Louis Castriota Jr. was 26 when he started the vision for a therapy center that would serve children with special needs. More than a decade of work lay ahead — raising funds and applying for grants and loans, finding appropriate land at an appropriate price, and encouraging lawmakers, business people and community members to believe in his mission.
“I had rough days,” Castriota said. “There were definitely rough days along the way.”
But, inspired by his daughter Brooke, who was diagnosed with special needs at 1 year old, Castriota persevered. Leg Up Farm opened its doors in East Manchester Township in April 2010.
“Brooke was my motivation,” he said. “I knew that Brooke needed Leg Up Farm and there were thousands of children like her who needed it. I would get re-energized and pick myself up and get back at it.”
This summer, Castriota published “Leg Up: The Courage to Dream,” which follows some of the obstacles he encountered and highlights several men and women who supported his mission as it took shape — from “bureaucratic angel” Nancy Englehart, a customer service representative with the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development; to Barb Warren, who donated 18 acres of land and permission to use several more acres for whatever needs would arise; to Jack Lehr, who raised $160,000 for the farm through an annual golf tournament.
“My goal with the book is I really want people to not look at the obstacles in their life, but look at the gifts of the people in their life and also the gifts they have to share with others,” Castriota said. “It is kind of a road map for looking at what the dream is in your life.”
Since its opening, Leg Up Farm has served more than 1,000 children, Castriota said. Six hundred volunteers have donated more than 30,000 hours of service — and that’s not including the farm’s 45 paid employees.
“People come to Leg Up Farm because they are in need of a therapy service,” he said. “But as a team of volunteers and our staff, we really put our arms around the whole family and support them.”
A center section in the book highlights some of the success stories from Leg Up Farm, which Castriota said are the special moments that drive him forward through new challenges.
“When a child achieves a first, it makes me want to keep going,” he said.
“Leg Up: The Courage to Dream” is available as a hardback and an e-book, and readers can download a free electronic edition at amazon.com through Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Name: Louis Castriota
Lives in: Shrewsbury Township
Occupation: Founder, president and CEO of Leg Up Farm
Family: Wife, Laurie; and four children, Olivia, Toby, Brooke and Lauren
Hobbies: Trying to create the perfect brick oven pizza and gardening
To purchase: amazon.com. For those looking to purchase locally, Hearts and Minds in Dallastown also carries print copies.