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Local autistic children try their hands at ranching
Pitman High grad Austin Day shows Connor Smith, 12, the proper way to hold a rabbit. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal
“Look mom, I’m really holding him!” said Connor Smith as he snuggled a rabbit. The 12-year-old Ceres boy was one of 22 area children with Autism that took part in A Day on the Farm, a one-day camp sponsored by the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults to introduce young people to activities typically seen on a horse ranch.
This was the second year for the camp, held at Tom and Tami Truax’s 4T Ranch in Turlock. Tom Truax is the executive director of the Society for the Handicapped and his wife, Tami, is the principal at Dennis Earl Elementary School.
“I feel so blessed,” Tami Truax said, “because with my day job I work with amazing kids, families and teachers, and with my hobby (of owning a horse ranch), I am able to provide a stimulating environment for these kids.
“Being able to share the gift of animals with people from all areas is satisfying.”
The new “ranchers,” who ranged in age from 5 to 20 years old, were able to spend time getting to know average farmyard animals, such as a calf, duck, chicks and a rabbit. The campers and their families also tried their hands at roping, brushing and beautifying miniature ponies and then took time to saddle up on one of 4T’s horses.
Along with Tom and Tami Truax, about 30 teen and adult volunteers from local FFA chapters, high schools and community organizations donated their time and farm experience on Saturday.
For Austin Day, a recent Pitman High School graduate, and Mitchell Day, a Denair High junior, this was their second time volunteering at the A Day on the Farm event.
“It gives the kids a look at the farm (and most of them) haven’t  experienced that before,” Austin Day said.
Carole McFarlane, director of operations for the Society for the Handicapped, was very pleased with the event’s success.
“We had a waiting list of kids who wanted to participate,” she said. “Animals are therapeutic for all children, and especially for children with disabilities.”
The Society for the Handicapped hosted two A Day on the Farm events this year, one in the fall and one in the summer. They also sponsor a winter skiing program for disabled children and adults.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.