Leg Up Farm shares vision for Franklin County therapy center

Jennifer Fitch

May 11, 2017 Updated 1 hr ago


FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. — Twenty years ago, Louis Castriota dreamed he essentially would drop a comprehensive therapy center onto a York County, Pa., farm to help children with special needs and families such as his own.

He succeeded in developing Leg Up Farm, and now is planning a similar facility in Franklin County, Pa.

Leg Up Farm on Thursday morning unveiled plans for its new center in Guilford Township, Pa.

The developers of the Penn National community are donating 14 acres, where the center can offer equine-facilitated, occupational, speech, nutrition, aquatic and other therapies.

“We start design next week,” said Gregg Thompson of Brechbill & Helman Construction Co.

More than $145,000 worth of in-kind contributions of services already have been committed to the project by architects, engineers and construction contractors.

A capital campaign is being formed to support development of the center over the next year and a half.

“This campus will begin to address the needs of these challenged children and their families,” Thompson said.

More than two years ago, Thompson attended an economic-development breakfast in which Franklin County (Pa.) Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross and Leg Up Farm Executive Director Tom O’Connor talked about creating a new therapy center in the county.

Thompson shared the idea last year with Penn National developer Patrice “Patti” Nitterhouse.

Nitterhouse and her husband, Dennis Zimmerman, visited Leg Up Farm in Mount Wolf, Pa., on May 13, 2016. The couple said they saw smiles on the faces of everyone they encountered there.

“On the way home, Patti and I looked at each other and said: ‘We want in on this project,'” Zimmerman said Thursday.

“Leg Up is going to be an amazing asset to our community. It’ll be an amazing asset for our county,” Nitterhouse said.

The site will be off Mont Alto Road about a half-mile from Penn National Drive.

Castriota described for donors and the news organizations how he questioned what activities would be available to his daughter, Brooke, when she was diagnosed at a young age with a mitochondrial disorder and pervasive developmental disorder.

He and his wife sought to create a medical center on a farm that they envisioned as “the ultimate therapy center.”

Castriota highlighted the efforts of volunteers who tackle myriad tasks at the center, which also seeks to simultaneously serve parents and siblings of children with special needs.

“It’s always a toss-up about who gets more out of the programs — the volunteers or families,” he said.

The Mount Wolf center has a miniature “town,” a public market featuring freshly grown produce and foods for people with special dietary needs, a koi pond, a therapy dog and a “barrier-free” playground.

“Our vision would be to one day have all these things in Franklin County,” Castriota said