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Justin’s Place opens in Wilmore to serve children through equine therapy program

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 4:59 PM EDT
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WILMORE, Ky. (WKYT) - A grand opening was held in Jessamine County Tuesday morning for a new equine therapy program.

Justin’s Place will serve children ages 4-12 who have autism or down syndrome.

The new farm is meant to provide healing, but perhaps it’s the family behind the farm that has now found peace after a tragic accident.

Sitting just outside Wilmore is a farm, but this isn’t just any other farm. “I think it’s kind of a little magical farm in my opinion where a lot of awesome things happen,” said Allie Barnett.

Allie Barnett is the Executive Director at Justin’s Place where the focus is providing equine therapy to some extraordinary kids.

The new program works with children who have autism or down syndrome.

“One of the biggest things that therapeutic riding provides to these kids is something that is their own. So, in that, these kids learn so many skills that translate to social skills,” said Barnett.

While this farm is meant to serve as a refuge for children, it grew out of one family’s need to put their grief into something positive.

“Our mission statement is that we just want to give these kids, sometimes this might be all they get, one hour of peace,” said Lynn Alexander.

And perhaps peace is what Lynn Alexander himself was seeking when he bought this farm three years after losing his grandson, 21-year-old Justin King, in a car accident.

King was a standout athlete, loved my many, but it was what Alexander learned about his grandson after his death that really touched him.

“People said that if they were in a group and they would go in a restaurant and there was a child in a wheelchair or anything like that, Justin would go sit down and talk to them and make them feel good,” said Alexander.

Justin’s family says he was drawn to people who needed a friend, maybe an extra hug or hand.

His sisters say his legacy is really very simple, and it’s what they hope this farm provides.

“Anybody that met Justin would say that you were so loved by him and I think that’s something we really want to implement here and I really think the kids feel it when they come here, how loved they are, and they are going to get a little bit of love that we felt everyday by him,” said Bailee King.

Along with therapeutic riding lessons, there is a sensory garden, a barnyard full of a menagerie of furry friends to play with.

What happens here is something Justin’s family knows he would be proud of.

“To see the kids' faces light up as they are riding a horse or they are playing with an animal and how happy they are the entire time they are here, I know that is something Justin is smiling so big about right now,” said Madison King.

There is healing happening on this farm.

Healing for the children who are a part of the program, but also for a family realizing now that the love Justin King had for others will live on at Justin’s Place long after his death.

“I think he could appreciate the fact that we don’t want his memory to ever go away,” said Alexander.

Justin’s Place is now accepting applications for the program. Click here for more information.

Copyright 2020 WKYT. All rights reserved.

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