Nov. 7, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- Former Wisconsin softball player Maggie Strange felt “at home” the first time she visited Heartland Farms Sanctuary in Verona, Wis.
A native of Gallatin, Mo., Strange grew up on a farm shoveling manure, working in the barn and tending to animals. When her softball career ended last summer, the Heartland Farms Sanctuary provided an opportunity for Strange to reunite with her “farm girl roots” while doing some good at the same time.
Heartland Farms Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that provides a safe haven for homeless farm animals in Wisconsin and, in turn, uses them in animal-assisted therapies to help troubled youth and those with disabilities. Strange and teammate Mariel Massei have been volunteering there on a weekly basis for the last few months, assisting two young adults.
“When we get to the farm, they get the biggest smile on their face,” said Strange. “It’s a great feeling.”
It is a feeling Strange wanted to share with her teammates. She found the perfect opportunity when she found out the group’s barn was in need of some maintenance. On Nov. 2, Strange and her teammates headed to Verona for a day on the farm -- complete with shoveling manure, building chicken coops and pig huts and cutting insulation.
“Everybody dove right in,” said Strange. “They picked up their pitchforks and went for it.”
The Heartland Farms staff, who specialize in forging bonds between animals and the youth they assist, were impressed with the team’s effort and ability to work together.
“The team exemplified teamwork when they volunteered on Saturday, working together to help the animals,” said Heartland Farms employee Sarah Konkol.
UW junior Maria Van Abel of Kaukana, Wis., may not have grown up on a farm, but she welcomed the opportunity to get ‘down and dirty’ on the farm and the worthwhile experience it provided.
“It was a really cool knowing and seeing that all of our individual tasks and efforts were joining towards a much larger goal that is bigger than any of us,” Van Abel said. “It was awesome to be able to be part of something so special going on right here in our own community, and knowing how the sanctuary is going to help people in Madison, that made the day spent there very worthwhile.”