An Exciting Ranch for Special Needs Children to Enjoy Art and Nature
Joan Nast believes she is called to help disabled children. She remembers living in a beautiful home in Lighthouse Point on the Intracoastal Waterway when she heard a little voice that said,“Take care of my sick children.”
At that point, she called to ask her husband Bob Nast to sell their home, boat, and other items and to purchase a dilapidated ranch property in Coconut Creek that would provide outings for special needs children. After some discussion, Bob agreed to the move and the Nasts created God’s Little Acres. They worked hard to improve the property and make it into a beautiful respite for families. Bob has enjoyed a successful career as a general contractor and Joan worked in real estate.
“We are going into our 20th year in January and we have served over 16,000 seriously ill or special needs children, all free of charge,” said Joan. “We have arts and crafts, clowns, face painting, hay rides, a petting zoo, miniature horses, and an emu. We are getting other animals.”
About twice a month, the Nasts hold an event for special needs children on their property. The kids enjoy playing and socializing and their parents also have an opportunity for an outing. There is plenty of food and Publix donates the cakes. Volunteers help run the events and some have been involved for 19 years.
Families stay all afternoon and enjoy each other’s company. Once a month, Joan holds a breakfast for mothers who are struggling to care for disabled children. The women have created a group and made close friends because of shared difficulty. “We are not a religious organization and we welcome all faiths,” explains Joan.
God’s Little Acres includes a food pantry. Every November, the organization gives away about 125 twenty-pound turkeys, along with side dishes and pumpkin pie to people facing difficulties. Joan said,“There are a lot of families with many children and little food. On the weekend before Thanksgiving, I call the families and tell them to come and pick up their turkey dinners. They get enough food for two weeks. No one is embarrassed, because they know we love them.”
Just before Christmas, God’s Little Acres hosts a holiday event and disadvantaged children receive toys. The organization recently hosted a Fall Fest to kick off this year’s program. The Ronald McDonald House presented a $10,000 check to the organization. Ronald McDonald himself came to the event. A mother dressed up as Elmo, while a volunteer was a clown.
Brent Upchurch, a member of the Ronald McDonald House Board, attended the event and was pleased with what he saw: “This fits in well with organizations that we support. I have known Bob and Joan for years and I am impressed with the work they are doing.”
Maria Lopez of Coral Springs has two special needs children. She said,“I love this place. I come here and relax and my children have fun here.” Similarly, Coral Springs’ Karen LaSure is a foster mom for eight children: “This is an amazing place. Kids can just be kids here.”
Joan said she wants to build a 4,000 square foot “ginger house” that would be a place for kids to come year round, regardless of the weather. It would include a recreation area with a stage where performances could be given for children. She also wants to provide horse therapy for the children, as they are God’s Little Acres’ number one priority.
By David Volz – TheParklander.com