Keryn’s farm is changing the lives of struggling kids and neglected animals
When Keryn Denroche quit her job to pursue her passion of rescuing injured and neglected animals, she thought she was just fulfilling a lifelong dream. But when she saw the effect the animals had on struggling children, she created a farm where they could learn and grow together—and has changed hundreds of lives in the process!
Keryn Denroche smiled as she ushered the two newest residents, Gracie and Peanut, into her British Columbia, Canada, barn. “You’ll be safe and happy here,” she whispered, watching in awe as the two cows nosed around their new home, sticking together as though they were attached at the hip.
Keryn had rescued the pair from a nearby farm, where both cows had been marked for slaughter. Three-year-old Gracie had gone blind some time before, suffering multiple injuries from recurring accidents, while Peanut, just 2 months old, had been orphaned.
But when Keryn had first laid eyes on the pair, their incredible connection was something she could palpably feel in her heart. Now, marveling as Peanut led Gracie around their new home, sticking close and showing her the way like a guide dog, Keryn’s heart swelled with joy.
This is why I do this, she thought with a smile. Every animal deserves to live all their days in comfort and peace.
Taking a leap of faith
For years, Keryn had been called to start her own animal rescue, and at age 50, she took a huge leap of faith. Keryn quit her successful corporate job and decided to return to school to pursue her true passion: animal studies. After enrolling to get her bachelor of science in humane advocacy and animal welfare, Keryn eagerly dove headlong into her classes—taking particular interest in the connection between violence in people and animal cruelty.
I want to help stop both, Keryn thought as her professor explained that for children who have been exposed to violence and trauma at an early age, interacting with animals often proved curative in coping with their emotional
issues. One special program caught Keryn’s attention: a nonprofit farm in California that had started an early-intervention program where at-risk kids helped care for animals to heal from emotional trauma.
I wonder if we have anything like that in Canada? Keryn thought excitedly. But after searching, she found nothing like it in her area… and a light bulb flickered on in her mind.
I’m going to do it! she resolved. I’m going to open my own farm, where children and animals can heal… together.
The bonds of love
In 2008, after earning her degree, Keryn created Semiahmoo Animal League, Incorporated (SALI), a nonprofit farm sanctuary for animals who had been abandoned, neglected or abused.
At the start, a couple Keryn knew offered their stable as a home base, and her farm soon flourished, growing to include a host of rescue animals— horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, cats, turkeys, chickens— each with their own personality and inspiring story.
As her brood grew, Keryn began working alongside local social workers to host SALI’S Children’s Program, an early intervention program wherein local at-risk kids visit once a week for eight weeks to interact with the farm animals and help brush, feed and care for each of them. It’s amazing the change that it makes in these kids, Keryn marveled as she watched the once sullen, withdrawn boys and girls blossom and come out of their shells. Social workers also reported that the children in the program were interacting better with their peers and many were now excelling in school. And when Gracie and Peanut arrived, those changes became even more pronounced. Peanut, then just a baby, was bottle-fed by each child in the program. As they took care of the young calf and witnessed her love for Gracie as she helped her navigate the new enclosure, the children witnessed pure compassion up close. And when Gracie gave birth to the farm’s third cow, Clover, a few months after her arrival, the children saw a special blended family, and even with their own impairments and problems, were ultimately bound together by love.
“They’re all so different,” one girl exclaimed, her eyes alight as she stroked Clover. “But it doesn’t matter—they love each other and everything is okay!”
And the positive changes were not limited to the children—the animals have flourished too. Today the sanctuary has moved to a new farm in South Surrey, British Columbia, where it’s now able to house more than 32 animals. Gracie’s original injuries are healed, and she often wanders the farm freely and without fear, while Peanut has blossomed under the care of both the children and volunteers, always asking visitors for ear scratches and pets.
Keryn was surprised how much it has changed her own life. “It’s a gift to offer a safe haven for at-risk kids and rescued animals to bond and grow,” she smiles. “Seeing the unconditional love between them brings me endless fulfillment. They learn and heal together. There is nothing more beautiful in the world!” — Alexandra Pollock
“Offering a safe haven for at-risk kids and rescued animals brings me endless fulfillment”