By Lauren Garcia

WALL TOWNSHIP — The Allaire Community Farm hosted a special event for children and adults with special needs Saturday, drawing more than 400 guests.

According to Joann Burney, a co-owner of the farm, visitors with autism, Down Syndrome and other developmental issues ranged in age from two to the mid-30’s.

The day’s events included pony and horse rides for children, a petting zoo where guests could feed and groom the animals, as well as the opportunity to gather eggs from the henhouse and take hayrides around the property.

“It was a great day,” Ms. Burney said.

In addition to the 400 guests, Ms. Burney said 30 volunteers showed up to help with the event. They included retired special education teachers, physical and occupational therapists and many first timers.

“It was encouraging how many people turned up,” Ms. Burney said.

Those with special needs can benefit from interaction with animals, as both a learning and sensory experience because touching, feeling and smelling can be difficult for them, according to Ms. Burney.

The Allaire Community Farm invited families with children and adults with special needs to their home to enjoy a day of petting animals, riding ponies, playing with bunnies and picking eggs. The farm hopes to repeat the event throughout the year. Photo courtesy JOANN BURNEY

“We had some really cool experiences,” Ms. Burney said. Some of the non-verbal autistic children spoke and a socially distant autistic child hugged the volunteers, she said.

Donations, which were optional, totalled about $484, according to Ms. Burney. She said The Applebee’s in Wall Township also donated food for 150 people and the police department offered their services.

“We really like working with the town,” Ms. Burney said.

Allaire Community Farm’s next event is Aug. 1, when it will co-sponsor a fundraiser with the Sunshine Girls from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to raise money to rescue animals.