BOONES MILL, Va. – Giving back and being part of something bigger than themselves – those are just some of the reasons why employees and volunteers of Healing Strides of Virginia love what they do.
The organization provides a sense of community for those who go there and work there. That sense of community is something that drew in veterans.
“When you leave the military, it’s like leaving a whole family. So coming to Healing Strides was to be part of a family,” said Pearline Boyce, Healing Strides’ Director of Administration.
The Boones Mill non-profit is an equine-assisted activity and therapy program.
“The horses seem to have an innate ability to understand what was needed by each individual, and I really was unaware of that,” said Thomas Flippin, Healing Strides’ Board of Directors Treasurer.
As impactful as the horses are, so are the volunteers. Many are also veterans themselves, and they all share a common trait: the desire to give back.
“We muck stalls, we feed the horses. My favorite thing is working with children. I call them kids, it doesn’t matter what their age is, they’re all kids to me,” said volunteer John Igoe.
“Watching them and being part of their life. To grow and be a part of the nurturing. I believe when we have a servant’s heart, it’s generational,” explained Charlton English, who is also a volunteer.
One of the ways they serve is as a sidewalker. They keep the rider safe while having an up-close view of the positive results of riding a horse.
“You got to the people improve over time and that meant the world to me and that’s probably the part I really enjoy the most, is getting to help out and be there for them and get to see them improve,” added Flippin.
True to its name, Healing Strides continues to improve not just the clients, but the employees and volunteers as well.
“I always try to put in a few words what this place is about. It’s about hope, love, and connection with people,” said Igoe.