Cozying up to critters: Kelly’s Kids expands into new side business

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Kelly’s Kids attendee, Evan Austin, 13, of Wolcott pets a duck alongside Kelly’s Kids Founder and Executive Director Kelly Cronin who carries her grandson at her farm and business at 18 Spring Road on Wednesday, Aug. 17. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

PROSPECT — Farms on Wheels now has a cute little baby business to go with it.

Kelly’s Kids founder and executive director Kelly Cronin began Farms on Wheels 32 years ago. The company would bring farm animals to birthday parties, convalescent homes and nursery schools.

This summer, Cronin launched Baby Animal Packet. The new venture is run by her two grandnephews, Woodland Regional High School students Jace and Kole Molyck.

Farms on Wheels is the traditional bigger mobile animal business while Baby Animal Packet can open up shop inside a facility or a garage with a tarp and a fence. The animals for Farms on Wheels include pigs, goats, sheep, ducks, rabbits and a turkey. Baby Animal Packet animals include piglets, bunnies, lambs and kid goats.

Cronin said Baby Animal Packet has taken off and gives the Molyck brothers some business experience.

“They have to figure out finances and everything that goes along with it,” Cronin said.

Kole Molyck obtained a truck for his birthday and now uses it for Baby Animal Packet.

“When I was looking for a car to get, because I turned 16, I wanted a truck. Part of the reason was for this,” Kole Molyck said.

The brothers have been working in Farm on Wheels practically their whole lives, Jace Molyck said.

“This baby component gives a sense of how to run a business.” Jace Molyck said. “It’s really great to see doing something good for people at the same time getting what you need to get done.”

Cronin said her goal was to have the Molyck brothers make honest money around their school and then be able to help people.

Jace Molyck said it’s good to see teens get a chance to learn and have fun with animals at inner-city places and other areas where farm animals aren’t usually found.

Cronin said they went out to a day care center recently. There were quite a few autistic children. Teachers were hesitant to let them in with the animals because autistic kids can be aggressive and pull on things.

“I said just give them a chance, let them in. They were like in tears because animals are so different from like having them go on a playground and play with their peers,” Cronin said. “This kid that was supposedly punching everybody and doing whatever, he was the calmest kid in there. He stayed the whole time.”

Cronin said her business is looking to expand and the Baby Animal Packet portion of the business will be able to set up shop easily inside facilities during the winter months.

Kelly’s Kids will have completed a nine-week summer program in the last full week of August.

The business typically runs an afterschool program as well as house alpacas, donkeys, mini-horses, calves, rabbits, turkeys, ducks, kittens, cats, dogs and fish.

The summer camp includes children from 3 to 18 years of age while the after school program ranges from 6- to 18-year old children.

“A lot of our kids that come to camp have been in traditional settings, like YMCA camps or Boys and Girls clubs and because of the structure, just can’t handle it,” Cronin said. “We get a lot of kids that come here that need one on one.”

The business has credentialed staff that help with children and also has teenagers that work with the children as well.

Cronin said she brought a 9-year-old boy to the farm before Kelly’s Kids. The boy had endured through some past trauma and had a large file about his past, detailing how he was mean to animals, beat up other children and was disrespectful. She asked the boy to hold a newly born baby goat and he refused a couple of times but eventually said yes.

Kelly’s Kids employee Faith Herren interacts with Kelly’s Kids attendees at the business and farm located on 18 Spring Road on Wednesday, Aug. 17. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

“He was saying, it’s OK, it’s OK and the goat started snuggling in his neck and he stopped and tears started running down his face,” Cronin said.

Cronin said to the boy, the goat’s mother wanted to take care of the baby but she didn’t know how and the farm could take help the mother take care of the baby.

“He looked right at me and I’ll never forget it, he said I know exactly how this goat feels,” Cronin said. “So a lot of the time, the kids just need the attention, the one on one attention.”

Most of the children who attend Kelly’s Kids are referred from Department of Children and Families. About 45% of the children who attend are autistic. The children will do chores such as help feed animals and help teach responsibility. Meanwhile the animals help relax the children, Cronin said.

Cronin’s daughter, Brady Gunning took over the role as owner in May. Cronin has continued her role.

Gunning originally came on a few yeras ago as a clinic consultant. She holds a master’s degree in clinical counseling.

“It’s not your normal sit down therapy, we’re going to talk it out. It’s hands on. It really allows the kids to be kids and if they’re having a bad day, we let them have the bad day and we work through it,” Gunning said. “Sometimes the animals are there to help guide in that process and sometimes they don’t want nothing to do with them. We allow them have the emotions, have the behaviors and then we figure out afterward and that seems to be helpful.”

Gunning said she’s looking to expand the business through the rest of the state.

The business isn’t looking to open up a group home, Cronin added.

Cronin said Woodland alumni have stepped up to the plate and helped the farm by working this summer after some of them began internships at Kelly’s Kids.

Thomas Meade said he worked most of the time with a child who had anger issues. But he always seemed to calm down when animals were around and since has improved his behavior.

“Seeing us make the kids happy makes us happy that we’re helping them,” Faith Herren said. “So I think that makes a big impact on me.”

“I think right now we are serving the most vulnerable population in the state,” Cronin said. “These kids have been through everything and back. It’s a safe space for them.”