OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - Meet 9-year-old John Woolfolk. John is a 4th grader at Johnson Elementary School in Columbus and one participant that has been coming to the magical Storybook Farm in Opelika for years.
Storybook Farm is a non-profit faith based organization that provides equine assisted activities for children experiencing physical, mental, social and emotional challenges. They have helped thousands of children like John since their doors opened in 2002.
John was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, and his family was told that he would probably never be able to speak. However, you would have never guessed that today. John's family says that the development he has made in the past five years is simply remarkable, and a lot of that credit is due to Storybook.
"The changes we have seen, he has much better eye contact than he ever did," explains Francis Woolfolk, John's mother. "If we come over and he is not very happy before we come over than after we leave he is much calmer. He is a different person when we leave."
Storybook's founder Dena Little has a special spot in her heart for John. She says he is the epitome of what Storybook was created to do.
"John means the world to me," says Little. "We met five years ago and I was just immediately taken with his cute little smile. Over the years he has just blossomed and I have seen him talk and interact and become a part of the heart of what Storybook is."
John has become very comfortable around the farm and helps take care of the horses. He takes control, leading them out of the stables, feeding and brushing them. He has ridden many of the horses, but his next feat is to ride his favorite, Baloo.
"Well I just like being out here and because I like Baloo," exclaims John. "Well I've never ridden Baloo before, he is pretty tall though."
John and his story are reasons WTVM is proud to join forces with Grand National on October 24 and sponsor the Storybook Scramble along the Robert Trent Jones golf trail in Opelika. All proceeds from the golf tournament will benefit Storybook and their mission "Hope on Horseback," bringing light into children's lives through the love of horses.
"We just thank Miss Dena and everybody at Storybook farms for everything they have done for us, and I don't know we could have come this far if it hadn't been for them playing a special part in John's life and I thank them all," says Woolfolk.
For more information on how you can register your own team for the Storybook Scramble, visit storybook farm.org.