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Chester County Press

Legendary coach helps special children

04/25/2022 11:31PM ● By Steven Hoffman
By Gene Pisasale
Contributing Writer
On April 24, a very special event brought together a man renowned in professional football and people whose passion is to help children with disabilities. The Barn at Spring Brook Farm in West Chester held the spring fundraiser wine tasting with legendary Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil. 
Well known to many in the Philadelphia area, Vermeil was a National Football League head coach for 15 seasons, including stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, the St. Louis Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs. He guided the Eagles to Super Bowl XV in 1981 and later successfully steered the St. Louis Rams to their first Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000. Vermeil has the rare distinction of being named “Coach of the Year” on four levels: high school, junior college, NCAA Division I and professional football. He retired in 2005 and now runs Vermeil Winery in Calistoga, California. His interest in wines is not a distant passion—Vermeil grew up in the Napa Valley area and knows the region well. He also owns a ranch near Coatesville. 
The Spring Brook event allowed sponsors and their guests to meet Coach Vermeil, sample some of his wines, learn more about the The Barn at Spring Brook Farm programs and have some face time with a man who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022. I asked him about his two careers—football and winemaking. His all-time favorite football memory was winning the Rose Bowl in 1976 and being congratulated by Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes before the game was over. His favorite Vermeil wine is the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. Their 2018 Chardonnay and 2019 Red Blend and Cabernet Franc wines were offered for wine tasting. They were all quite good and well received by the crowd. 
The Barn at Spring Brook Farm is the realization of a long-held dream of founder Mary Beth Drobish, who for years wanted to establish an entity which would help special needs children in a unique, loving environment. According to their website, beginning in 2004, Drobish wanted to “combine her passion for farm animals with her love for children.” The next year, Spring Brook was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization. At the Farm, children with conditions including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, epilepsy and other ailments have been interacting with and enjoying the company of a variety of domesticated, well-behaved animals, including miniature horses, bunnies and other kid-friendly pets. Spring Brook Farm sits on 17 acres, bringing special needs children together with animals and trained caregivers in a loving environment which is beneficial to all involved.
The Farm hosts a variety of programs and events throughout the year, including the Spring Fling, Summer Splash, Autumn Festival and the Holiday Pancake Palooza. Designed for children ages 6 to 12, Camp Geronimo is a day camp allowing a wheelchair accessible ride for children around the property, as well as providing soccer, arts and crafts and other fun pursuits, all monitored by staff trained to work with children of all abilities. Board President Sharon Cichocki said the Camp is named after one of founder Mary Beth Drobish’s favorite horses. On certain occasions, the children get to meet a very friendly two-legged dog named Deuce who, despite his disability, is an inspiration to all. He even has his own Facebook page. 
Although not open to the general public, interested parties can contact the Farm by phone at 610-793-1037 and via e-mail at [email protected] They are offering their Spring Fling on Saturday, May 7,  which will be “… a fun-filled event full of animal activities, sheep shearing, games, crafts, hayrides and more.” 
They welcome support as well as volunteers and even have a “wish list” of needed items for the operations of the Farm. Donations can be made via the website. 
Spring Brook Farm is located at 360 Locust Grove Road in West Chester. For more information, visit their website at www.springbrook-farm.org