Gino Zalunardo, tragically, lost a beloved son to brain cancer. But rather than immerse himself in sorrow and self-pity, Gino Zalunardo had an idea that was kindled by a kindness to his son shortly before his death. Zalunardo said that when Joshua was in the hospital, someone brought a therapy dog into Joshua’s room. He said the dog jumped up on Joshua’s chest and started licking his face. He said: “I saw the magic and unconditional love that animals have for humans. So, out of his legacy, Joshua Dream Ranch, I wanted to start something to make the world a better place”. Zalunardo brings in kids with Downs Syndrome, Autism, kids that have incurable diseases and only have a short time to live. We bring them here and “put ‘em around the west, the cowboy image and use a petting zoo and a therapy ranch and I’m the only one in the state of Georgia; and it’s totally free, I will never charge these kids”, he said.
Joshua Dream Ranch had their first anniversary last Thursday, April 20, 2017 and celebrated it with four busloads of special kids and adults. As they got off the bus, they were welcomed with a hat, a bandana and a Joshua Dream Ranch t-shirt, and then allowed to go into JDR in groups with chaperones to look after their well being. There were, of course, the animals; dogs, horses, young calves and llamas. There were buggy rides, a bouncy-house and an archery range (all well supervised). There was horseback riding, calf roping, llamas meandering through the food court for the kids to pet and little calves in a pen for kids to pet. The smiles and sounds of laughter seemed to make everyone there glad to be alive and a part of the event. There were also hamburgers, hot dogs, water and soda pop. Just before his guests departed, Zalunardo brought everyone together for a group picture. All in all, it was a really great day… for everyone that was there.
Joshua Dream Ranch (JDR) officially opened about a year ago. Zalunardo has funded JDR completely out of his own pocket. JDR is a 501c(3) charitable organization so donations are tax-deductible and are used 100% to serve these special children’s (and adult’s) dreams. All of the staff are volunteers and strive to help these special people become Champions. At this time, Joshua Dream Ranch is in the process of becoming affiliated with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Anyone interested in volunteering or becoming a sponsor is urged to go to their Web site.