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Klassy Kids Farm caters to individuals with disabilities

Posted: January 19, 2018

by John Benson

 

Sagamore Hills resident Marilyn Ann Petrilli spent 30 years working for the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. During that time, the teacher assistant always dreamed of opening a venue serving developmentally disabled adults through animal-assisted therapy. 

 

Petrilli was no stranger to the notion of relying on farm animals such as goats and mini-donkeys for therapy.

 

“I have firsthand experience with clinical depression,” she said. “These creatures are part of how I manage this disability.”

 

So when Petrilli retired a few years ago, she gave teaching art a try before making her dream come true and filling a need in the developmentally disabled adults community. 

 

“When I lived in Macedonia, I had a goat boarded in Twinsburg that took part in parades,” Petrilli said. “I would take Luigi to nursing homes and more. He did a lot. And I saw the effect he had, especially on older people. 

 

“He passed on since then, but then I found this property in Sagamore. I don’t know. It all just kind of happened.”

 

What happened was in 2015, Petrilli moved onto a 3.5-acre Sagamore Hills lot. A year later she opened up Klassy Kids Farm. The nonprofit boasts seven goats and two miniature donkeys. 

 

“We’re set up to provide therapeutic benefits, kind of just having a relationship with animals and people visiting animals,” Petrilli said. “It’s particularly devoted to individuals with developmental disabilities, but other people come here, too. 

 

“Mostly we host little field trips out to the farm. They’re from the Hattie Larlham facility where they have day programs. It’s very low key, and it’s not a moneymaker. Like you can put a couple of dollars in a can as a donation. We’ve had a couple of fundraisers that go towards the hay, but I pay everything.”

 

Visitors to Klassy Kids Farm begin in the educational building where they learn about different aspects of goats and donkeys. Other educational topics include the use of a bat house to control insects. 

 

People are encouraged to interact with, but not feed, the animals. Petrilli said in the act of feeding, a finger could be accidentally chomped. That said, the goats and donkey are pretty docile. 

 

“I have two Nigerian dwarf goats that I take out and put in a little pen for them to pet,” Petrilli said. “My other goats aren’t aggressive, but they have horns. I have like a fortress because goats are prey. So I have to protect them from coyotes and dogs, but they’re just fun to watch.”

 

Then there are the two mini-donkeys, which love attention. 

 

“They’re like dogs when they want to be petted,” Petrilli said. “They can come up to the fence. We had a wheelchair sidewalk put in so they can roll over there. 

 

“The donkeys are very bright. They’re very loving. They just want you to love them. It’s really something. People go away feeling really good. They love it.”

 

Klassy Kids Farm is located at 8315 N. Boyden Rd. For more information, email klassykidsfarm@gmail.com or visit Klassy Kids Farm on Facebook.

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