Holiday Spirit

Karlene Harris, 3, sits atop Kachina, a miniature horse, as Jasper Ridge Farm volunteers Nicole Hwang, left, and Kate Daly, center, and Karlene's mom, Nicola Harris, right, enjoy festivities at a holiday party at the Ronald McDonald House on Dec. 7, 2016. Jasper Ridge is funded in part by donations to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Posted Dec. 16, 2016

Jasper Ridge Farm connects kids with animals
Barnyard friends provide carefree diversion for children facing tough times

by Linda Taaffe

After 14 brain surgeries over the past three years -- including three this past month -- few things can get 11-year-old Austin Morgan to jump out of his hospital recovery bed and leave his wheelchair behind more quickly than a visit from Oliver, Buster, Henry, Nikki and Garfunkel.

These aren't your typical hospital visitors. This particular group includes two sheep, a miniature horse, a black lab and a blind lionhead rabbit with long tufts of fur encircling his face.

The eclectic mix of barnyard animals, part of the nonprofit Jasper Ridge Farm in Portola Valley, provides a sort of therapy for children up and down the Peninsula who are facing life-threatening illness, homelessness and other challenges. The animals go to hospitals, homes, homeless and domestic violence shelters and, more recently, county correctional facilities.

The nonprofit, whose summer camp was supported in part by a $5,000 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund this year, also offers riding programs and animal encounters for children, as well as veterans, at its new 2.5-acre farm at 2720 Alpine Road, which opened in July.

"Austin loves animals and looks forward to coming out to see them every time, even when he feels really sick and tired and doesn't want to move," his mother, Angela Morgan, said on a recent afternoon at Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, where the two have lived for the past year while Austin receives medical treatment.

The weather was chilly, and Austin had undergone major surgery less than 24 hours earlier, but that didn't stop him from heading outside to pet Oliver's woolly back, brush Henry's mane and chat excitedly with the volunteers about the 20 or so animals at the courtyard holiday party.

"I know that goats eat cans, but I didn't expect that they would eat roses because of the thorns," Austin observed while making the rounds to greet each animal. "This one's fur is soft and very warm underneath. ... Oh no, look: He's a sloppy eater!"

His mother said the animals have become a bright spot during his recovery, helping him forget that he's 200 miles away from his home, his dog, his family and friends in El Dorado County. The animals' regular visits have encouraged him to spend his free time learning everything he can about them.

"They all call him the 'Dog Whisperer' around here," she said, smiling.

Executive Director Wendy Mattes said creating a carefree moment for children going through tough times is the inspiration behind Jasper Ridge Farm.

"Animals don't judge you. They don't care where you live, if you've lost your hair to chemo or whatever else," Mattes said. "That's the great gift with these animals. Kids forget why they are in the hospital or at a shelter. I watch them bury their fingers in the sheep's wool and squeal with sheer delight. I can't change their family situation or their health condition, but for a very short time I can bring them an animal and just let them be carefree kids."

Mattes' own health struggles prompted her to reconnect with her love for animals nearly two decades ago. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, she decided to leave her 20-year career as an executive search assistant to pursue her lifelong interest in horses. She became a trainer and horseback-riding instructor.

"I didn't know how many physical years I had left and didn't want to spend them behind a desk talking on a phone," she said.

This unexpected career change ultimately united Mattes with 12-year-old riding student Riley Church, who would became the catalyst for the launch of Jasper Ridge after she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2009. Mattes said when Riley could no longer travel to the barn to see the horses, Mattes borrowed a miniature horse and brought it to the girl's San Carlos house for a surprise visit shortly before she passed away.

"I drove it to the house, walked it up the path, up the stairs and right into the living room," she said. "I can still picture the look on her face when she saw that horse coming into the house.

"Something changed for me after that," she added. "I thought of that visit more and more. It finally hit me that I could bring that same experience to other kids."

Mattes rented a little piece of land from another therapeutic organization in Woodside, adopted a rabbit and partnered with local 4-H members, who loaned her small farm animals to take along on visits.

Today Jasper Ridge Farm offers its Animals Helping Children off-site-visit program, the Horse Buddies Riding program, Summer Camp and other programs.

Last year, the farm served 1,500 children and veterans; it's on track to serve more than 2,000 this year at its new, larger facility on Stanford-owned property leased by Webb Ranch. Jasper Ridge is using the portion of land at the family-run horseback riding facility rent-free for perpetuity.

Jasper Ridge also has access to the full-size horses at Webb Ranch, so it can provide on-site trail-riding lessons. In addition, the farm is seeking to expand its summer camp program from two week-long sessions to as many sessions as financially possible. The free week-long and day camps, which are funded solely by grants, provide transportation, lunch, time to interact with small farm animals, and lessons on horseback riding and animal-care for children from local hospitals, shelters and special-needs schools. A $6,000 grant is enough to provide 12 campers a week-long session.

Jasper Ridge relies entirely on donations and the help of 95 volunteers, who provide everything from loaned animals and poop scooping to assistance for children during trail rides. In 2015, the nonprofit raised $270,000 for programs. The nonprofit is in the process of raising $100,000 to build a covered riding arena, so its programs can run year-round.

"The program has grown so quickly beyond my wildest dreams," Mattes said.

Make a donation
2018 Grant Recipients

10 Books A Home
Expansion of in-home tutoring and literacy program helping parents prepare their preschoolers for kindergarten through age-appropriate books and reading exercises$15,000

49ers Academy
Consolidation and relocation to a single middle school of the reading intervention and academic support program at to help prepare Ravenswood middle school students for high school $5,000

Able Works
Financial literacy education for students at Menlo-Atherton High School and East Palo Alto charter high schools and for young families$5,000

Acterra
Energy audits and solar installations aimed at reducing utility costs for low income residents of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven$5,000

Ada's Café
Training and support of developmentally disabled employees and high school interns$5,000

Adolescent Counseling Services
Outlet Program providing support services and counseling for LGBTQ+ youth $7,500

All Students Matter
Launch of new literacy intervention program focused on 3rd-5th grade students in Ravenswood school district$10,000

Art in Action
Art education program serving more than 900 students in the Ravenswood school district$5,000

Art of Yoga
Yoga, creative art and other mindfulness activities for juvenile girls in the criminal justice system$5,000

Bayshore Christian Ministries
Academic "Create" summer camp providing multiple tracks for Ravenswood district middle school students$5,000

Buena Vista Homework Club
New homework center for elementary school aged youth living at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park$10,000

CASSY
School-based mental health services to students and families in six Ravenswood elementary and middle schools$10,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
Legal assistance to East Palo Alto residents facing eviction and other rental housing problems and conflicts$10,000

Downtown Streets Team
Stipends for homeless volunteers who perform community services in downtown Palo Alto as they transition to regular employment$7,500

DreamCatchers
New system to document student progress and improve communication among tutors of Palo Alto middle school students$10,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation
Educator Micro Grants Program, providing up to $600 grants to teachers in schools in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park$10,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring
Literacy evaluations for first through eighth graders in Ravenswood schools to determine needed interventions$7,500

Environmental Volunteers
Monthly public environmental education programs for youth and adults$5,000

Family Connections
Early childhood education program for parents of preschoolers in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park.$7,500

Foundation for a College Education
College Knowledge middle and high school program designed to prepare students and their families to pursue a college education$7,500

Friends of Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo
Science Outreach Program providing hands on science instruction at Willow Oaks Elementary School$5,000

Get Involved Palo Alto
Service-learning internship placement program for high school students wanting to work with low-income youth$10,000

Health Connected
Sexual health education instruction in Ravenswood middle schools$5,000

Hidden Villa
Summer camp scholarships $5,000

JLS Middle School
Homework Habitat after-school homework and tutoring program three days a week$4,000

Jordan Middle School
Jordan Academic Wellness Support (JAWS) providing after-school study center for students three days a week$4,000

Kara
Spanish language peer grief support program$7,500

Live in Peace
"Gap Year Project" to guide and support at-risk high school graduates unprepared or uncertain about careers or college$5,000

Marine Science Institute
Environmental and marine science education program for low-income students$5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation
Music education in Ravenswood school district$5,000

New Creation Home Ministries
Parenting and life skills classes for teen mothers in East Palo Alto$5,000

New Voices for Youth
Video production equipment and training for middle school students at the Boys and Girls Club in East Palo Alto$3,000

Nuestra Casa
ESL classes for East Palo Alto adults$7,500

One East Palo Alto
Summer job and mentoring program for at-risk East Palo Alto youth$5,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation
Cultural Kaleidoscope, an arts-education program linking Palo Alto and East Palo Alto schools and using professional artists$5,000

Palo Alto Housing
Family Reading Club for parents and youth living in subsidized rental apartments managed by Palo Alto Housing $4,000

Peninsula Bridge
After school and summer academic support programs for low income middle and high school students with a goal of attending college$5,000

Peninsula HealthCare Connection
Health care supplies and services provided at the Opportunity Center clinic$5,000

Project WeHOPE
Classes and counseling to support the homeless in East Palo Alto$15,000

Quest Learning Center
Parent education workshops for parents of 2nd to 5th graders in East Palo Alto $5,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation
Purchase of washing machines at three district schools$10,000

Rosalie Rendu Center
ESL and life skills classes for East Palo Alto adults$3,500

Silicon Valley FACES
Scholarships for East Palo Alto teens to attend Camp Everytown youth diversity training weekend$5,000

Silicon Valley Urban Debate League
Summer debate camp for at-risk students in East Palo Alto$5,000

St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club
Meals for low-income third to fifth graders attending East Palo Alto after-school program$5,000

Stanford Jazz Workshop
Pilot of new after-school jazz music program for Ravenswood school district 6th graders$2,500

Terman Middle School
Homework Habitat after-school homework and tutoring program three days a week$4,000

YMCA East Palo Alto
Summer "Full STEAM Ahead" program for high school students, combining academic curriculum with recreational outings$7,500

YMCA Ross Road
Six-week summer enrichment camp for low-income students attending Barron Park Elementary School$5,000

Youth Community Service
Support of Summer of Service day camp scholarships, service clubs at local middle and high schools, service days and life skills programs for at-risk teens$15,000

Youth Speaks Out
Expressive arts program enabling teens whose voices may not be otherwise heard to collaborate on artistic projects with each other and supportive adults.$15,000

Child Care Facility Improvement Grants

Children's Center of the Stanford Community
New classroom tables and chairs and additional trikes$5,000

Children's Pre-School Center
Replacement of climbing structure$5,000

Friends of Preschool Family
Replacement of climbing structure$5,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool
New cabinets and counters$5,000

The Learning Center
Installation of new Nature Explore "Outdoor Classroom"$5,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care
Upgrade of outdoor play space at Barron Park Children's Center$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School
Replacement of single-pane windows$5,000

Parents Nursery School
Repavement of parking area$5,000

Peninsula Family Service
Repairs and improvements of outdoor play area at Haven Child Development Center$5,000

As of Dec. 12, 2018,
197 donors have contributed $198,275.
* indicates amount withheld

David Labaree300
Bruce Campbell200
Janis Ulevich100
Mike Gordon250
Bill Reller*
Ellen & Mike Turbow200
Xiaofan Lin50
M D Savioe*
Ron Wolf200
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Tom Goodrich100
Leif & Sharon Erickson250
Stephen Levy 500
John & Meg Monroe500
Daniel Cox200
Richard Zuanich200
Kieschnick Family*
Deborah Williams500
Joan & Roger Warnke*
Havern Family"5,000
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell"1,000
Mike & Jean Couch250
Tony & Judy Kramer*
Peter Stern*
Dorothy Saxe100
David & Nancy Kalkbrenner100
David & Lynn Mitchell450
Barbara Riper*
Nancy & Joe Huber100
Sue Kemp250
Richard Baumgartner & Elizabeth Salzer*
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Stev & Mary Chapel50
Ruth Hammett100
Drew McCalley & Marilyn Green100
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Judith Appleby200
Carolyn Brennan*
Susana & Doug Woodman*
Jody Maxmin*
Pat Burt250
Larry Baer500
Arthur Keller*
Lawrence Naiman100
Pamela Mayerfeld100
Eileen Brooks500
Scott & Jan Kilner500
Andrea Smith100
Braff Family500
Eugene & Mabel Dong200
Debby Roth200
Phil Hanawalt & Garciela Spivak"1,000
Lani Freeman & Stephen Monismith100
Tom & Ellen Ehrlich350
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
Gwen Luce*
Robert Aulger*
Pat & John Davis50
Art & Peggy Stauffer500
Kroymann Family250
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal*
Karen & Steve Ross*
Wileta Burch*
Mandy Lowell*
George & Betsy Young*
Tom & Pat Sanders*
Gerald & Joyce Barker200
Brigid Barton & Rob Robinson400
Jim & Alma Phillips500
Peggy & Boyce Nute*
Michael & Cathie Foster500
Diane Moore*
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Chuck & Jean Thompson100
Julie Jerome500
Bonnie Berg*
Gallo Family500
Ann & Don Rothblatt500
Caryn Huberman Yacowitz*
Shirley R. Ely"1,000
Luca & Mary Cafiero*
Steve & Diane Ciesinski500
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Dorogusker500
James W. & Nancy E. Baer200
The Ely Family250
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
JoAnne N. Zschokke100
Ralph R. Wheeler300
Bert Fingerhut & Caroline Hicks250
Kaaren & John Antoun1,500
Richard Johnsson"7,000
Bruce Gee & Jane Gee250
Eric Hahn & Elaine Hahn"1,000
Bob & Dee Crawford*
Diane & Bob Simoni200
Jan Thomson & Roy Levin*
Donald & Adele Langendorf200
Irvin & Marilyn Yalom100
Brigid Barton500
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
John & Florine Galen*
H. Anton & Carolyn Tucher250
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Bob & Micki Cardelli*
John Pavkovich500
Eileen Stolee100
Sallie Whaley*
Ann Burrell & Allen Smith*
Patti Yanklowitz150
Linda Selden*
Dena Hill500
Michael Patrick200
Bonnie Packer100
Romola Georgia*
Martha Shirk500
Christina Kenrick"1,000
Dawes Family250
Ken Bencala & Sally O'Neil200
Nina & Norman Kulgein*
Tom & Nancy Fiene*
Lee Zulman*
Merrill & Lee Newman250
Judy & Lee Shulman200
Donna & Jerry Silverberg100
Victor Befera100
Kay & Don Remsen*
Beth & Peter Rosenthal300
Robyn H. Crumly*
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Amado Padilla & Deborah Farrington500
Jerry & Linda Elkind500
Donald & Virginia Fitton25
Don & Bonnie Miller100
Roger V. Smith300
In Memory Of

Er-Ying & Yen-Chen Yen250
Janet Hermsen200
Ray Bacchetti250
Nancy & Bob Lobdell*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Tracy & Alan Herrick100
Bob Fenster*
David, Zoe & Ken100
Mrs. Nancy Yih*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Corrine Aulgur*
Duncan Matteson250
Pam Grady300
Elliot Eisner*
Nate Rosenberg200
Francine Mendlin250
Bob Donald*
Bill Land*
Emmett Lorey*
Ted Linden200
Marie & Don Snow150
Ben Barres100
Kathleen Morris*
Our Loving Parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
August L. King*
In Honor Of

Melissa Baten Caswell*
Lucy Berman's clients"2,500
Jill200
Scott200
Polly200
Hayley200
Jake200
Garrett200
Gil200
Joe Simitian*
Businesses/Organizations

Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Bleibler Properties1,000
Communications & Power Industries500
deLemos Properties200

Apply for a Holiday Fund Grant

Nonprofits serving children and families may apply for funds by downloading our Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Application Form. Application deadline: 11:59 p.m. on January 4, 2019.