Grayslake-area couple shares rescued animals, education

 
By Abby Scalf
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 7/13/2018 6:37 AM
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  • Julia Mollenhauer of Libertyville takes a picture of a goat during goat yoga at Kamins Farm near Grayslake.

      Julia Mollenhauer of Libertyville takes a picture of a goat during goat yoga at Kamins Farm near Grayslake. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Kate McAlister and Brad Kamins have created a sanctuary along a two-lane road near Grayslake.

Across the grounds, there is a pasture filled with goats, ducks and alpaca. Cows and cats walk freely.

One also may see horses, rabbits, pigs and even roosters. Each comes with a different story -- some McAlister purchased to rescue from difficult circumstances, and others were just left at their doorstep.

The couple has lovingly given these animals a home and has given every creature a name.

But they aren't merely rescuing animals; they are sharing them with others.

From birthday parties and painting parties to setting up mats across the pasture to lead yoga classes, McAlister gives people an opportunity to bond with the animals, learn their stories and share why she wants to give them all a loving home.

Growing up on a farm in Iowa, McAlister said her mom always took in animals.

"We took in squirrels, raccoons, and all kinds of animals as a child that needed a home. I grew up around animals and too have a love of animals," she said.

Girls do yoga with baby farm animals during goat yoga at Kamins Farm near Grayslake.
  Girls do yoga with baby farm animals during goat yoga at Kamins Farm near Grayslake. - Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

While on a trip to Iowa to visit friends, shortly after moving in 2016 to the Grayslake-area farm formerly owned by the Cuneo family, McAlister and Kamins met goats that were being taken to the auction barn.

The couple decided to bring home their first goats, Rosemary and Billy, who had pneumonia with the hope of nursing them back to health. Five weeks later, Billy died. Shortly after the goat died, Kamins thought it would be consoling to bring home five more goats to rescue.

"It spiraled from there because people realized we were willing to take in sick and unwanted animals," McAlister said. "Then, the ducks got dropped off after Easter. We had bunnies that got dropped off. By dropped off, I mean people just left them with a note."

Later, people came to the farm asking to meet the animals, McAlister said. It was then the idea began to create a place to rescue unwanted and abused animals and provide people with positive interactions with these animals and education, she said.

One of the barn buildings was converted into a dance studio to offer barre workout classes. Each weekend, 100 people would attend the classes.

People participate in goat yoga at Kamins Farm near Grayslake.
  People participate in goat yoga at Kamins Farm near Grayslake. - Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

"We decided to expand and offer yoga, and 300 people each weekend were coming," she said.

McAlister has created a variety of programs, including painting parties, open pasture cuddles where families can spend time with the animals and an introductory goat yoga class.

Upcoming programs are listed on the Kamins Farm Sanctuary Facebook page.

Chris Valenziano of Ingleside said there are two thoughts when one first hears about goat yoga.

"People are either all in or think that is the craziest thing they've ever heard. I came for the goat yoga, and I never wanted to leave," she said.

A fee is charged per program that helps care for the animals and to rescue additional animals, McAlister said.

While she is happy to provide people with a chance to meet the animals, if they come expecting programs to run smoothly, this is not the place.

"At our movie night, we have cats jumping at the movie screen. Everything is still a lot of fun. Your kid is going to remember that Rosie ripped down the projector screen before they remember that they went to watch a movie," she said.

McAlister also wants to educate people about what brought the animals to the sanctuary.

The male goats were rescued from dairy farms, where they would be auctioned and slaughtered for meat. The horses were rescued from Louisiana where they were kept cramped in a pen.

Kelly Moroney, left, Maggie Caldwell and Phoenix Burba, all of Grayslake, huddle with some goats during goat yoga at Kamins Farm near Grayslake.
  Kelly Moroney, left, Maggie Caldwell and Phoenix Burba, all of Grayslake, huddle with some goats during goat yoga at Kamins Farm near Grayslake. - Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

"They were not being fed. They were not being given water. They were not given shelter. The horses were held in a pen with 700 other horses," she said.

There are some animals, that after round-the-clock care do not survive. It's upsetting, she said.

But she adds, "We've only lost four. There are more success stories."

With 4,500 people who follow their Facebook page and program regulars, McAlister said many share a story of an animal needing help.

"We can't say 'yes' in every instance, but we try to talk to other farmers who can take them in if we don't have the space," she said.

McAlister credits having the space for the animals and loyal volunteers who help care for them, run programs and offer skills from accounting to marketing to renovating the property to accommodate more animals.

Jacky Kushner of Volo first brought her girls when they were 1½ years old to the goat cuddles.

They all fell in love with the programs and helping McAlister at the farm.

"They see a cow on a piece of paper, and it's Rosie. They see a horse, and it's George or Mingo. It's not just a horse. They are getting that experience. It's been super amazing," she said.

Brittany Foley, who grew up with McAlister in Iowa and now lives in Palatine, said the sanctuary is amazing.

"She (McAlister) has created a community of people that love everything about it here and want to be here every day," Foley said.

Barns are being renovated to expand capacity, and the nonprofit organization is developing a website so it can promote the programs and accept donations.

McAlister hopes they will always have a following and provide a forever home to animals in need.

"They are trying to be the voice for the animals that have none," Kushner said.

"Kate is not only their caretaker but their mom, nurse and guardian angel. That really sums up who she is and what this farm is all about."

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