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Just a day of horsin' around

A Corey
A Corey's Day on the Farm volunteer gives participant Amanda King roping lessons. The event was at the Fairgrounds on Monday and Tuesday.
— image credit: Photo by Erin Beil

Squeals of joy could be heard chorusing the neighs of horses as wide smiles and excitement-filled eyes flooded the Fairgrounds Monday and Tuesday for the much anticipated Corey's Day on the Farm.

With opportunities to learn how to rope hay bale cattle, scratch the necks of llamas, ride horses and ponies, take a hay ride trip around the Fairgrounds and play in the petting zoo, children from all over the Olympic Peninsula traveled in for the special event.

Impacting the lives of special needs children for more than 40 years, Nick and Coleta Corey, founders of Corey's Day on the Farm, started the event with just a few horses in their backyard.

"It seems like (Corey's Day on the Farm) gets bigger every year," Coleta Corey said as a smile spread across her face. "When we started saying it's been 40 years, I wondered 'Where did all the years go?'"

The event on Monday and Tuesday also provided opportunities for children to have their faces painted, get personalized balloon animals and eat multiple flavored snow cones. One of the biggest hits among kids who attend Corey's Day on the Farm, Coleta Corey said, is the barbecued hot dog lunch.

"It's really amazing the lives (touched) all day long," said Lin Kellison, a volunteer who helped children in the horseback riding ring. "The greatest thing in the whole world is the looks on (the kids') faces."

Although the two-day event now supports close to 1,000 children and has been moved to the Fairgrounds, the idea came long ago from the Corey's special needs son Danny.

For a show and tell project in Danny's classroom, the Coreys brought in a litter of puppies and were amazed at how many of the children never had the opportunity to be around animals.

"It's a shame those kids didn't ever hold puppies before," Coleta said, "So we invited the whole class out to the farm the next year."

For the next few years, the Coreys offered to have special needs students come out to their farm. After the word got out, many schools across the county began calling to see if they could come to the farm for the same experience. With the help of their three sons, they were able to offer the children horseback riding and hayrides. Coleta Corey said it was during those days that she and friends would spend hours in the kitchen making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunches for the students.

In 1972, Corey's Day on the Farm was serving more than 1,000 children from different schools and four different counties. In 1986, the event had grown exponentially, and was moved to the Fairgrounds with more room to offer additional activities.

"It's a one day therapy session for these kids and they look forward to it every year," Coleta Corey said.

For the past two years, with the help of the Thunderbird Rodeo, rodeo and barrel racing events have raised necessary funds to help support the costs. Coleta Corey said between the volunteers, fund-raising and food donations, everyone in the community stretches out their hands to help. Nearly 200 volunteers helped to make the event a success this year.

"I doubt a day goes by without thinking about the day on the farm," Coleta said

As something that is anticipated by special needs children once the school year starts, Nick and Coleta Corey are like celebrities to children who have been to Corey's Day on the Farm before.

"Corey's Day on the Farm helps make people aware of children like this," Coleta explained, "And it lets these children know that there's somebody who cares."

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