Over The Rainbow Zootopia – a newly opened non-profit petting zoo – helps high functioning, differently abled young adults find their way into the workforce. The zoo was started by friends, Bri Oberlin and Lindsey Zaucha. The idea came about last September, when the two somewhat jokingly discussed opening a non-profit organization. That organization, they hoped, would help high-functioning children gain their first job experience and ease them into the workforce feeling comfortable and allowing for some independence.
Fast forward exactly a year later and they have accomplished that and much more by opening and operating Over The Rainbow Zootopia. In January of 2023, both Oberlin and Zaucha began making their dreams a reality when they started expanding their animal herd. They became a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization at the end of June.
Oberlin and Zaucha met and became close friends when Zaucha’s daughter took horse riding lessons at Twisted Trail Stables, a business owned by Oberlin. Together they have a common goal to help bring high-functioning disabled young adults into the workforce by giving them full responsibility of caring for the animals on their own.
Since becoming an established nonprofit, Over The Rainbow Zootopia has held booths and made appearances at the Eaton County Fair as well as a couple of local pride events. They are eager to get involved in more community events as their staff grows. Currently on board is part-time helper, Chase, a high functioning adult who is such a great help, according to the owners.
The future holds many hopes for Over The Rainbow Zootopia. “One of the bigger goals we have for Over The Rainbow Zootopia is to eventually have field trips out here,” shared co-owner Bri Oberlin. “(We’d like) to bring groups from the surrounding school districts, kids of all ages, out to help with their sensory skills.”
To expand the zoo side of things, the owners are planning two new pens for animals they wish to add. Currently they have pigs, sheep, and many goats that are friendly and love the children that come through. Chase wants to add alpacas, while Oberlin and Zaucha wish to add water buffalo and yaks.
After having met both owners, it is very clear that they have a lively passion for aiding those who are high functioning as they help walk them into the workforce.
Over The Rainbow Zootopia is open by appointment only for field trips that are open to the public.
Coming up, a Halloween event is planned on October 28 at their property where all are welcome to attend.
Parents or guardians of high functioning children are encouraged to give them a call at 517-213-1229. For updates and to keep in contact, follow their Facebook at Over The Rainbow Zootopia: They are located at 6270 Steele Hwy. in Eaton Rapids.