The new visitors center at Lambs Farm in Libertyville showcases the history of Lambs through historic photos and artifacts.
♦ 14245 W. Rockland Road, Libertyville
♦ 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
♦ Admission: free (varying fees for farmyard attractions)
♦ (847) 362-4636;
Updated: July 9, 2012 6:06AM
Most farms focus on what the earth yields. Not Lambs Farm. Instead, the pioneering institution for the developmentally disabled proudly proclaims itself as a place “where people grow.”
And now the 72-acre campus in Libertyville has a visitors center that showcases how that happens through a pictorial timeline and artifacts. Lambs Farm is known for its pet store, restaurant, farmyard activities and special events, and while some visitors realize it serves the developmentally disabled in some capacity, many don’t. And many people certainly don’t know the depth of its history and mission. The visitors center is the farm’s way of rectifying that situation in a friendly, social atmosphere.
“The purpose of it is to find a way to integrate our vision into the front of the farm where all our visitors come,” said Dianne Yaconetti, president and CEO of Lambs. “We have really wanted to educate the public. Our new logo and tagline, ‘Where people grow,’ is really designed not only to express this growth that our participants enjoy . . . but it’s also for the public to grow in their knowledge of people with developmental disabilities and all the things that they do that render them to be participating members of society . . . our visitors center will be a testament to who we are, where we’ve been and what we do today.”
Founded as a pet store on State Street in 1961 by Bob Terese and Corinne Owen — who worked together at a school for the developmentally disabled — Lambs blossomed into the institution it is today when it moved to Libertyville in 1965. Dismayed by the repetitive tasks their students were given at the school, Terese and Owen set out to teach them life skills by caring for animals at the pet shop. Moving to the farm allowed developmentally disabled participants to learn even more life skills. A tour of the visitors center reveals how this happened and more.
“Most people don’t know this, but when our pet shop opened up in 1961 on State Street in Chicago it was the first nonsheltered business ever to employ people with developmental disabilities in the entire United States,” Yaconetti said.
Since then Lambs has become the model for similar agencies, with people coming from all over the world to see how Lambs works, Yaconetti added.
While the visitors center will always focus on Lambs’ history, Yaconetti said displays will be changed from time to time and plans are in the works for hands-on activities as well. The center will be staffed in part by Lambs participants, who will give tours and talk about their own experiences at Lambs Farm.
“We’re trying to really spread the word about Lambs Farm and give people an understanding of what we’re really all about,” Yaconetti said.
Besides the new visitors center, Lambs Farm has a few particularly family-friendly events on the horizon: Fun and Fit Family Day, noon to 5 p.m. June 23 (free, including free entrance to the farmyard); the Country Bumpkin Festival, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 8 along with a document shredding station ($5 first box, $1 per additional box, with proceeds going to Lambs); and the Barn Burner BBQ, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 19-20 (fees vary).
♦ The Chicago Park District’s annual free Movies in the Parks series kicks off June 11 and will feature 176 screenings of current and classic films in 128 city parks through Oct. 26. First up: “Vertigo” June 11 at Belmont Harbor, Belmont and Lake Shore Drive. Movies begin at dusk, weather permitting; call (312) 742-1134 for daily listings and weather-related cancellations or visit chicagoparkdistrict.com.
♦ Mad Science, the Chicago Children’s Museum program promoting science, runs through June 30 at 700 E. Grand. A catapult, rocket blast off, bubble science and more are featured starting at 12:30 p.m. every day. Admission is $12. Call (312) 527-1000 or visit chicagochildrensmuseum.org.
♦ The Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, 3001 Central St., Evanston, offers kids craft programs on weekends in June and July. On deck this weekend: porcupine quill boxes at 11 a.m. June 9 and 12:30 p.m. June 10. The crafts are included in admission of $5 for adults and $3 for kids 1 to 17. Call (847) 475-1030 or visit mitchellmuseum.org for a listing of upcoming craft workshops.
♦ Arlington Park’s Family Days are in full swing. Running through Sept. 3, the noon to 4 p.m. Sunday event is free for kids 17 and younger accompanied by a paying adult. Entertainment varies from week to week but each event features pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting, hands-on activities and more. Santa’s Village AZoosment Park will be showcased June 10 at 220 W. Euclid in Arlington Heights. Call (847) 385-7500 or visit arlingtonpark.com/familyday.
Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.