Last weekend, on a cold and snowy Sunday afternoon in mid-January, I found myself once again driving around Northfield with my son Seth. We face the same dilemma every weekend, I go down and pick him up from his group home, and then we drive around wondering where can we go and what can we do? In nice weather of course there are parks, and nature walks, and picnics, and swimming. But in winter, we spend a lot of time just driving around doing nothing. For much of Seth’s life, no matter where he has lived (he is now 19 and in his 6th placement), I have struggled with how to get him out into the community. He can’t go into stores, or restaurants, or most public places. He is too challenged by the sensory stimulation and too inadvertently destructive; an unintentional bull in a china shop. If he were higher functioning we might tackle a ball game or a mall, but these things aren’t possible.
Evidently we are not alone in our frustration regarding nowhere to go, nowhere that is really suitable for, and welcoming of, people with sensory disabilities like autism. However, something has happened. Just two miles south of Northfield, in the sleepy little hamlet of Dundas, Minnesota, a visionary and philanthropic couple have created a destination; A Great Day Farm.
On their 13 acre homestead Greg and Patty Closser have developed “a recreational facility for persons with developmental disabilities.” This facility just opened and is free to the public! A perfect destination for an outing, the large indoor space houses games, swings, foosball; a place to run around, pet the dog, climb, jump, and play. There is a kitchen, large accessible bathrooms, and rocking chairs. There is something for everyone. In the warmer weather there will be outside space, a sensory garden and nature trails, long-term a goat pen and gardens; at some point soon a schedule of activities.
What does it feel like to have somewhere to go, somewhere we are welcome, and somewhere Seth can be himself? For those of you who don’t resonate with our struggle it may not seem like much, but I can assure you that for my family and many others, this is a dream come true.
If you need a user friendly destination for an outing for a loved one with a disability, consider driving to just south of Northfield to The Great Day Farm. It is my hope that this inspirational setting will be well utilized and even replicated in some form by others. In the quest to create better lives for people with disabilities, A Great Day Farm is a big step forward.
Dr. Sheryl Grassie / Executive Director MNCCD
Check it out at: https://www.facebook.com/AGreatDayFarmNorthfield/