Children ran from animal to animal and activity to activity last Saturday, their families trailing closely behind, during the fourth annual Back to School Family Fun Day hosted by LaPorte Farms off Roseland Road in Sebastian. It was a perfect way to get little ones geared up and excited about heading back to school in a few short weeks.
“This is all possible because of our community,” said Laura LaPorte, owner of the five-acre, handicap-accessible facility. “We do this because education is so important, and there are so many kids whose parents don’t have the ability to buy all the school supplies they need for school. Without those supplies, the kids get picked on.”
The critters at LaPorte Farms may not roam about in pairs, but the menagerie is akin to Noah’s Ark, with everything from llamas and zebras to zebu and monkeys. And of course, no self-respecting farm would be complete without the requisite goats, horses, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese.
As if petting and feeding the collection of exotic and domestic animals wasn’t enough to keep youngsters busy, there were also games, pony rides, face painting, raffles, a visit from the Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 Falko, and rocket pencil boxes to be built at the Home Depot Kids’ Workshop.
As youngsters were engaged in finishing ice cream before it melted, parents visited local nonprofit information booths to learn about the various programs and services available to them.
At the end of the day the children, worn out from all the excitement, gathered on the wraparound porch of the main house, where more than 500 backpacks filled with donated school supplies were handed out. Any leftover supplies will be given to three lucky Indian River County teachers.
Back to School Day is just one of the many community-oriented events hosted on the farm since the barn doors opened to the public in 1994. The nonprofit foundation, Friends of LaPorte Farms, seeks to provide a safe environment for all, regardless of age or ability, to interact with animals while enjoying nature and bringing lifetime memories.
Upcoming special events include a Sept. 21 Special Needs Western Hoedown; the Sept. 28 Grandparents Raising Grandkids Fun Day; an October Fall Festival; and the Nov. 29 Trail of Christmas Trees.
For more information, visit laportefarms.com.