Animal-Assisted Therapy Program

Our Jennie Clarkson Barn is the start of a new beginning for St. Christopher’s. The doors to the wonderful world of animal assisted therapy have been opened and we are excited to have animals who have found their forever home on our rolling 35-acre property.

The youth have had the opportunity to partake in animal assisted activities through their involvement with some of our partner organizations and supporters, including the Pegasus Therapeutic Riding program in Brewster, NY and Giving Retriever.

​Some of our youth have even formed a 4H club through Cornell Cooperative Extension and have been able to present our goats and chickens at weekend fairs. They have been able to hone their public speaking skills and increase their knowledge base which has led to a noticeable increase in their self-esteem.

Why Animal Therapy?

Our youth come to us with varying psychiatric diagnoses, with 30% being diagnosed on the autism spectrum and with other learning needs, a traditional classroom setting isn’t always where they can reach their maximum potential. Animal Assisted Therapy will enable St. Christopher’s to provide our youth with a whole new set of skills that will further their readiness for adulthood and life. Exposure to the animals, therapeutic services, and barn activities, can bring many benefits to the residents, including support as they transition into residential and school programming, an improvement in social contact and bonding as well as the reduction of feelings of judgment and stress.

The behavior data speaks for itself in that St. Christopher’s has seen a reduction down to zero of instances of emotional dysregulation when the youth have been in the presence of our animals.

Pegasus Therapeutic Riding

Our youth visit the Pegasus Farm once a week, where they take part in the unmounted program, concentrate on horse care and understand horse behavior. They also participate in the mounted program where they have also been able to ride and enhance their sensory integration skills in that way.

Giving Retriever

Our youth have had the benefit of partaking in Canine Integrative Therapy sessions multiple times a week with Giving Retriever, a program which has done wonders for our children’s’ ability to listen and respond to directives, set goals for themselves and for their canine companions, and enhance their own interpersonal skills and problem solving capabilities.

Animal Program Committee

Dr. Donald Antonecchia, CEO

Heidi Bonorato, Giving Retriever, LLC

Maggie Ciarcia-BelloniWildlife Rehabilitator, Volunteer

Sean Coffey Teacher, REACH Academy

Jerry Dejean, Campus & Clinical Director, Jennie Clarkson Campus

Judith Halden, Animal Program Manager, LMSW

Therese Harrison, Nurse Practitioner

Elizabeth Hendricks, Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

Ralph Herrera, Director of Operations

Megan Hubertus, Director of Quality Improvement

Dr. Rachelle Karmin, Associate Executive Director

Andrew Knoblauch, Farmer/Gardener

Dr. Ami Patel, Chief Medical Officer

Jesse Pereira, Maintenance Supervisor, Jennie Clarkson Campus

Paul Pizzutello, Principal, REACH Academy

Irene Powers, Administrative Assistant, Jennie Clarkson Campus

Dave Quattrocchi, Chief Financial Officer

Kimberly Realbuto, Recreation Coordinator, Jennie Clarkson Campus

Sarah Ruback, Director of Professional Development & Communications

AnnMarie Sasso, 4H-Livestock Consultant

Deborah Velez-Imbrogno, Director of Residential Services

Mike Voron, Transition Specialist, Greenburgh North Castle School District