With the goal of sharing the “magic” of animals with others, Charlene Swayze created a nonprofit animal therapy ranch in Val Verde.
When Swayze was widowed, left to raise six daughters on her own, it was the animals who helped them cope.
After seeing the impact the animals had on KC, Swayze’s 27-year-old daughter with special needs, she decided to open Swayze Ranch, so others could feel the same joy.
The family’s original ponies were soon joined by goats and alpaca, all of whom were rescued.
Now a year later, the ranch gets visitors every day, including those with special needs, Alzheimer patients, cancer patients, foster children, and lately, simply those who suffering emotionally with this pandemic.
“Animals are magical,” Swayze said. “The animals don’t care what you look like, what you act like … if you can talk, what color your skin is. They don’t care. They just want to love you. … We let our animals share that love (with our visitors).”
Lisa Soares, a Castaic High School teacher, was looking for something fun to do with her kids in midst of pandemic, and decided to visit the ranch after seeing Swayze’s post on social media.
“My daughter said, ‘I really wish we could go to the zoo,’” Soares said, adding that not only did the kids love it, but so did she. “It’s really great. … We love seeing the animals.”
A visit to the ranch is a weekly occurrence for the Kim family, who were excited to not only have a safe place to visit during the quarantine, but also the ability for their kids to be able to get close and interact with some animals.
“It’s usually just like us and maybe one of the family once in a while,” Amy Kim said. “(The kids) love it. … And it’s so quiet out here.”
The Kims even visited for Abigail’s 7th birthday, where she got to feed the ponies and learn how to brush them.
For 15-year-old Lucas Rosales, it’s the fact that the goats act like dogs and that each animal has its own personality that he enjoys.
“They’re all so funny, too,” he said. “It’s really fun to just be with them.”
Karen Soares, 11, agreed, adding, “I like seeing the animals. … It’s just a very pleasant environment.”
It’s exactly what Swayze envisioned: A place where families could bring their children to share the joy animals bring.
Swayze Ranch is open sunrise to sunset every day of the week and is located at 30631 San Martinez Road in Vale Verde. For more information on the Swayze Foundation, visit swayze.co or email [email protected].