On Saturday, August 12, the therapy goats (and one little piglet!) of Hidden Acres Animal Sanctuary donned brightly colored costumes and walked down the red carpet at Cedarhurst Senior Living of Canton, bringing support and awareness to their human friends with Alzheimer’s. The residents and employees of Cedarhurst also took a turn on the red carpet, showing off fashions donated in part by Belk.

Both the animal and human fashionistas worked together to raise money to benefit the Cherokee County 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Cedarhurst Senior Living is a partner and team for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraiser. The goal of this fundraiser was to raise money for Cedarhurst’s team as well as Hidden Acres Animal Sanctuary, and to show how much Hidden Acres Animal Sanctuary has helped the community.

Rescuing Animals

Hidden Acres Animal Sanctuary [HAAS] is a nonprofit animal rescue with the mission to “spread hope, healing, and love to rescued farm animals and human hearts” focused on bringing joy to the community. Over one hundred animals—including goats, cows, ducks, donkeys, rabbits, and chickens—call HAAS home. Goat Gala event organizer and HAAS volunteer Diane Houser describes the animals as “intelligent, curious, [and] friendly” and notes that they enjoy human contact.

Founder and owner Sarah Carney calls it a dream come true. She shares she has always felt a connection to animals and saw them as an escape from a difficult childhood, often rescuing injured birds and taking care of them until they could fly home. In January 2018, Sarah’s lifelong dream began to become reality when she rescued two horses and a herd of eight neglected goats. By 2020, the sanctuary was granted nonprofit status.

Many of the animals brought to the sanctuary have been rescued from situations involving abuse or neglect. The volunteers work hard to regain the trust of these hurt animals. The process can take several months, or even years, but the results are worth it.

The sanctuary’s therapy animals have touched the hearts of over five thousand people, including local seniors, memory care patients, hospice patients, individuals with special needs, and individuals struggling with mental or emotional health. The natural joy the animals bring with their presence alone has changed lives and brought humans and animals closer.

Touching Hearts

HAAS Therapy Director Angela Chambers shares the heartwarming story of an elderly gentleman with dementia in a local memory care facility. The staff introduced him as being non-verbal. Yet, as he held a therapy kitten in his arms, he began to sing to her. “The staff was shocked because he doesn’t talk or communicate,” Angela recalls, “it was very special for all of us to witness.” She also shares that visits with the animals often spark memories in dementia patients, who sometimes recall family pets or experiences growing up on farms.

Even the act of holding the animals in and of itself can be very therapeutic. Sarah shares, “When you place the spine of a bunny rabbit against a person’s heart, you can watch them transform.” She goes on to describe the story of a visitor with cerebral palsy, a condition the CDC describes as “a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.” Sarah says all the young woman’s muscles were tight and tense, but as volunteers placed a bunny in her arms, “within thirty seconds, all of her muscles relaxed. She was feeding the cows and goats with her feet!”

Even the smallest therapy animals can make a big difference. Sarah says she has visited assisted living homes with a baby squirrel, which reminded the residents of bringing their bird feeders out and watching as squirrels took some of the food for themselves.

The Animals Come to Cedarhurst

HAAS and Cedarhurst Senior Living have been working together for about eighteen months. Once a month, a variety of animals visit the home and brighten everyone’s day. Cedarhurst’s Life Enrichment Director Samantha Seitz says it is difficult to pick just one example of how much these animals have brought joy to the residents at Cedarhurst.

Samantha shares a special story of a former resident, Stan. “Mr. Stan always loved cats,” she explains, “and when he moved to Cedarhurst felt he was unable to have a cat because he didn’t feel that he could care for it properly.” When the kittens from HAAS started visiting, one cat in particular always made its way to Stan’s lap. The two cuddled, and the cat would fall asleep on him the entire visit. Samantha says it was “as if it knew that it was safe and secure with him, and that Mr. Stan needed him.”

While the animals make regular visits to Cedarhurst, the Goat Gala was a special event that invited the public to join the fun. The sold-out event welcomed friends and family members of residents and animal lovers of all ages to cheer on the therapy animals and Cedarhurst residents and staff who took to the red carpet. With an original goal to raise $300 towards the 2023 Cedarhurst Walk to End Alzheimer’s team fundraiser, organizers were thrilled with the positive public response, and raised more than their anticipated goal through ticket sales and donations. The Cedarhurst team held a check presentation ceremony during the Gala, presenting Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s Walk Manager Dan Phillips with the event proceeds. Additional proceeds also benefited Hidden Acres Animal Sanctuary.

Walk to End Alzheimer’s

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the largest fundraising event by the Alzheimer’s Association, the world’s largest private organization funding care and research on Alzheimer’s. The association works with congresspeople from all over the United States to pass bills that benefit Alzheimer’s care and research and contribute to funding for the cause. The organization’s efforts have facilitated medical discoveries such as a medicine that can slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s, meaning patients can spend more time living independently.

There is also a helpline all about Alzheimer’s, which serves as an amazing resource especially for caregivers who want to learn more, get advice, or need a listening ear. If this service sounds helpful to you or someone you know, call 1-800-272-3100 for the 24/7 helpline.

The Goat Gala is not the only major local event raising funds to put an end to Alzheimer’s. On Saturday, September 16, The Terraces at Big Canoe in Marble Hill host Cat Ridgeway & The Tourists for a benefit concert. Recently voted Orlando’s Best Singer-Songwriter and Best Rock Act, Cat Ridgeway is a powerhouse performer known for soulful vocals, high energy, and a magnetic stage presence. During the concert, artist Kerry Jackson will be painting the concert scene which will be raffled off during intermission. Tickets are $100 each, including concert admission, a meal ticket, a dessert popsicle, and a concert t-shirt. All proceeds benefit the 2023 Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

On Saturday, October 21, the third annual Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place at Etowah River Park in Canton. There is no fee to register, but fundraising and donations are encouraged and appreciated. All funds raised through Walk to End Alzheimer’s further the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.

If everyone works together, defeating Alzheimer’s may be closer than we think.

Enjoy Cherokee Magazine is the media partner of the 2023 Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s.




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