It’s all Sam’s fault.
That’s what Coleta Corey lovingly says when she talks about the Corey’s Day on the Farm celebration which is set this year for May 13 and 14 at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.
“If Sam (short for Samantha) hadn’t of had that litter of puppies, none of this ever would have gotten started,” Corey said.
It was that litter of pups and taking them to show her son’s special needs classmates that planted the seed of what has become Corey’s Day on the Farm.
The year was 1968 and it was “show-and-tell” day and her son, Dan, was 9 years old. He talked her into taking the litter of pups to his school.
“We took the puppies in for his classmates to see and it was so obvious that those kids hadn’t been around animals,” she said. “But they seemed to enjoy it. So on the way home I told my husband (Nick) that we should invite them all out to the farm so they could experience what it is like to be around all the animals.”
They did just that, and that first year they had 26 children at their Silverdale farm for the day. The kids got to ride ponies and see other farm animals.
The following year, the Coreys invited the class back and word got out. Soon other special needs classrooms asked if they could participate.
By 1979, they had to move the event to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds because hundreds of kids were attending.
Now, more than 1,000 special needs students from four counties attend the event which also has 150 to 200 volunteers that make it a success. It has also grown from one day to two.
The kids get to ride ponies, pet farm animals, take hayrides and eat hot dogs and potato chips.
“And everything is free,” Coleta said. “Merchants from around here donate all the food and our volunteers take care of setting up everything and working to see that every child gets to enjoy themselves.”
Probably the most important volunteer at the event is the Coreys’ son Dan. Now at age 54, Dan helps as he has every year since he talked his mom into taking that litter of pups to school.
Dan, who is legally blind and mentally challenged, completed high school after he attended a school for the blind in Vancouver.
“I remember,” said his mother, “it was right after the first time we had kids at the farm that I got a call from the (Bremerton) school district telling me that they wouldn’t have a place for Dan in their schools the following year. We didn’t know what we were going to do.”
But, she said, she was able to get Dan enrolled in a school for the blind in Vancouver where he attended for five years. Then he came back home and went to East High in Bremerton where he graduated. He has since lived with his parents.
“He’s very active,” Coleta said. “He takes walks all the way out to the road where the mailboxes are twice a day. And he reads a lot.
“He taught himself to read and write and he’s an expert on Ford trucks. Just ask him anything and he’ll know the answer.”
The Coreys have five sons, two who live in homes they’ve built near their parent’s home on the Corey farm.
Scott and his wife, Lisa, and Colan and his wife, Joanne, help with the Day on the Farm alongside Dan. The other two sons live out of state. They also have 11 grandchildren.
For Coleta and Nick, the simple fact that they get to see special needs children enjoying themselves is enough to keep hosting the Day on the Farm.
“These kids have this day that is just for them where nobody tells them that they can’t do something,” she said. “We make sure of that. We even get the kids who are in wheelchairs up on the ponies if they want a ride.”
There’s hardly a person around Kitsap County that doesn’t know about Corey’s Day on the Farm, she said.
“Everywhere I go people tell me that they’ve known someone whose child has had the chance to attend the day at the farm,” Coleta said. “And they thank me.”
And for the parents, it’s a day when their child is just like any other child.
“Back when we found out Dan had special needs, there wasn’t a lot of help,” she said. “We understand as parents how hard it can be.
“Today, there are more resources. But it’s still just about a parent wanting their child to be able to do what any other child can.”
As for the future of Corey’s Day on the Farm, Coleta isn’t worried.
“We have the greatest volunteers and donors,” she said. “They come through for us every year.
“And when Nick and I are gone, our sons will keep doing this. Our daughters-in-law, too. It was part of their marriage contracts,” she joked.
To find out more, go to Facebook and look for Corey’s Day on the Farm, or call Coleta at 360-692-4769.