Like many busy mothers of three, Diana Spangler spent a lot of time driving from appointment to appointment.
But her appointments weren't often for things like soccer games, bake sales and dance classes.
Instead, with her young kids in tow, she'd commute from building to building in an effort to give two of her children the medical care they needed.
Her 15-year-old son has Asperger syndrome and ADHD. Because those conditions can affect behavior, cognition and physical abilities, his treatment has included regular physical therapy sessions.
Spangler's 5-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with autism and ADHD, which affects behavior, and social and communication skills. Her treatment has included regular speech and language therapy sessions.
The hopeful mom drove all over the county to meet the medical needs of her children, often causing her 12-year-old daughter to wait in lobbies as her siblings received care.
But Leg Up Farm in Mount Wolf has made life a little easier for the Spanglers, the mom said.
"It's changed our lives," she said.
At Leg Up Farm, the Spangler children receive all the therapy they need under one roof.
The vision: But that was only part of its CEO's vision.
As Louie Castriota Jr. stands on the terrace of his brainchild, he looks over Leg Up Farm's 18-acre property like someone who's just beginning -- not someone who spent 10 years working to get seed money together to open a therapy center for children.
The business plan is largely inspired by his 16-year-old daughter Brooke, who has mitochondrial disease -- a metabolic disorder that causes cognitive and motor function delays.
He and his wife, Laurie, have three other children, who don't need specialized care, and know first-hand what it's like to manage multiple therapy appointments with multiple children.
"That's why we really want to enhance the life of the whole family," he said.
To do that, Leg Up Farm is in the middle of a $1.5 million construction project that will add therapy gardens throughout the property, including a tranquility garden, sensory garden, fishing pond, organic garden, music garden and outdoor classrooms.
Castriota sees those areas as places where children will learn and receive therapy, but also where families can pick produce for dinner.
Eventually, he'd also like Leg Up Farm to host a farmer's market, bringing in a commerce component where students there can find work.
Independent living: "A lot of what we do here is teaching children how to live independently," he said.
The center has a kitchen and laundry area, where kids learn to cook and do laundry. With a next phase of development, Castriota plans to install an apartment, which will serve as a classroom extension where children can learn additional life skills.
In addition to families and young children who use the facility, neighboring school districts also send students there for supplemental therapy.
Last Thursday, through a partnership with the Lincoln Intermediate Unit, Northeastern teachers brought a group of neurologically-impaired students to cavort with the farm's 20 animals -- which include horses, ponies, miniature horses, miniature donkeys and cats.
"It gives the kids more experience than they would normally have," said Sarah Garber, a teacher with the program.
Eight students travel to the center every Thursday, and they focus on a new topic each week, learning about teamwork, getting over anxieties, leadership and trust.
"It's been very helpful and very therapeutic," Garber said. "The kids get out a lot of feelings and emotions a regular classroom doesn't let you delve into."
Hundreds served: Since the doors opened in 2010, more than 600 children have been served at Leg Up Farm, which manages more than 1,100 therapy appointments a month.
To meet that demand, staff has grown to 39 employees, and the center has more than 300 active volunteers, who donated more than 14,000 hours in 2011.
That continued growth and need are the impetus for Castriota's next development at the farm -- a $3.5 million development that will add classroom space, a therapy pool, a gym, and training areas for staff and medical providers.
To get started with that buildout, Leg Up Farm on recently received a $450,000 Challenge Grant from the Donald & Dorothy Stabler Foundation in Harrisburg. It's a matching grant Castriota said will help the center implement the therapy pool, which is the first piece of the new development, but no timetable has been set.
Though that is the fifth phase of a five-phase plan that began more than two years ago, he said the work is far from over.
Many families of older teenagers are approaching him and asking how their children can remain a part of what has become their community. It's planting the seed of a new vision which Castriota said would help the center's students and patients who are growing up and out of Leg Up's arms.
"There's definitely a regional need here for adult care," he said. "There's still so much to do."
-- Reach Candy Woodall at 505-5437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.