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Kids plus animals can equal success

THURMAN Thurman resident Irv West has been passionate about young people for most of his life and he has a bold new vision to help those in distress turn their lives around. West works at the Warren County Youth Detention Center, and is intimately familiar with the problems that face teens and how they can make bad decisions. We need a long term home for these kids, something thats out of the box, West said. I can take kids to the forest and they relax, or I take them to interact with large animals. With that in mind, West has gathered his resources, put together a board and is in the planning stages of the Amorak Youth Home. Amorak means spirit of the wolf in the Inuit tongue, West said. Attributes of the wolf are strength, pride and loyalty, traits that are the spirit of Amorak Youth Home. West said that Amorak will have animals that will be cared for by teens at risk who stay at the home. He told the story of a young man he had recently experienced in the detention center, who will be called Ted to protect his privacy. Ted was 15 and had 11 brothers and sisters, West said. They were all in the system, the older ones in prison and the younger ones in juvenile detention. Ted and his siblings never had guidance and the natural anger management that children develop under normal conditions. Ted was sent to short term juvenile detention, after body slamming someone who stood in his way, and thats where he met West. I asked him if he liked sports, music, animals, the usual questions and he said no to everything, West said. For the two weeks he was with us, he was very well-behaved, but he never smiled. West took Ted and a group of teens to Nettle Meadow Farm in Thurman to meet the goats, and one of the owners instinctively sensed something about Ted and handed him a two-day-old goat. That was the first time he ever smiled and he didnt want to leave, West said. Before that day, Ted never thought of the future, but after that, he told me he didnt care where he went, as long as there were animals there. West went to visit Ted shortly after the visit, but the system had transferred him to a secure facility in Rochester because of his violent outbreak. Its almost military, and most likely, he will blow, and theyll say, see, we were right, he is violent, West said. If Ted had an opportunity to live for awhile at a facility like Amorak will be, West is convinced his life would improve. He would do splendidly, he said. The goat farm gave him something to build on. Once Amorak is up and running, West said the teens who live there will work to rehabilitate abused animals, injured wildlife and release them back into the wild. West has about 50 people willing to support and get the project going, including a naturalist, an educator and a culinary person, all who will interact with the kids. He has a couple of offers of donated land for the project, but hasnt settled on a location yet. What we need now is people and money, West said. He hopes to have Amorak Youth Home up and running in about two years. For more information about the project, write to West at 661 High Street, Athol 12810 or call him at 636-WOLF.

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