Hanna & Peaches 3

At SafeHaven, we offer many programs to fulfill our mission of “Finding Homes, Opening Hearts and Educating Minds.” Recently, a birthday party illustrated the impact of our work in fulfilling our mission at SafeHaven.


Hannalise or “Hanna” was born with a congenital brain malformation known as Holoprosencephaly (HPE or HoPE). This condition causes the frontal lobe of the brain to not divide into two hemispheres. Only 3% of children born with this condition survive birth. Of that 3%, only 1% live to 6 months of age. Hanna just turned 4 this past February.

Hanna’s condition requires a huge time commitment traveling to Portland, Eugene, Philomath, and Lebanon for her medical care. Hanna’s parents and grandparents recently sold their homes and bought a house together so they could get additional help for Hanna.

Despite her condition, Hanna shares many similarities with other children her age. She is extremely social and personable, and her mom Sarah can testify that Hanna is quite the fiery redhead too! Even though she is considered non-verbal and non-ambulatory, Hanna makes her needs known very well. She has her own language and way of communicating – one just has to stop and listen.

Hanna enjoys going to preschool, loves anything and everything Disney and also enjoys using her iPad, and playing with her baby dolls.

Most of all, Hanna loves animals so her family decided to check into whether or not SafeHaven did birthday parties. It was the first time that the family looked into doing something like this and it was a huge success – and not just for Hanna and her family.


This is where Sweet Gem, now known as Peaches, begins to come into the picture. At the birthday party, Hanna got to meet some of the SafeHaven cats along with one SafeHaven alumni, “Fozzy” – our Humane Education Coordinator, Katie Bateman’s therapy dog.

While Hanna’s family has beta fish and an aquatic frog, cats and dogs were a bit unfamiliar to her. Her family wasn’t sure how she would react but the results were not only instantaneous, they were extremely positive!

“When the cats would walk around, Hanna’s eyes would follow them and when they got close to her, she would rest her head on them,” says Bateman.

As a result of the birthday party, Hanna’s family came back to SafeHaven to find a companion animal for her.

“I guess I should say Peaches found us and instantly made herself at home with us. She is quite the motivator in getting Hanna to move too as Hanna attempts to pet her any time Peaches is near,” says Sarah.

Many children with disabilities have sensory issues and having an animal companion helps them with calming, socialization, companionship and love.

Since Hanna and Peaches share such a wonderful success story, I asked Sarah to share any advice she might have for parents of children with special needs who are considering adopting an animal companion:

“My advice would be to go into one of the enclosed rooms with one of the animals and see how they react to you and how comfortable you are, and especially how your child with special needs is, with them. We did this with about 5 or 6 of the kitties and it was an instant mutual interaction between Peaches and us. She immediately rubbed up against Hanna, played with us, and jumped up on my mom’s lap.”

To learn more about Holoprosencephaly, please visit Families for HoPE, Inc. at www.familiesforhope.org.


There are so many benefits from having humane education programs for animals, kids, and our communities. In our programs, kids learn positive values like compassion and responsibility as well as learning about services to others.

Whether you’re looking for a great place to have a birthday party or a place for your child to volunteer, or if you’re simply looking for a special companion for your child, we’re here to help. Please contact Katie Bateman at humaneed@safehavenhumane.com or 541-928-6280 for more information. Learn more about our Humane Education program online at www.safehavenhumane.org/humane-education.

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