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It’s a special day on the farm for ‘Corey’s kids’
Everybody is the same.
That’s what the founders of Corey’s Day on the Farm hope attendees feel about the two-day event hosted each and every year since 1968.
The event is for special needs children who may not otherwise be able to participate in field trips or unique educational activities due to limitations through school. But the founders wanted to create a day just for those children to feel like they can do things like everyone else.
“We’ve had so many good, good memories,” said Coleta Corey, founder of the event, along with her husband, Nick Corey. “You look past the disability and look at the child.”
The couple started the event officially the day after Mother’s Day as a way to honor other children who had special needs like the Coreys’ son, Danny.
When they started, it was on their farm with three ponies. Since then, the event has grown and expanded to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.
With blue skies and fun times beckoning, the fairgrounds filled quickly on Monday and Tuesday morning with chaperones and parents escorting children of all ages around. From tiny tykes to teens, most heads were donned with cowboy hats and many wore bright “Corey’s Day on the Farm” t-shirts.
Robert Silva brought his sons for the second year in a row to the event for the sunshine and experience that lights up his twin boys’ faces.
“It’s fun,” said Silva. “They get to get out here and get to ride the horses and use the lasso and pet the animals.”
Silva’s sons, Braeden and Jayce, 5, sat slurping snow cones while wearing cowboy hats and watching the animals at the petting zoo.
Jayce said the event was “good” and he most enjoyed “riding the horsey.”
The day trip is a way for special education students to get outside the classroom in a way that’s safe as well as educational. Horse rides, a petting zoo and snow cones were all part of the experience for children milling about the grounds.
“It gives them a different look at things,” said Silva. “They don’t get to see a lot of this because we live in the city. It’s nice seeing the kids have a good time.”
While it is not open to the public, it is open to school students with special needs, Corey noted. Some come as far as Oregon to take part in the event that often helps “kids get some self esteem,” she said.
The program was born out of an experience the couple had early on in Danny’s special needs classroom. After bringing puppies in for his fellow classmates to see, it was obvious to the Coreys that the children had not been exposed to animals before.
For the first year, 26 children visited the family’s farm to interact with animals in a supervised environment. For the couple, seeing children beam during the interactions became enough to create an annual program dedicated to special education children. Even when Danny Corey was away at the Washington School for the Blind, his parents made sure he was able to attend the event that started because of him. Every year they brought him back to the event, and even today he is an on-site helper.
His mother, Coleta, believes the event has made all the difference.
“We changed some lives,” said Corey of the earliest days of the event. “The best part for me is when I walk around and see those kids having a good time.”
One of her most favorite recent memories is of a little boy riding a horse with a cowboy hat on. Corey recalled that he was having such a good time that he was tipping his hat off his head while hollering, “Yahoo!”
It’s just fun to see their imaginations,” she said.
The event, while inspirational to its founders, is also influential to those who volunteer time and time again.
Among the 160 volunteers this year was Tommy Debord, 16, who has been coming to the event since he was little. After an invite from Mrs. Corey who came to his school, Debord went to the event with his mom.
“It’s an event just for the kids. When they go to the big fairs, they get pushed around,” he said. “Here they get loved.”
Debord also performs at the event as an Elvis impersonator, a show he’s put on since he was in sixth grade.
It’s the success stories like Debord’s that keeps Corey, 81, and her volunteers going year after year.
“I think everybody comes because they love the kids so much,” she said. “I think they like coming and knowing that these kids are kids, not just special needs kids.”
Although she and her husband are getting older, Corey said the program is here to stay. She knows others will carry on the event for them, she’s sure of it.
When asked how much longer the event will be hosted, she responds with just one word: “Forever.”