WINDHAM - Animals have a way of healing hearts and soothing the souls of the humans who care for them.
At Snow Pond Farm in Windham, a yet-to-be-named baby alpaca, born on Labor Day, will be helping in other ways as well.
From now through December, guests at the farm can pay $1 for a chance to name the fuzzy, brown baby, with all proceeds to benefit a cause near and dear to the Lundquist family's heart.
Co-owner Pam Lundquist, who also operates her day-care center on the premises, said the plan is to raise funds for the charity Autism Speaks in memory of one of her former students.
Three-year-old Ella Okerman died July 9, 2012, after falling into a swimming pool.
This isn't the first time Ella has been honored at the farm. A similar fundraiser last year raised more than $850 for Autism Speaks. And a baby alpaca born on Columbus Day is named Ella's Bella.
It seems that this is the year for babies being born on holidays.Last week a third baby arrived at Snow Pond Farm during the final hours of Halloween. The family named him Spooky.
"That last one was a bit of a surprise," Wendy Lundquist said.
About 30 suri alpacas, which have longer, pencil-like curly fleece than the fluffier and more common huacaya alpacas, live at Snow Pond Farm.Pam and Bob Lundquist's daughter, Wendy, moved home to assist with farm operations several years ago after selling her home in South Carolina.Since then, it's truly been a family affair.
Wendy's sister, Julie, brother-in-law Matt and her three nephews assist in daily feedings and stall mucking, while her brother, Bryan, is in charge of the farm's website.
Church groups and senior citizen organizations are regular guests at the farm, as are area schoolchildren.
"Most people are surprised to learn how easy these animals are to take care of," Wendy said. "They're very mellow and so enjoyable to watch."
Though the family also operates a small store where guests can purchase alpaca fleece products, no purchase is necessary to stop by and get to know the animals a little better.
"Sometimes the babies at the day care are crying — that's when we'll take them for a walk outside," Wendy Lundquist said. "Most of the time, the crying stops right away. There's just something about those alpacas."
For more information, visit www.snowpondfarm.com or call 883-7582. The farm, at 2 Winter St., in Windham, is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.
"But if we're home, people are always welcome to come by during the week," Pam Lundquist said. "Just give us a call first."
The baby-naming contest will be held until next month, with a final name selection to be made on Dec. 14.