Healing Hearts

A few months ago Amelia and I were at our breaking point, as a painful school year in a difficult classroom came to a close and we struggled on a daily basis to get through life while she was socially crippled with anxiety. I had no idea how the anxiety starts or what caused it, and I had no idea how to get rid of it. As a parent, there is no pain worse than seeing your child suffer.

My bright, strong, opinionated, brave, and wild girl had been taken over by this shadow and we didn’t know how to lift it. Friends put me in touch with mental health experts I needed to gather information from, a new school year with a teacher who is a unicorn have made all the difference, and medication to assist in bringing the anxiety under control has given us our girl back – the vibrant, high energy, laughing girl with mischievous eyes we had been missing for eighteen months is back.

One of the most touching moments of someone reaching out to help us was my friend Jacque, a fellow small-business owner and mom I had known for years messaged me and said she wanted to give Amelia a special afternoon to lift her spirits and allow her to be a carefree kid. “Carefree” and anxiety don’t often go hand in hand, but Jacque knew from experience her plan would work.

I was given directions to a farm about an hour from our house and didn’t know much beyond the fact that we were going to see therapy horses. When the big afternoon arrived we pulled down a long gravel drive on  a warm autumn afternoon and pulled up next to the barn with a table out front decorated with purple star balloons, a container of Amelia’s favorite flavor of ice cream, and the biggest bag of gummy bears I had ever seen.

Amelia and Jacque, one of HHHH's volunteers.

Amelia and Jacque, one of HHHH’s volunteers.

We were at the new site for Healing Hearts with Hooves and Hounds, a nonprofit organization on a mission to help survivors of domestic violence find healing and peace in their lives through animal therapy and spread domestic violence awareness and anti-bullying education. Through confidential retreats held on one of their two foster farms, HHHH uses rescued animals to give positive, healing, and healthy experiences to make domestic violence survivors and bullying victims whole again.

Can therapy come in the form of a miniature donkey? Apparently yes, when that pocket-size donkey runs to the marsh in the middle of his paddock to “hide” from his owners, unaware the tips of his ears were giving away his location and the irony of it all brings out giant belly laughs from the little girl who didn’t laugh for eighteen months. Also – pregnant miniature ponies are a thing to behold.

Benny makes a new friend, once they got the stinker out of his hiding spot in the marsh.

Benny makes a new friend, once they got the stinker out of his hiding spot in the marsh.

Healing Hearts with Hooves and Hounds is currently holding a fundraising drive right now, they are a great organization to donate to. But please act fast, the drive ends in ten days (Nov 16). 

Mark Schuring co-founded Healing Hearts with Hooves and Hounds (HHHH) in 2004 with his aunt, Traci Schuring, who shared his resolve to help victims of domestic abuse and bullying through the healing power of animals.  Sadly, on December 8, 2012, Traci was killed by her abusive husband in their home in Southern Wisconsin, while her daughters were waiting to be picked up from school.  In this dramatic fashion, Mark understood why the program was so important to her and has pursued the mission with a fervor ever since.

Healing Hearts with Hooves and Hounds, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping survivors of domestic abuse and bullying find healing and peace in their lives through animal therapy.  Domestic violence is a serious issue; one in four women is abused, and one in three people know someone who is abused.  Meanwhile, animal therapy has been shown to promote emotional well-being in patients struggling with things such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

HHHH is comprised of 30 volunteers, 3 horses, 9 mini-horses, 5 mini-goats, 5 mini-donkeys, and roughly 15 hounds.  Currently, HHHH’s animals are spread across two locations:  a small pasture located on 17 acres of farmland in Capron, IL, and an acre and a half of farmland in Lawrence, IL.  The primary goal of this campaign is to aggregate all of the HHHH animals onto one location, which is a 10-20 acre plot of farmland located in Harvard, IL.  Over the past 10 years, the HHHH animals have already positively impacted the lives of hundreds of domestic violence and bullying victims.

Benny said being near the horses and feeling their breath made him feel "warm and fizzy".

Benny said being near the horses and feeling their breath made him feel “warm and fizzy”.

So that’s the background on this great organization, but that doesn’t really give a clear picture of how this really works. I know there is science behind all of it, but…..

When a 2,000 pound horse with deep, dark eyes approaches your child and they stand eye to eye, her tiny hand on the giant beast’s warm and beating heart, you don’t really know how it works you just know some kind of magic is taking place.

Maybe it was the ancient oak tress all over the property, the golden sun on a gorgeous autumn day, the half pound of gummy bears we ate, or the genuine kindness and acceptance that were offered to Amelia by humans and hooves alike…..all I know is that as we left, this is what Amelia looked like.

Whole. Healed. Happy.

Amelia at the end of her HHHH retreat.

Amelia at the end of her HHHH retreat.

Healing Hearts holds private confidential retreats in northeastern Illinois via appointment with Mark Schuring (815/245-0842). HHHH also travel to events with the animals to promote domestic violence awareness and anti-bullying education.

Visit their website here: healingheartshh.org   and Facebook page 

Please consider donating to them here: startsomegood.com/healinghearts
$5 buys a bale of hay

$10 buys a 50lb bag of grain

$25 buys 5 bales of hay

$50 buys 5 50lb bags of grain

$100 buys 20 bales of hay

$200 buys 20 50lb bags of grain

$500 buys 100 bales of hay or 50 50lb bags of grain

$1,000 buys a 1 month lease for 10-20 acres worth of farmland

A Thank You to Teachers

Dear Second Grade Teacher and Kindergarten Teacher,

Today you allowed my little girl to shine, and for that I am grateful. While she is a wild woman in situations where she feels comfortable, she has a lot of anxiety around school and specifically speaking in front of groups of people. Today you adjusted schedules and allowed her to walk down to her little brother’s kindergarten room and read to his class about a mouse who makes a mess in the kitchen.
Today was about more than just reading a story. You also helped her heart grow two sizes bigger, and while I appreciate the math problems and spelling words, it is the heart stuff I value the most. Because she’ll forget how to spell a word or what 9 x 8 is (who ever uses that one?), but she won’t forget the people who allowed her to do the things that made her feel brave and become bigger than her worries. That isn’t on any test and you won’t get the much deserved pay raises for it, but many times in life the best taught lessons cannot be quantified and because you are teachers I suspect you already know that.

So thank you, from the mom of a very proud second grade girl.
Melissa

The post below has been shared over 1 million times this week and you’ve probably already seen it. But I wanted it to be a part of our community because it is just so, so good. If you’ve ever loved a teacher, if you’ve ever reached out to the lonely kid, or if you were the lonely kid, read this. And share it. Because this is the good stuff right here. This is what makes us better as people.

http://momastery.com/blog/2014/01/30/share-schools/ by Glennon Doyle Melton