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Helping Hands Healing Sanctuary in Newberg, Oregon, has a tribe of goats.  The owner of the farm wants a play structure built so that the goats and the people who come to the farm for goat therapy have a place to better interact rather than standing in the currently empty pen.

Building a play area fulfills an expressed need of the farm and serves both the goats, and anyone who comes to the farm to interact with them. In addition, the goats now have a place for behavioral enrichment and exercise as they love to climb and jump.

When the owner, Rose Sullivan, was talking with me about the need of a structure, I decided this should be my project as I have volunteered at the Helping Hands Healing Sanctuary farm over the last six summers, and I wanted to give something long lasting back to farm. 

Stress continues to be a global concern with all walks of life. Animal therapy in general, and goat therapy in specific, helps calm us humans. The goats are in-tune with our internal rhythms and have a unique way of understanding what we need.

My experiences there have added to my growing maturity and confidence around animals.  My experience volunteering on the farm and learning how it runs has helped form my desire to work with animals in the future, possibly running my own animal therapy environment someday.

Designing and building a large wooden structure, will help me in designing and building animal enclosures in the future. Planning, and budgeting, will allow me to gain project management skills. Leading a team through the building process will help me gain experience as a leader.

To get more information about the farm, visit https://helpinghandshorse.org.


My Gold Award Ceremony was awesome! The Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast leadership was well represented. My Troop 60851 was in force as well – our final troop event was to the Magic Castle. Bill & Jeri from the local Elks Lodge, who have cheered me on since Brownilympics, got us use of the Elks Lodge for the ceremony. Friends and family were in abundance. I appreciated all the support everyone has given me through the years. I am now going off to college, where I hope to continue working with animals. I hope you have learned something while enjoying my blog. Thank you for reading my blog.

Sharing the Completed Area

Here I am with Rose, the owner of the farm. Rose is very appreciative of the new environment and is excited for its future. The experience has been amazing and I have continued to learn more about behavior enrichment, which blends with my passion for animals – I am currently on a track to take me into the world of animal training.

The facility is currently in use and has improved the experience.

My animal friends seem to like the new enrichment area.

I will be submitting my Gold Award Project for evaluation by Girl Scouts. Please pray they liked the results as much as I did the journey.

Final Touches

Finishing touches including burying the tires, adding the wine barrels, mucking the hay area and general improvement. We had been mucking all along, so we had an area for construction; we removed over 30 barrels of muck over the month we were there, that will be used for compost. The feed trough was in need of repair and the benches were in need of extra support. We also added corners to the covered area on the platform.

The barrels added character and additional space to the platform.

Adding the tires proved tougher than planned. Ae needed to use an augur to bore our the dirt so we could bury them. A team effort proved fruitful.

Welcoming the First Guests

Every summer, Helping Hands Healing Sanctity hosts Farm Day, where neighbors from communities far and wide are invited to visit the farm and learn about animal therapy. Guests are also invited back to help volunteer on the farm.

The goat enclosure was the petting area for the day, so bunnies were moved into the enclosure and became the first official users of the new structure.

I had a great time explaining my Girl Scout Gold Award Project to the over 100 guests who attended the event. We were able to finish the roof after the event, as well as, secure the stairs better for the goats.

Raising the Roof

We started by getting the platform on six supports (we later added two additional supports) and validated the stability of the platform. We then started crafting the additional structure.

Once we had the structure completed, we added the stairs (last so the goats would not join us during construction). We ended up redesigning the stairs twice after the initial build due to the sheep, who kept finding ways to knocking them over.

After the structure was complete, we weather proofed it using an eco friendly/animal safe protectant. Now we need to bury the tires and place the wine barrels. And yes, the goats are loving it.

Leading – One Step At a Time

While I have lead school project teams and as a councilor at various camps, creating Goat Topia has been a next level up in leadership. It is one thing to have a plan and follow it, it is another when almost every step presents a new challenge. Not only were we dealing with the elements, like thunderstorms, we were learning that animal behaviors would require modification to the plan.

Leading a team is not about being a boss. It is about execution, and keeping the project moving forward. I listened to my parents, I listened to my sister and peers, and I listened to family friend helpers. One by one, we continued to work together and improve on what we were building, and how we were building it.

And, of course, the goats continued to investigate and help us understand more about what they would enjoy.

The Cornerstone is Set

While this is not a masonry project, we are using stones to keep the wood above the muck and water. The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a foundation, which is important since all other structural elements are set in reference to this stone, and it determines the position of the structure.

For this project, the main structure will be in the center of the enclosure and give space on both sides for wheelchair access. It will also be easier for volunteers to clean underneath. Next we will be building the platform and setting the remaining stones.

The Trek to Oregon

We left California on June 22, 2019 & arrived at the farm on June 24, 2019. We rented the truck on June 21 so we could load up the day before we started our trek, allowing us to get a good night’s sleep and get on the road early in the morning. We drove about eight hours a day on each of the first two days, and then about an hour on the third day, so we had most of the third day to unload and stage our building supplies and tools.

Building Begins

I had two teams as Troop Members, family & friends begin the building process by helping sand the wood in California. We had the tires donated in California, so we knew at that point we were going to need to rent a truck to get to Oregon. Since we had the truck, we were able to purchase over half of the wood in California and engage my troop.

My California team also had helped generate ideas during the design phase. Many had shown interest in going to Oregon to help, unfortunately timing and family vacations prevented this opportunity. However, I have a wonderful family, ready to help once we got to Oregon.