- Louie Castriota opened the therapy center for kids who have special needs in 2010. To ensure the organization’s success outlives him, he’s been stepping back ever since.
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Louie Castriota’s dream was big: He wanted to create the ultimate therapy center for children like his daughter, Brooke.
It’d bring together everything that’d help kids with special needs, from physical, occupational, speech, and aquatic therapy to behavioral health services and therapeutic horseback riding.
It took 13 years to build, but in 2010, then 14-year-old Brooke walked through the doors of her father’s dream, now realized as Leg Up Farm.
“It’s a series of very small steps by a thousand different people that brought Leg Up Farm to life,” Louie says today.
Not long after, he began planning how to step back from the organization he’d created.
“If you truly want something like Leg Up Farm to survive, it can’t hinge solely around you,” Louie says. “It has to be an organization that the community sees value in and, in a sense, is owned by the community, not the founder.”
The next 50 years
Louie is a builder. He doesn’t just look at the now; he looks ahead 10, 15, 20 years down the road.
“You almost have to be looking at the succession plan at the beginning,” he says.
But stepping away from the very personal project he labored over for more than a decade wasn’t easy.
“You definitely mourn almost a little bit because you were so close to it, and it was so entrenched in your daily life,” he says. “But I think the overwhelming feeling is pride really — that something you accomplished could go on for the next 50 years to serve thousands of families in the community.”
Louie has been slowly removing himself from key positions, one step at a time.
First, he stepped back from the day to day so staff would look to others for leadership.
“As a leader, you have to allow other people to both succeed and fail,” he says. “You need to be OK with the idea that it may not be exactly how I did it, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be great.”
Louie went from President and CEO to chairman of the board and finally to board member. The key at each step was to provide stability and not rush the process.
“It’s just this nice slow process, like drifting on a boat in calm seas,” he says.
As Louie continues to step back, he’s focused on three things: advocating for Leg Up Farm; donating as much money as he can on an annual basis; and leaving a legacy gift to help the long-term financial stability of the organization he founded.
And Brooke, the inspiration for Leg Up Farm, is now 26 years old.
“I feel very proud that I was given the gift of this little girl that had such a profound impact on my life,” Louie says.
He tells his daughter all the time that she is the reason Leg Up Farm exists.
Although she’s non-verbal, Louie can see it in her bright blue eyes that she understands.
“I think that makes her proud, too,” he says, “that it’s because of her that all these other kids are being helped.”