BAINBRIDGE, Ind. (WISH) - Halfway between Indianapolis and the Illinois state line, in the small town of Bainbridge, sits a 25-acre farm that has become a safe haven for special needs children and their families. Hope's Way is a free recreational center that offers day-visits for mentally and emotionally disabled people.
"Hopes Way is my heart," says Hope's Way co-founder Elizabeth Shafer. "It's a place where love exists, where acceptance is, where families can come and just enjoy themselves. You don't have to have money, you just have to have a need."
Elizabeth and Richard Shafer originally ran the farm with the intention of rescuing unwanted animals. The farm's purpose changed nearly twelve years ago after the sudden death of their granddaughter, Hope Elizabeth Heyse. Hope died shortly after birth. The facility was renamed Hope's Way as a way to honor and serve all children.
Janet Cloe's daughter Meg, 52, was brain damaged at birth, which left her incapable of learning to read, write, or speak intelligibly. Meg has found joy in riding one of the many horses at Hope's Way.
"She's the happiest she's ever been," says Janet. "Here [at Hope's Way] they're free. They can just go, they can walk around, we don't have to be checking to see where they are or what they're doing and they can just be who they are."
"Good Kitty," Meg says as she pats the neck of her horse in affirmation. The horse is named for the saloon proprietress "Miss Kitty Russell" on the television western Gunsmoke .
"We've come here every summer since we heard about Hope's Way five years ago," says Janet.
Aside from the more than 100 horses, llamas, chickens, goats and dogs, Hope's Way also has a western town called "Glory," complete with a stagecoach, a saloon, a general store and a church, among other things.
Every third Saturday from April through October, Hope's Way hosts a Teddy Bear Picnic. Everyone is invited. Mid-week dates are available for school field trips with a small fee to visit for non-special need trips.
"There are over 65,000 children and families out there that need us and we've only touched the beginning of the iceberg of what we'd like to touch," says Elizabeth. "We estimate we've had about 1,200 special needs children and their families visit since 2012."
If you want to visit Hope's Way, call them at (765) 522-5566.
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