on, it is easy to focus on the negatives: fearing the disease, and wondering how the economy will bounce back, and when we can visit and hold our loved ones again. While all of those are very real concerns, you can just as easily focus on the positives. Never before have we been so aware of the heroes that walk amongst us every day; the doctors, nurses, and front-line workers of all kinds that put the rest of us first every day to ensure that we can live the lives we are all missing right now.
WindReach Farm is a place that was founded to provide hope and to change lives for the better. We take the ordinary and make it extraordinary, focusing on life’s simple pleasures and the difference that a little kindness and compassion can make in someone’s life. We are now six weeks into the closure at the Farm and while I miss the banging of drums from the Learning for Life program, the chatter and laughter of our participants, and the smiling faces of our 300+ volunteers, I have been touched by the positive attitude and selfless gestures of our WindReach family every day.
Despite our limited ability to offer traditional programming right now, our staff have been finding creative ways to stay in touch with our stakeholders. Our horticultural therapist has been offering remote sessions to some of the groups she typically works with; our cleaner has been volunteering his time to feed and care for the animals; our Learning for Life staff have found time to offer virtual sessions with our adult day program participants; and our Beyond the Farm Gate Coordinator has been managing our social media accounts and incubating eggs laid at the Farm.
All of the animals here are doing well and the staff and volunteers that are here throughout the closure are working hard to keep the Farm just the way you know and love it so we can welcome everyone back soon. We can, and will, get back to what we do best, but we could definitely use your help to do so. We have been very fortunate to receive support during this time from some of our most dedicated partners: Ontario Power Generation, the Honda Canada Foundation, TD, and the Pickering Mayor’s Gala. If you are able to support the Farm in any way, please click on the Donate button on this site. Every little bit helps to keep caring for the animals and keep the Farm in a ready state to return stronger than ever.
As we continue to navigate back to “normal”, there will be days where you may feel anxious, or scared, or down. In those times, I would encourage you to think about what it is that you enjoy so much about WindReach Farm. Everyone that comes to the Farm believes in what is possible, and finds peace and happiness in the simple pleasures in life. Focus on those simple pleasures and do what you can to change others’ lives for the better. Call your families, enjoy the extra time with the loved ones you live with, and take the time to learn a new language, cook, whatever you’ve always wanted to do and never had the time. The animals and people that you miss at WindReach will be here to welcome you back soon.