Currents: Healing Through Horses
Fidelis Foundation is helping at-risk youths
“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man,” according to Fidelis Foundation volunteer Jennifer LeFever. The foundation volunteers also know that the outside of a horse is transformative for the inside of a wounded child.
The mission of this foundation, run totally by volunteers, is to facilitate permanent emotional healing for children in crisis due to trauma, neglect or abuse through creative equine-assisted learning.
Since its inception in February 2010, the Fidelis Foundation has grown to host weekly clinics at the Double C Ranch Estate, between Forestbrook and Burcale roads in Myrtle Beach. Participants as young as 5 and as old 18 come from Celebrate Recovery Kids, Lighthouse Care Center, Mercy Hospice Kids, Waccamaw Youth Center and Citizens Against Spouse Abuse.
The experience is about more than just riding. It’s about relationships with the volunteers and the horses and, more importantly, it’s about trust.
“[These kids] learn that they can control something 10 times their size through gentleness and kindness,” says volunteer Sybil Lee.
It’s not something these children know a lot about.
“These kids have put up walls and this helps them deal with their fear in a healthy way,” says Michael Pickett, Lighthouse adolescent therapist.
“We want them to know that they don’t have to be a victim of their environment,” says volunteer Summer Mueller. “We’re teaching them to deal with responsibility, and that [they] can move in a positive or negative direction, it’s [their] choice.”
When you talk to people about the program, the same words keep recurring: confidence-building, connecting, responsibility, patience, happiness, poise, self-esteem and healing—all the gifts every child needs and deserves.
Fidelis is an eclectic group. A love of horses is not a volunteer requirement and just about any skill is welcome. Age doesn’t seem to matter either. One of their helpers, Hunter Allen, 7, told his mother, Shrie, also a volunteer, that “those kids need us.” He gives up chore-free Sunday afternoons to help in any way he can.
Mueller describes Fidelis as a “pay it forward system. Kids who have come through the program are now helping other kids.”
With that legacy, the increased support of the community and grant money, the group hopes to eventually host children every day. “We’ll grow inch by inch,” says Mueller.
The need is definitely there. “We have never brought one kid out there who didn’t leave with a smile and want to know when they can go back,” Nicole Pioli of Waccamaw Youth Center said. “It gives them something to feel special about.”
For more information about the Fidelis Foundation, visit their Facebook page or www.fidelisfoundationsc.com.