Childhood is for dreaming—for pretend magic potions, princess fairy dresses, and dragons in enchanted castles. But even with all of the wishes in the world, many children struggle with their “happily ever after.”

Enter Storybook Farm—a peaceful, 51-acre farm in Opelika, Alabama, whose mission is to “give childhoods back to children” through the unique and special bond of animals.

“We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to thrive, succeed, and experience the joy of a childhood filled with hope and possibility,” their mission statement reads. Founded in 2002, the farm is celebrating over two decades of empowering and encouraging children who may be experiencing physical, cognitive, social, or mental health challenges.

(Storybook Farm/Facebook)

Keeping with the storybook theme, every animal—from horses to dogs and cats—has literary-themed names, such as Boo Radley, Flat Stanley, and even Prince Charming. The owner and CEO, Dena Little, designed the farm to infuse the magic of childhood stories with the delight of farm animals.

“I wanted to build a place where children and their families could come and take a deep breath, to step away from difficult circumstances,” Little says. “The farm is designed to help kids bolster their confidence and self-esteem while relieving them from the heaviness of their situation.”

While the children the farm host face a variety of challenges, Little explains how the animals themselves are the most innovative therapists. “The animals truly step in and become what each child needs,” she says. Horses are known for their intuitive understanding of human emotions, and the bond they form with children is undeniably magical.

Storybook Farm also believes that fairytales should be available to everyone, no matter their financial circumstances—and with the generous support of donors, families do not pay a penny for their child to enroll in a program.

“The goal is to show children how to believe in themselves—to show them they’re special, valuable, precious, and important. The no-cost program provides an incredible opportunity and levels the playing field,” Little says.

(Storybook Farm/Facebook)

Little has been amazed by the support of generous donors, dozens of hardworking volunteers, and the surrounding communities. The farm is preparing to host their largest fundraiser of the year—the 16th annual Kentucky Derby Day, the only event in which the farm opens its doors to the public. “It’s truly a giant party with a purpose,” she says. “It’s also a great opportunity for us to share our mission and raise some great funds for the program.”

The party is a large funding arm of the farm’s Bright Futures Campaign, an effort that aims to broaden the farm’s services and provide even more opportunities for the children they serve; their goal is to serve 4,000 families next year, and Little says they are well on their way.

“We go big at the Kentucky Derby Day because these families deserve the red carpet treatment,” she says. About 700 guests will gather on the grounds and enjoy bites from local restaurants, Signature Sips by Tito’s and Old Forester, a Derby fashion contest, a live auction, and a live stream of the 150th Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs.

“These fairytales are only possible with the help of very generous people,” Little says. “It’s hard to understate the importance of what we’re doing—it’s a place that’s much bigger than me.”

Want to experience the magic of this year’s Derby Day at Storybook Farm this Saturday, May 4th? A limited number of tickets are available at You can also support Storybook Farm’s work by participating in the Derby Day’s online silent auction.