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
2021 Recipient Agency

All Students Matter$25,000

Ada's Café$25,000

Youth Community Service$25,000

DreamCatchers$25,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring$20,000

Pursuit of Excellence$20,000

Ravenswood Education
Foundation
$20,000

WeHOPE$20,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$12500

Buena Vista
Homework Club
$10,000

CASSY$10,000

Community Legal Services
in East Palo Alto
$10,000

Nuestra Casa$10,000

San Francisco 49ers Academy $10,000

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

YMCA - East Palo Alto Branch$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Hidden Villa$10,000

Reading Partners$10,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$10,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7500

East Palo Alto
Academy Foundation
$7500

Kara$7500

Learning Home Volunteers$7500

Live in Peace$7500

Midpeninsula Community
Media Center
$7500

Peninsula
HealthCare Connection
$7500

WomenSV$7500

Acknowledge Alliance$5,000

Art in Action$5,000

Art of Yoga$5,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Alta Housing $5,000

Bayshore Christian Ministries$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Canopy$5,000

Environmental Volunteers$5,000

Family Connections$5,000

Girls To Women$5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation$5,000

Musikiwest$5,000

Morrissey-Compton
Educational Center
$5,000

Palo Alto Art Center
Foundation
$5,000

Palo Alto Chamber
Orchestra
$5,000

Palo Alto Players$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Silicon Valley Bicycle Exchange$5,000

East Palo Alto Library $5,000

Street Life Ministries$5,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

Vista Center for
Blind & Visually Impaired
$5,000

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Friends of Junior Musuem & Zoo$5,000

Herban Health$5,000

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Karat School Project $5,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Palo Alto Music Connection$5,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

Pacific Art League$5,000

East Palo Alto Library$5,000

Peninsula Bridge Program$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$5,000

St. Francis of Assisi
Youth Club
$5,000

Christmas Bureau$3500

Friends for Youth$3,000

Blossom Birth$2500

Pets in Need$2500

Child Care Grants

AbilityPath$10,000

All Five$10,000

Children's Center of
the Stanford Community
$5,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000

The Learning Center$10,000

Scholarship

HS scholarships$16,000


As of January 26, 2021
436 donors have contributed $614,046 to
the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld

40 Anonymous270,245
Janis Ulevich125
Tess & Eric Byler75
Robyn H. Crumly*
Stephanie Klein & Larry Baer*
Sue Kemp250
Judy Kramer150
Barbara Klein*
Tobye Kaye*
Michael Kieschnick500
Bruce Campbell250
Cathy Kroymann250
Werner Graf*
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Amy Crowe500
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Daniel Cox200
Patrick Burt500
Jocelyn Dong100
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Dorothy Saxe100
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  & Tony Hughes1,000
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  Jean Luc Laminette1,000
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Tom Hanks200
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Joanne Koltnow300
Susan Osofsky200
Neilson Buchanan1,250
Judy Koch1,000
Mary G Dimit250
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Diane Ciesinski250
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Susan Elgee500
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Robert Bell100
Chisoon Lee200
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Nancy Stern & David Ross100
Bjorn Liencres1,000
Preston Gardner50
James Lobdell250
Don Amsbaugh200
Eric Kastner1,000
Verner Hansen100
Jane Millman100
Roxy & Michelle Rapp & Family2,000
Deborah Newhouse50
Phyllis Munsey300
Terry Hunter*
Nina Blackwell500
John E Vorce250
Steve Beitler125
Kim Harvey2,000
Harry & Susan Hartzell200
Susan Yee*
Rita Vrhel350
Veronica Tincher*
Kenneth Bencala & Sally O'Neil100
Jeremy Platt & Sondra Murphy*
Kingsley Jack250
Leannah Hunt250
Ed & Linda DeMeo150
Ellen McGinty King500
Roderick C. McCalley50
John Tang*
Duane Bay & Barbara Noparstak100
Elizabeth Shepard*
Bruce & April Robinson*
Thomas & Elinor Osborne100
Merele McClure300
Don Price*
Gavin & Tricia Christensen*
Elaine & Eric Hahn1,000
Robert & Nancy Smith200
Shirley & Marc Feldman250
David & Diane Feldman500
Douglas & Leslie Murphy-Chutorian2,500
Nancy Wong & Robert Lipshutz200
Barry L. Goldblatt200
Chittra Chaivorapol500
Carolyn Williams*
Elinor Osborne150
Virginia Pollard150
Carl Hagenmaier700
Linda Groffie-Balint100
Carol Kersten200
Ellen Semaya & Ron Krasnow500
Eugene Lewit31
Becky & Ted Baer200
Alan Cope Johnston500
Weil Family1,000
Joan Norton*
Kay Sabin*
Priscilla & Tony Marzoni*
Shari & Don Ornstein250
Gordon Hughes2,500
Richard & Penelope Ellson100
Michael & Pamela Fong200
Kaye Crawford100
Jean Doble100
Peter Giles300
Laurie Hunter1,000
Vitaliy Tsaran20
Andrew Protter100
Bhave Family100
Patrick Burt250
Georgie Gleim500
Charles Katz250
Joan Willingham100
Elgin Lee500
Stephen Fisk100
Linda Selden500
Monica Williams250
Sandy Jain100
Reed Content250
Albert J Rooney250
David Thom400
Bill Reller*
Michael & Sarah Bolin1,000
Bruce & Mary Beth Train500
Patricia A. Hoehl100
Ralph Wheeler250
John & Meg Monroe1,000
Roberta & Evan Shiue250
Patrick & Nancy McGaraghan500
Jennie Savage1,000
In Memory Of

Ray Bacchetti200
Norman L. Frazee*
Sandy Sloan100
Lee Domenik*
Millie Fuchs*
David W. Mitchell*
Rudy Schubert50
Marie & Don Snow200
The Zschokke Family100
Alissa Riper Picker250
Bertha Kalson*
Er-Ying and Yen-Chen Yen250
Mrs. Elsie Yang200
Ernest J. Moore*
Tracy & Alan*
Pam Grady500
Lily & Philip Gottheiner*
Bob Kirkwood2,500
Our Loving Parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
Boyd Paulson Jr3,000
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
Leslie Smith*
August L. King*
Duncan L. Matteson1,000
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Emmett Lorey*
Chet Brown*
Beverly Aarts250
Zoe & Ken Allen100
Nate Rosenberg250
E Yanosh Alt20
Robert Spinrad*
Jennie Winsor Payne*
Leonard Ely500
Ian Halliday*
Kathleen Morris*
Samuel Benjamin Kurland300
Manuel & Maria Januario50
Kaye Kelley & Richard Van Dusen250
Florence Kan Ho*
Jim & Dottie Mellberg*
Jerry Smallwood1,000
Mark Georgia*
Don Kenyon50
Carol Berkowitz*
Mason & Ryan*
Robert O. Jack150
Bob Markevitch*
Dr. David Zlotnick*
Wen Liu500
Dr. Elliot W. Eisner200
Ruth Consul200
Jack Sutorius500
Our dad, Robert O. Jack500
Paul Seaver*
Tinney Family250
Priscilla Bates*
Harry Lewenstein1,000
Kathie Underdal250
Ted Linden200
In Honor Of

Fairmeadow Principal Iris Wong*
Joe Simitian220
Deborah Sutorius Hilleary100
Marie Wolbach25
Connor & Grace Missett*
Dr. David Lipson and Ray*
Charlie Hughes & the Ada's Team*
Rich Hlava's 87th Birthday*
Myles, Amara, Leo & Vivi*
Lewis J Silvers, Jr*
Julie & Iris Harper *
Denise Schectman, from ORM Staff190
Anne Steinberg*
Sara Cody1,000
Marilyn Sutorius500
Jill & Brian Bicknell100
As a Gift For

Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez500
Businesses & Organizations

Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Delores Eberhart, DDS*
Hayes Group Architects5,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
deLemos Properties200
Ann Sonnenberg Interior Design200
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation 10,000
Hewlett Foundation25,000
Packard Foundation25,000
Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run39,800
Sponsors of Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run:
    Stanford Health Care10,000
    Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
    Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
    Palantir5,000
    Facebook5,000
    Wealth Architects5,000
    Chan Zuckerberg Initiative5,000
    Bank of the West1,500
    A Runner's Mind1,000


Changes or corrections to listings may be made by contacting Kali Shiloh at [email protected]

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

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