When speech pathologist, Becky Payne, invited some of her patients to her 65-acre ranch in Wisconsin, she was amazed to see how one of her patients reacted to a cow that was in the pasture. This interaction planted the seed for Payne to create Nature’s Edge Therapy Center, which offers rehabilitation through licensed speech and occupational therapy incorporating animal-assisted therapy, hippotherapy and horticulture therapy. Here, Payne, director of Nature’s Edge, discusses the importance of this therapy, the role animals play in it and more.
What is the mission of Nature’s Edge? Nature’s Edge Therapy Center takes therapy beyond the clinic to a peaceful, serene 65-acre ranch where we provide the highest quality, intensive rehabilitation through licensed speech and occupational therapy incorporating animal-assisted therapy, hippotherapy and horticulture therapy to patients and their families. Our ultimate goal is to facilitate our patients’ independence and integration into home, school and society, regardless of the ability to pay.
What role do animals play at Nature’s Edge? Our animals partner with us to promote the human/animal bond for motivating real life opportunities in expanding communication and independence in everyday life. Many of our patients come to us after a lack of progress in traditional, outpatient clinical settings. Our ranch is filled with nonjudgmental animals ready to share their love in a stillness our ranch. This bond builds trust elicits response for growth in everyday skills that can accelerate and generalize at home, school, and in the community.
What is the greatest reward in being involved with Nature’s Edge? It is hearing a child say “Mom” for the first time. A dad hearing “I love you.” Eye contact from a smiling face. It is watching breakthroughs expand to everyday living. It is to teach job skills, independence in dressing, bathing, coping and then thriving at home, in school and in the community.
What is the biggest challenge the nonprofit faces? As a 501(c)(3), funding is always going to be an issue. In order to provide exceptional therapy services aided by nature and animals, at a price families can afford, we must continually rely on our strong, vibrant and dedicated community through generous private donations, animal sponsors, grants, countless volunteer hours, selfless staff and the guiding hands of our board members who dedicate their time, resources, knowledge and compassion to help us accomplish our mission.
In what ways, if any, has the pandemic affected Nature’s Edge? The last year has been challenging, but we did not let it impede our families’ progress. We understand how important consistency is to our patients’ success, so we found creative ways to engage with our families. We utilized technology and booked virtual sessions when necessary, and thankfully had lots of space and fresh outside air to play and work in!
What are your goals for 2021? Helping patients with disabilities access the therapy they need. We will continue to provide services to patients of all ages, regardless of their insurance,or ability to pay, and ensure treatment plans can be incorporated and carried over into their day-to-day life.
How can readers help? Any support to our mission is greatly appreciated! We are always looking for enthusiastic, caring volunteers and have a use for so many talents. Whether it would be technical like grant writing, social media, newsletters or, if you prefer to be onsite, helping with the animals, working in the gardens, side-walking during a hippotherapy session. We truly have something for everyone! Monetary donations in all amounts are always welcomed and appreciated. Whether you’d like to sponsor a therapy animal, contribute to operating costs or scholarship families in need, every dollar is accounted for, and used conscientiously. Contributions to Diane’s House help us deliver intensive rehabilitative therapy to patients who need it the most. Many of the patients we see at Diane’s House cannot receive the treatment they need due to the severity of their condition, inability to travel, cost burden and other obstacles. We remove these barriers by giving the patient and their family a place to stay on-site and teaching the entire family the skill sets they need to help their loved one function and gain independence.
Does the foundation have any events or fundraisers on the horizon? Nature’s Edge Therapy Center hosts its 2022 “Evening in Elegance” Gala, an annual fundraising event on Jan. 21, 2022, at the Rice Lake Elks Club. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year. The evening starts with hors d’oeuvres during social hour, along with silent auction items on display for bid. At 6:45 p.m., dinner is served, followed by a live auction, with dozens of items available for every budget. We will also be conducting a Delicious Desserts auction. Following the auction, we will be entertained with live music from the Dean’s List Orchestra.