Meet Charlie. He's only five, but he's already a three-year cancer survivor. Charlie was born with Down Syndrome and Transient myeloproliferative disorder, which transitioned into leukemia when he was 16 months old. When other babies were experiencing crucial brain, physical, and social development, Charlie was undergoing high-dose chemotherapy, long-term hospitalization, and isolation. As a result, Charlie experienced physical regression and delays in his motor skills.
This is where Shining Hope Farms comes in. Hippotherapy, a treatment strategy utilizing a horse’s movement as a means of improving coordination, balance and strength, is part of Charlie's physical therapy treatment plan. Under his therapist's supervision, Charlie's body gets feedback from the gait pattern of his horse—feedback that helps Charlie long after he gets off the horse. Hippotherapy also helps Charlie increase his strength, balance, and focus.
When Charlie first started his physical therapy treatment at Shining Hope Farms, his goals included getting up from the floor and taking steps. Now his goals have skyrocketed to include running, jumping, and even navigating the playground!
"There is nothing more satisfying than being able to be a part of having a child come for the first time and they can't hold their head up, or sit up, or stand, or even talk and then to see them overcome those challenges to achieve significant functional goals and begin to communicate, sit up, stand, walk or even run," says Milinda Kirkpatrick, Executive Director and Founder of Shining Hope Farms. "The children and their families absolutely love coming to the farm and seeing 'their' horse. It gives us great joy to share the farm experience with so many wonderful families, despite the intense hard work that it takes to run and manage each location. The children and adults that we serve are worth the sacrifice.”
Charlie used to be terrified of horses. Now he can't wait to pet his horse and say, "I love you." It's one of many ways that Shining Hope Farms has helped Charlie grow and flourish into the handsome little man he is today.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Shining Hope Farms is the only nonprofit offering physical, occupational, and speech therapy utilizing equine movement as part of the treatment strategy in the Charlotte Area. Best of all, this specialized and effective therapy doesn't come with a prohibitive price tag. Shining Hope Farms serves the majority of its patients at no cost to families.
Although insurance does provide some help with expenses, it doesn't cover the cost of feeding the horses and other expenses, so the organization has to rely on volunteers and donations to keep costs low for its families, over one-third of whom are living 200% below the poverty line. The organization is also beginning a veterans program that will offer therapeutic riding and a new mental health program at its Conover location.
Want to hit the links for a good cause? Register today for the first Annual Charity Golf Tournament at Verdict Ridge Golf and Country Club, April 27! Details HERE.
DID YOU KNOW: Shining Hope Farms is in the running to win $5K this month thanks to Amy and Brian France Foundation who have partnered with SHARE Charlotte for this year’s Spotlight Series and YOU can help when you VOTE NOW! You can also check out the other organizations eligible to win this month’s prize, here!
BONUS GOOD: Shining Hope Farms is a Goodie Award winner! SHARE Charlotte awarded Best Board Engagement to the nonprofit at the Goodie Nonprofit Awards in February. Read all about it HERE!
Grace Kennedy is a Huntersville-based writer specializing in storytelling for nonprofits. Learn more at gracekennedy.net.