Op-Ed

Animals aid confidence, resiliency

Sundance, an Animals as Natural Therapy horse, gets some love during Windy Acres Day Camp in July, 2015.
Sundance, an Animals as Natural Therapy horse, gets some love during Windy Acres Day Camp in July, 2015. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Animals as Natural Therapy was established in 1999 and had about 150 volunteers in 2015.

Purpose: Animals as Natural Therapy is a local, nonprofit organization that strengthens the community by developing healthy, resilient individuals through equine and animals-assisted therapeutic programs. This programming is specifically designed for personal empowerment and healing for under-served populations such as low-income troubled youth and their families, teens in recovery and at-risk veterans. Participants practice respectful communication, leadership and trust in a safe, nurturing environment while gaining greater self-awareness, confidence and resiliency; all essential tools for meaningful and successful relationships at home and in the work force. Life-changing behavioral shifts and effective problem solving skills displace dysfunctional patterns and skilled mentors help participants elicit powerful metaphors which are taken into their everyday lives, cementing long-term changes and developments.

Volunteer highlights: Animals as Natural Therapy is privileged to have a strong volunteer core. Our animals enjoy the care given by several loving people who come weekly to feed, clean and generally provide care for our horses, llamas, goats, chickens and bunnies. Special thanks to Nancy Smith and Shannon Felcher, our daily volunteers. Our volunteer mentors make a weekly commitment to help participants with their horses each session. Multitudes of people help to plan and put on events for Animals as Natural Therapy that help fundraise and share our animals and message with the broader community.

Signature fundraisers: Blue Grass Bash in July at Windy Acres Farm; Healing Hearts fundraising breakfast, October; dinner/auction fundraiser, February.

Wish list: Horse needs; quality hay, alfalfa, senior feed. Facility needs: round shovels, ¾-1” plywood or siding; 2x6 fence boards; large wheelbarrows; 11-passenger van. Program needs: craft supplies; leather saddle soap and conditioner; hot or cold drink mix packets.

Current volunteer needs: Please contact Volunteers@AnimalsasNaturalTherapy.org regarding desire and availability to lead or assist with marketing and fundraising events. The board of directors is also seeking new members to help Animals as Natural Therapy strengthen and grow to better serve our community.

For more information, go online to AnimalsasNaturalTherapy.org.

VOLUNTEER MONTH

April is National Volunteer Month and The Bellingham Herald has partnered with the Volunteer Center of Whatcom County to highlight local non-profit agencies that offer opportunities to become involved in our community. For more information online about the Volunteer Center of Whatcom County, go to whatcomvolunteer.org.

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