Keryn Denroche has known for years the profound impact animals can have on humans, but that never stops her from being amazed.
Earlier this year, the Ocean Park resident paired up two groups of Surrey school children with Chase, a neglected horse who had come to the farm where her organization, the Semiahmoo Animal League Inc. (SALI), is based out of.
The results, she said, were remarkable.
SALI – a children’s and animal charity “committed to fostering, preserving and protecting the human-animal bond” – pairs children deemed at-risk with animals as a way to help heal past traumas.
Earlier this year, an animal advocate contacted Deroche after hearing that SALI was looking for another horse for the Fort Langley farm.
Chase, a quarter horse, was seized from a rural property in Clearwater by the BC SPCA after numerous reports of abuse. After connecting with the advocate, Denroche began working to bring Chase to live with SALI’s first rescue horse, Badger.
“Because (Badger and Chase) are lame and people can’t ride them, they would likely have been sent to be slaughtered,” Denroche said. “Now, both have a safe home where they will live for the rest of their lives.”
In April, the group of children, ranging in age from three to 12, came to the farm as part of a weekly program to care for Chase and the other animals SALI cares for.
The children gave Chase a high-calorie and high-nutrient supplement to help him gain weight. By the end of the eight-week program, Chase had gained 100 pounds and could be weaned off of the supplements.
And while the effect to the children was not physical, Denroche noted that the contact with Chase would be what they would remember.
“The program provides early intervention for the kids and, most importantly, that human-animal connection. That’s the most important thing for us, bringing animals and humans together,” she said. “The children are able to see the difference their care makes.”
Denroche had been working to offer the program since she first created SALI in 2008.
In 2011, Denroche was offered farm space in Fort Langley by property owners Lesley Moody and Melanie White.
That year was when the first group of children came to the farm and were able to interact with Moody and White’s donkeys, horses, chickens, roosters, dogs and cats.
In addition to the animal connection, the children work in a garden plot doing horticultural activities.
Since the first group of children came in, SALI’s program has received more and more attention. Currently, there are two groups set to visit in the coming months.
The growing demand for the program and the need for more space before taking on any more animals has Denroche on the hunt for a rural Surrey property.
“We would need a minimum of 10 acres,” she said. “Then we could have goats, llamas, pigs, horses and more.”
Denroche noted she is hoping to get the word out at the annual Black Tails and Boots Gala set for Sept. 13 at the Fort Langley farm.
The event will kick off with a cocktail hour visit with the “four-legged therapists,” including Badger and Chase and miniature donkeys Mercedes and Jasmine.
“It’s the one chance the public will be able to meet Chase and Badger,” she said.
The evening will continue with a hayride tour of the acreage, and include a gourmet dinner inside the barn.
Recommended dress is evening/cocktail attire with boots.
Tickets are limited and are available for $75 each.
For more information, visit sali.ca/index.php?page=black-tails-boots