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'Everyone needs to be validated and loved': special needs farm opens to public during spring break

Cheryl Kaletka's two daughters both have special needs. So their farm caters to children and adults with all kinds of abilities.

HOLLAND, Mich. — Nestled into the back roads of Allegan County is a special place called Fellinlove Farm. 

The farm caters to people with special needs, but for spring break, they're making sure everyone can experience what they have to offer - from goats, to tortoises, and everything in between. 

"I think everyone needs to be validated, loved and treated with respect," said founder and executive director, Cheryl Kaletka. 

That's why over the last seven years, Kaletka has been transforming her family's 11 1/4-acre farm into an inclusive paradise. 

"I saw amazing things happen when humans connected with animals," Kaletka said. 

Kaletka's two daughters both have special needs. 30-year-old Ashleigh lives with a serious seizure disorder, and 26-year-old Alyssa lives with Down syndrome and repaired severe heart defects. 

She said they created Fellinlove Farm to give their girls work opportunities and a place to socialize and play. 

Kaletka eventually opened the farm to other kids and adults who live with all kinds of special needs, like 28-year-old Sean Faber, who lives with Down syndrome and has been volunteering at the farm for more than a decade.  

Credit: WZZM

"I've been working here so well," Faber said. "We feed koi fish. And we have horses, llamas and goats."

The farm is usually only open on weekends, but every year, they open up to the public for the week of spring break. 

"People want to get out, they have to get out," said Kaletka. "It's just a place for families to come during spring break and it's also a fundraiser for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which is what we are." 

Kaletka said the farm is surrounded by a circle of trees and compared it to being in a big hug when you come in. "To feel welcomed and included," she said. 

Kaletka said the animals are so good with kids of all ages and abilities, which is what makes the farm even more special.

"There's just little things embedded in all of the animals," she said. "They look just like animals, but they're little therapists. They're little friends to children that have a hard time connecting with people."

Faber said his favorite part is spending time with the animals.

As a nonprofit organization, the farm does take donations. But for Kaletka, her purpose has never been about money or notoriety. It has always been about creating a space for everyone to feel loved and supported. 

"The public is different than what happens at Fellinlove Farm. You are always welcomed and included here," Kaletka said.

And agrees, saying, "I think they are so great. They treat me nice."

For more information on Fellinlove Farm, hours, events and much more, click here.

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