Tucked in the small town of East Haddam Ct. lies the Ray of Light farm, a beacon of light and hope for abused, neglected and displaced animals many of whom would succumb to illness and certain death without the sanctuary. Sanna Piispanen, Barn Manager stated, “We get calls often about animals that need homes or people call about animals that need help or need to be removed from a situation.”
The farm is dedicated to helping people improve their lives through bonding with animals; they are a nonprofit horse and donkey rescue as well as an animal-assisted therapy center. In addition to a therapeutic riding program, Ray of Light offers able bodied riding lessons and a tiny trotters educational program where toddlers learn about the animals, have a farm tour, pony rides, and interact with the animals. Shannon Doyle, who has worked here for nine years said, ” Well, I wouldn’t have made it through high school if I wasn’t working here” she added, “It gave me something to look forward to at the end of the week. I felt useful coming here and working here gave me a purpose.”
Recently the farm celebrated the arrival of Zoomer their first colt in over seven years. His parent’s story could have ended tragically. Zarrah and Zip who were very ill came from a kill lot where they were to be auctioned off, luckily they had a happy ending and wound up at Ray of Light.
The farm relies primarily on donations, but they do grow some of their own veggies and sell eggs from the chickens. There is no waste here, even the alpaca and sheep wool is given to a local resident who makes gloves and hats with it sells them and donates the proceeds back to the farm.
Founder and president Bonnie Buongiorne said she came to the farm “Totally by accident. I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer-I was almost 40. I promised the universe if I survived I was going to do something good with my life.” Though her plan was still unclear, she said, “I took all my guidance from the universe” and added “When I got to this piece of property it sucked me in. I felt like I was home.” In 2004 it was incorporated and she became president and applied for non-profit status.
The Ray of Light Farm is home to a wide variety of animals including Emma the donkey who lived in a basement forced to walk up and down stairs, Fiona the goat who grew up with cows and finds her way back to them whenever she’s moved away, Snow a by-product of the nurse mare industry, Fancy Pants a zonkey who came from a closed roadside show, and Spitfire a beautiful chestnut horse who has Secretariat racehorse in her bloodline. The animals are fed, cared for, and provided with enrichment and love. “We have a lot of animals that live longer than their average age I’d like to think that’s because of the care we give”, remarked Piispanen.
Feature Photo Credit Michael Thompson
Slideshow Credit Joseph Heitman, Michael Thompson
Video Credit Joseph Heitman