Donkeys-For-Good: Pausing to recognize our incredible Latham team

In today’s blog, Heather Kelsey, our Director of Development, recognizes the generous contributions of time and talent from our Latham staff, students, and adult residents that led to the success of our recent Donkey Wedding Fundraiser. More blogs will follow to express our thanks to sponsors, donors, and community members. Heather’s words remind us of the impact of our collaborative efforts:

We have a pretty remarkable team here at Latham. Planning an outdoor event of this size, for over 230 guests, was new territory for us, and it required the expertise and participation of many. Latham’s Donkey Trainer Kris Thompson and her husband Robert worked with Esther and Esau for months to help prepare them for their starring role in the Brewster in Bloom parade (sadly canceled due to inclement weather) and for their walk down the aisle at Taylor-Bray Farm. Kris shared, “We tried to expose them to different sounds and situations, and we practiced with hats so that they would be comfortable with the bridal veil and top hat on their wedding day. The week before the wedding we had a full rehearsal with Latham CEO Anne McManus and bridal attendants Brittany M and Christina C. We were sure to play music, and we enlisted the help of some of our Donkey Therapy program participants to applaud and make noise. It worked; they were as calm as can be on the day of the wedding.”

In the months and weeks leading up to the event, our Latham Works Children’s Vocational Services staff worked with the students at Latham School to make the carrot-shaped glycerin soaps that guests received as wedding favors. The students also made trivets out of miniature horseshoes which we sold as souvenirs. We love to include our students’ handmade items as favors and auction items at our fundraising events. Fred Walters does such a beautiful job working with the kids, and the kids take a lot of pride in the soaps and other items they create. They are always interested to know how much money their items raised; they do very well!

Adult resident Krissy F., who works in our Administrative Office, worked with Executive Assistant Sheri Peterson to prepare the wedding favors for our guests. Sheri is artistic and has a great eye for design elements, and she played a crucial role in the event planning. She is one step ahead on all of the details and we rely heavily on her experience and skill to make our events a success.

Our maintenance staff, under the leadership of Director of Facilities Brian Benevides and Maintenance Supervisor Barbara Hill, were also hard at work in the days leading up to the event. Tables and chairs had to be picked up and delivered to the farm on Friday. The incredible food provided by Luciano’s Restaurant was safely transported from Wrentham to our Latham School kitchen by Brian. Chef Paul Donahue and Steve Enos of our kitchen staff prepped all of the food early Saturday morning. Bob Fitzpatrick, John Charran, Michael White, David Kerr, Hugh O’Neil, Barbara Hill, and Brian Benevides arrived at the farm early Saturday morning to set up the sound system, hang the banners, and arrange tables and chairs, and they were the last to leave after striking the event at the end of the day. If the day appeared effortless, it was due to their hard work.

Our bridal attendants were supported by their incredible house managers Deb Smith and Jeff Strimaitis. Deb and Jeff helped Christina and Brittany to write and practice their “vows” for the ceremony. Esther and Esau were serenaded by our talented Latham Players performance group under the direction of Dinah Lane. The Players performed “Till Their was You,” complete with choreography and solo performances. The entire ceremony, officiated by Latham President and CEO Anne McManus, was flanked by the beautiful parade float created by Dom Monick and members of the Children’s Services Residential staff. The float, featuring near life-sized wooden cutouts of Esther and Esau painted by Dom and adorned with flowers and a sign that read “Two Less Fish in the Sea,” was a perfect backdrop for family photos during the day. The enthusiasm and testimonials from our program participants helped illustrate Latham Centers’ mission and resonated with our guests.

So many contributed to the success of this event. I want to be sure to thank Diana Morgan, Development Associate, who came up with the incredible concept and worked with our wonderful event committee to plan and execute every detail of the event, and Dawn Dinnan, Director of Communications, who did a beautiful job with the marketing and media plan, as well as serving on the committee. In an upcoming blog post, we will highlight the contributions of our committee and our event volunteers. The joyful, combined effort of so many to help support Latham’s Asinotherapy Program was truly a wonderful component of our Donkey Wedding. Thank you all!


Submitted by Heather Kelsey, Director of Development

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