Stepping Up To the Plate For People With Autism

By Erin Epstein

L.A. Parent October cover model Stella Hopton meets new friends at Danny's Farm. PHOTO BY TANYA ALEXIS

L.A. Parent October cover model Stella Hopton meets new friends at Danny’s Farm. PHOTO BY TANYA ALEXIS

Danny Gott is 21 and has loved farm animals since he was a little boy. Danny also has autism. In honor of their special son, Danny’s parents, Cathy Gott and Jim Gott – former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and current pitching coach for the Anaheim Angels – founded Danny’s Farm in 2007.

The nonprofit petting zoo has two missions: to serve children with special needs, and to employ adults with disabilities. The petting zoo provides behavioral and social experiences to children ages 5-17 through an individualized Specialty Autism Program. The farm also provides meaningful employment opportunities for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, and helps them reach their fullest potential by developing skills through work and mentoring.

“Many of the children we serve do not have verbal skills, and sometimes actions speak louder than words. Seeing the magic of the calming effect these animals have with these children is deeply moving,” says Cathy Gott. “Perhaps because there are so many people caring for them all the time, this is their chance to take care of another living creature.”

The petting zoo, located on the Cal Poly Pomona campus at 4102 S. University Dr., is open to the public every Saturday, March through October, and operates a mobile petting farm for a variety of festivities. It is also open daily to children with disabilities through an after-school and school-break program at Almansor Academy, 1955 Fremont Ave., in South Pasadena.

In order to continue providing these amazing opportunities, Danny’s Farm is hosting a fundraiser, “Going to Bat for Danny’s Farm,” Oct. 19 at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles. Adults are invited to join Danny’s Farm, professional athletes, celebrities and community members at the home of the largest sports memorabilia collection in the U.S. Only open by invitation, the Sports Museum includes exhibits from a variety of sports and 30 galleries dedicated to prominent sports figures and teams.

VIP Admission, $125, includes a private tour with museum owner Gary Cypress and a special reception with Jim Gott and other past and present MLB players. General admission, $75, includes food, beverages and access to the museum’s galleries, fun activities and a live/silent auction. All proceeds will benefit Danny’s Farm and will be used to provide employment opportunities for adults with autism and scholarships for children on the autism spectrum whose families cannot afford to enroll their children in the Danny’s Farm program.

“There would be no Danny’s Farm if it weren’t for the outpouring of support from our loving community,” says Cathy Gott. “There are many wonderful programs for children, [but] we must not forget that these children grow up, and services are needed throughout their lifetime. We must do more for this tender population.”

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