As a parent, I am grateful for Animal Assisted Happiness. I first encountered the Smile Farm animals at the 2018 Buddy Walk.  My  son reverently cuddled Nugget, the rabbit, with expressions of joy and contentment. Each person who touched the animals present that day left with smiles.  The goat, rabbits, chickens and guinea pigs had worked their magic. This Special Day inspired my son and me to learn more about AAH and volunteer at the Smile Farm, Baylands, Sunnyvale.

   As a volunteer, I am grateful for the opportunity to care for the animals that bring smiles and joy to so many.  My son and I enjoy our Farm Chore afternoons: friendly welcoming fellow volunteers, meaningful interesting tasks and Simone -AAH! : )

 And Daniel's thoughts:  I like the Smile Farm.  I like cleaning the rabbit cages.  I like to pull the hay wagon. I help the animals.

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Animal Assisted Happiness has brought so many smiles and so much joy to My Friends A Pediatric Day Healthcare Center. Animal therapy has been proven to lower anxiety and depression. It also helps children learn empathic and nurturing skills. Without Animal Assisted Happiness our children wouldn’t have this amazing opportunity. Our children always look forward to the farm animals and we love seeing how the animals brighten the kids day. We are so grateful for Animal Assisted Happiness and their wonderful staff members and volunteers!

-Courtney Veloz- Activity Leader

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I started volunteering at AAH in September 2018. At first I was really nervous and not very confident that I could do it. The longer I’ve been helping I’ve grown much more confident in my abilities. I feel much better taking/following directions, and I feel much more confident socially. I really enjoy having the opportunity to spend time with the animals each week, and the feeling I get inside after seeing all the animals happy and content after a group effort to keep their homes clean is incredible….. Owen

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Thank you so much for having my TK class at your farm. This experience really made their learning come alive as they interacted with the animals and have shared with me their excitement with this trip. Parents have shared their photographs from this trip with me and the smiles on the students faces and the stories about the animals they interacted with tell me this is an experience they will remember.    Tell Ariel she did a great job making this a wonderful experience for my students…… Pomeroy School, Transitional Kindergarten Teacher

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Thank you for all you do at AAH. We are so glad we got in 4 visits this year. Here is a little summary from staff and students…...

AAH farm came to visit the therapeutic classroom at Greene middle school four times over the course of the 2018-19 school year. Chickens, goals, bunnies and guinea pigs spent time with our 6th and 7th grade students. One student commented that the time spent with the farm animals was “therapeutic”. Another student described it as an “escape from school”. The volunteers were wonderful and a fellow Greene student volunteer joined us for the final visit. We look forward to AAH coming again next year…...Greene Middle School, Therapeutic Services

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A visit to the Animal Assisted Happiness Farm by my class brings out the universal language understood by everyone – a smile.  We visit the farm once a month for vocational experience and the students always look forward to this more than any other community outing.  There is just something magical and special about those large brown eyes of the goats, rabbits or horses as they look at you and the touch of that soft fur or hair that can’t help but put a smile on the faces of my students.  The animals are non-judgmental and you can see both the petter and the pettee visibly relax.  If the students stop stroking the rabbits or goats, a cold wet nose encourages them to continue.  A visit to the AAH Farm is the best medicine possible!        ….Academic Community Transition Program Teacher

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AAH has been a part of my teaching for almost a decade! I will be honest, sometimes I still hold my breath when I introduce my Emotionally Disturbed students to the animals. We talk and talk before hand, then I put my trust in the team and the animals....they both still leave me in tears every single time. Hands that punch, regularly ball up in fists, hands that use chairs and tables as weapons are now softly caressing a rabbit, a chicken or even a goat. Some of them have never seen a farmyard animal, let alone held one. They are not usually trusted to care for something so delicate and not usually able to understand the unconditional love an animal gives them, as some of them have never felt unconditional love before.  

One of my students who eloped as soon as he came on campus and spent the day running from us, came back to see the bunny and just sat there, holding him for about 45 minutes.

 The impact of the animals is so much greater with students on the spectrum, medically fragile children and emotionally disturbed children. You can see their blood pressure go down, the rage, fear, anxiety, sometimes even pain disappear and this depth of compassion that outsiders would not believe.

I know you will receive dozens of comments just like this about the amazing memories you have made for both children and adults! Please give all the staff and animals my undying appreciation for everything you do for us.....  Special Education Teacher

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Beautiful visit, xxx  is more comfortable at the farm. She loves Penguin the GP and that is her first stop. she sets the pace and then went to see the big goats, Niggies and the horses. She brushed Jinglebell and loved it. The adult with her told me that she has a lot of troubles/problems at school and her teacher feels the positive difference during the week after an AAH visit!!!!

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Achievekids has developed a wonderful history with AAH over the years, a partnership we take seriously.  The joy on our kids face and the inner comfort they experience when being around the animals cannot be found elsewhere, we are very thankful for this.  Additionally, the work experience opportunities you provide our students is invaluable.

 

I thank Simone for her dedication to the program and for bringing her concerns  to my attention.  We look forward to  many AAH years ahead.

 

Ric Gilbert, MS, CRC

Transition Manager

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 “Wow, what an incredible day! Thank you so much for all of your help in making today a success! From welcoming smiles, insightful volunteer helpers, and well cared for animals I cannot thank you enough for making this possible. I heard nothing but compliments from so many families, everyone really enjoyed themselves! I appreciate all of your time and effort!” -- Sunday Group Visit Coordinator

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I started volunteering with AAH as a sophomore in high school and had the absolute best experience! AAH is an amazing organization that gives so much to the community and creates a lot of happiness! I was very lucky to be a part of such a caring, welcoming community and to be able to work with really great people and animals! Volunteering at AAH also influenced and led me to become a current animal science major at Cal Poly, and so I’ll be forever grateful for AAH.

-Claire

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Animal Assisted Happiness has given so much joy to my classroom and community.  AAH has helped our community with providing opportunities for friendship that help to build a stronger community.  The animals help my students learn how to work and practice social skills in a real life environment.  My students come to the farm to learn vocational skills and help give back to our community. Most importantly, AAH creates a comfortable place for my students to enjoy animals and to be themselves.  …. Mr. Q, Mt View High School

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I am extremely grateful to learn that Animal Assisted Happiness brought animals to my daughter’s high school before Finals week.  The animals not only brought happiness to the high school students who were stressed out from school work and the upcoming final exams, they helped give many students the opportunity to really relax and take their minds off their school work and stress and exams!  I will always fondly remember picking my daughter up from school that last day before finals, her animal fix made possible by Animal Assisted Happiness put such a joyful smile on her face!  Precious for a stressed out high school student and heart-warming for this mom!  Thank you!   Parent at Homestead High School, Cupertino

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Hi, my name is John Rodrigues and I have been working/volunteering at AAH for the last three years. I started working at AAH because I have always loved animals and it was a way for me to be around animals and help my community. When I first started feeding I needed some help but, now I can feed the animals without any assistance from others and I have the confidence to let the other people who feed  know if something seems not right at the farm. I understand how important my job is, the animals recognize me and know that when they see me they are going to get their dinner. They depend on me to do my job and I love to help them.  Since working at AAH I was accepted to and completed a work program at Stanford hospital through a program called Project Search.  I was also hired at a catering company as a dishwasher and I believe AAH has helped me accomplish all of these things.

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As a parent, John is a perfect example of how AAH helps a wide variety of people with disabilities in a variety of different ways. AAH's animal therapy goes beyond the benefits of an animals touch it is also able to help those higher functioning people develop skills that will enable them to live independently. John started this job believing he was able to work with animals and "do community service work".  What AAH gave John was the confidence and job skills to become a productive member of society and pursue full time work.  -- Fiona

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            I was in fifth grade when I went on my first visit to AAH. At the time, I was really struggling in school. Whenever we were given time to play or talk with our peers, I would stay off to the wayside, lying alone in the field or some corner of the classroom. I had little interest in interacting with my peers, and when I had to interact I was often made fun of which in turn would make me even less interested in my peers. It was a vicious cycle. I had services to help me keep up in the classroom, but I wasn’t motivated to improve socially. All I really had in terms of interests was an interest in animals, but at that point it was limited to looking at them in pictures and having stuffed animals. At this point my mother was looking for a way to take advantage of this interest and came into contact with Vicki. A week or so later, we had our first visit in Vicki’s backyard. It was an incredible experience for me; I suppose I didn’t realize that what I saw in books were living, breathing creatures that I could interact with. I was particularly fascinated with the goats, which looked like dogs to me, and yet acted so differently. After that first visit, I wouldn’t stop talking about it and couldn’t wait for the next visit. A few visits later and Vicki could tell that I wanted more. She started letting us clean the pens and feed the animals. I had a blast doing this because I felt like I was helping the animals I had grown to love. I seldom felt helpful or useful before this experience, as my symptoms often led to me being the one who needed help. Eventually, I began to want to share this experience with others, and Vicki happily helped me and my mom organize a social group where I could share these animals with my peers. I spent hours leading around a blind child and showing him all the animals. This was a huge step for me, as I went from dreading social interaction to actually looking forward to a social event. I finally had something I could talk to my peers about. Of course, I still struggled socially; my symptoms did not magically disappear. What AAH did provide me with was the motivation to work on my symptoms. To talk about the animals I cared about I needed to learn how to converse with others. To continue pursuing my interest in animals, which became a passion at this point, I needed to learn how to reach out to people. AAH helped me find my passion, and with it the motivation to better myself.

-Jon

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I had heard great things about AAH before, but Annie came home and her highlight of the morning wasn't feeding the animals or holding the bunnies, which she definitely enjoyed, but seeing how happy one of the girls with sensory differences was when petting the rabbits. I also appreciate how wonderful Simone was in immersing Annie to the care and personalities of the animals. Thank you for providing such a mutually gratifying opportunity to both volunteers and visitors.

Parent of volunteer

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Our classrooms have been involved with AAH Farm for the past 4 years and this has been one of the best activities for my students. At Cupertino High School, we have two classrooms with a total of 24 students who have moderate to severe disabilities such as Autism, Down Syndrome or learning disabilities. The focus of our program is to teach individuals academic skills, social skills, life skills and vocational skills. To help the students build those skills, we participate in a variety of community-based activities and job coaching opportunities. AAH Happy Farm has been one of the best supports for my students. Being involved with AAH Happy Farm helps support my students socially, emotionally and behaviorally. AAH visits our classroom once a month for one hour and also some students participate in a job coaching opportunity at the AAH Happy Farm. There are many positive effects for my students because of this partnership. For instance, one of our students was afraid of many types of animals and was leaving the room if he knew there was an animal coming to visit. However, after several visits everything has changed and now he is more comfortable with animals. He pets the animals and would like to feed and care for them. Another student had a hard time getting to school on time and was struggling leaving the parent’s car. Since our involvement with AAH Farm he has become more motivated and he walks to the classroom asking if he is going to the farm that day or not. Also, on days the farm is visiting he cooperatively finishes his lunch on time so that he can spend time with the animals. We are so thankful for having AAH Happy Farm in Sunnyvale and we are looking forward to more opportunities for support to the students.

Thank you again for the opportunity,

Zahra Salari

Special Education Teacher

Academic Community Transition Program

Cupertino High School

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I really appreciate what AAH is doing for our students.  Your visits are always fun and exciting for our students (as well as the staff and teachers) :-).  Last month's visit was extra special for one of our students.  That day, she was having some challenges since she came in the morning being off-task and engaging in her highly stimulating but disruptive behaviors.   She also kept wanting to go outside the classroom.  When Simone came with the animals, I brought her outside to play with Melody.  She stroked her hair, pet her and patted her gently on the head.  She also gave Melody lots of hugs.  Then she sat down and gazed at Melody for a full minute.  When she was directed to go back inside the classroom to play with the other animals, our student was very calm and followed directions and maintained compliant  behavior the whole day.  I saw this again on the next month's visit and she even helped walk Melody to the front of the school, as Simone suggested.

Thank you so much for letting our students play with the AAH pets.

Lynhaven School Teacher

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The one thing that struck me was a boy that was otherwise unresponsive to our visit.  In other words, we could not tell if he knew we were present.  So we just continued to talk to him and describe the pet and bring the two closer together.  However, the boy in the wheelchair was in an awkward position so there was no place to put the animal without it sliding out of his lap.  The next thing I knew, the boy had lifted his leg up and placed his left foot on top of his right knee as if to cradle the little rabbit or guinea pig that we were showing him.  I was touched by the subtlety and sweetness of his actions.

Volunteer from Visit to Saratoga SubAcute

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Thank you so very much for the special visit to the Meadows! The residents truly enjoyed the animals; they loved holding and petting them! It always brings so much joy to me to see their faces light up! Thank you thank you! Simone did a great job and was very patient and friendly with the residents.

Thanks again,

 

Nicole Fierar

Program Coordinator

Maggie's Place

Los Gatos Meadows

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There are so many ways to describe what an AAH smile means.  Harry Henry described it this way:

“Vanilla Bean (the chicken) helps me feel happy.

Vanilla Bean helps me feel calm and gentle.

Vanilla Bean helps me feel careful and in control.

I see how happy the other animals make my classmates feel, too.”

As you can imagine, stress-reduction is especially important for children with special needs, health and family challenges.  Harry’s mom told us that Vanilla Bean “has an almost Zen-like presence that helps Harry center, calm & rest himself.”  

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These are pictures from Sawyer’s Grandma and Grandpa’s property.  He went from being so afraid in the past to wanting to be very hands on and even tried to ride Mr. Peabody, the pony.  I really think AAH has helped him overcome his fears.  

Sawyer’s Mom