PROSPECT, Conn. (WTNH) — The owner of a barn in Prospect is working to rebuild after a fire destroyed the building, killing all of the therapy animals inside.
The 60 livestock animals were a part of Kelly’s Kids, a therapy program for children and seniors.
When people ask owner Kelly Cronin if she goes to therapy, she says “No. I go to the barn.”
“We will rebuild,” Cronin said. “It’s not a question, like it’s going to happen. It’s just tough. It’s real hard.”
The alpacas, pigs, sheep, goats, ducks and rabbits teach children care and compassion. For Ashley Keifer, who joined Kelly’s Kids at 12, it helped her heal and grow while she was in foster care.
“For me, and for a lot of people, when you’re in certain life situations, you don’t trust people, so to be able to trust animals and to start there and get to your journey of opening up, it’s amazing, and there’s nothing better than petting a pig,” she said. “I mean, it’s peaceful.”
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families has sent hundreds of children to the farm in the last decade.
“Being able to be outside, be on the farm, be with the animals, really gave an outlet to be able to express some of the feelings they experience, and that they may struggle with,” Commissioner Vanessa Dorantes said. “So this was a significant, significant blow.”
Those children, Cronin said, have already endured losses.
“They didn’t need this,” she said. “As soon as we can, we are going to restart, because I can’t disappoint.”
Keifer said that because Cronin helped rebuild her life, it’s time to pay it forward. Keifer has organized a GoFundMe campaign that has raised almost $100,000 within two days.
“I just had to do something,” Keifer said. “She needs to keep going, and I think when you are presented with something like that, it’s easy to be like ‘I quit. I give up,’ and I wanted her to know she has a whole community of people around her.”
The program will continue running after it is rebuilt, but with fewer animals.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, as of Monday afternoon.