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Sharing smiles for over 25 years

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Ryther is a center that provides psychiatric and mental health services for children and youth. Just about 15 minutes away from Woodland Park Zoo, Ryther has been bringing kids to the zoo for over 25 years through the zoo’s free Community Access Program. These are the kids most in need of community and Ryther is one of the best kept secrets in our neighborhood.

They take in some of the most vulnerable children in the Puget Sound and beyond. At Ryther, kids are never turned away. Today Ryther works with the most complex kids. Their mission is augmented by the generosity of the community, their dedicated volunteer base, the Ryther League, from large donations and sponsors to tickets from local institutions such as the Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo. 

This is a story about the kids in the Cottage Program. 

Listen to the full story and hear from some of the kids who live at Ryther, their amazing counselors Jasper Knox and Kirstie Arnberg, and Director of Organizational Advancement, Robin Bennett. Listen:

Ryther is just one of over 600 Community Access Program partners in the Seattle area and beyond. The zoo’s Community Access Program works with hundreds of organizations such as Ryther to make the zoo more accessible to low-income, at-risk or underserved children and families. Why? Because we believe time spent with wildlife is educational, motivational and restorative.

Ryther offers and develops safe places and opportunities for children, youth and families to heal and grow so that they can reach their highest potential. Before children enter Ryther's Cottage Program they have been at an average of nine placements. 86% of those children transition to a family home setting.  Photo courtesy of Janelle Simms, Ryther
Something as simple as a visit to the zoo can have a profound impact on the lives of these amazingly resilient kids. Counselors bring small groups of children to the zoo to experience time away from the cottages, to connect with animals and nature, to experience their community and to create peaceful, safe and fun memories.

Special thanks to Robin Bennett and Janelle Simms for their time and support in telling this story. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.
Thank you to Ryther for sharing their zoo memories with us, and thanks to our zoo visitors, members and the community for making this partnership possible. 

Because kids don't come with a manual

In addition to the Cottage Program, Ryther offers families and children a suite of outpatient services such as individual and family therapy, drug and alcohol assessments and treatment, teen and young adult co-occurring program for mental health and substance abuse, group therapy, aspiring youth camps and year round social skills groups for youth with autism spectrum disorders/ADHD/ development delays as well as autism assessments and diagnostics. If you know a child or family who might benefit from these services, you can visit or call Ryther at (206) 517-0234 to speak with them today.