GUYTON — An Effingham Family Connection donation will help to keep the horses at Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center fed for a month.
Family Connection Executive Director Elaine Spencer, along with Family Connection Board of Directors members Kristen Wert and Fran Todd, presented a $1,500 gift to Faith Equestrian CEO Bonnie Rachael on June 14.
Rachael said that few people realize how much it takes to keep a program like Faith Equestrian running. It is always looking for new partners.
Faith Equestrian programs are designed to put children with varying disabilities together with horses in ways that are calming and skill-building. The programs have been so effective over the years that many students go on to win top honors at Georgia’s Special Olympics every year.
Spencer said Faith Equestrian programs fit into Family Connection’s mission. She said, "Effingham County Family Connection works to make a collective impact by engaging key community partners to increase mental health awareness."
Faith Equestrian was started by Rachel in 2006 and has gone from serving two children on three horses to serving more than 160 children with 12 horses. In addition, the facility has grown from five acres to 10.
One welcome addition is covered arena, built in 2010, where the children can practice safely out of the summer sun.
In 2013, Faith Equestrian received a large in-kind grant from Gulfstream Aerospace through the United Way. It resulted in walkways, fencing and other major improvements to the property.
In addition to the executive director, Faith also employs a program director and a barn manager, and boasts several volunteers.
Rachael hopes Faith Equestrian can conducts its annual fundraiser, Boots N BBQ, at the end of September. With COVID-19 in mind, she is considering hosting it in the covered arena.
“It would be the perfect place for it,” she said.
The openness of the arena might be the best way to allow for better spacing while also providing a better way for sponsors and others in the community to see the grounds and horses.
Spencer said money budgeted for an annual Family Connection conference at Jekyll Island couldn’t be used due to COVID-19 so its board of directors opted to help Faith Equestrian since it assists children and families. Spencer said they couldn’t donate cash but could offer something that was needed for the program.
Rachael said that there are ways that people can help the mission of Faith Equestrian. You can visit its online store or sponsor a horse or child. It also has three fundraisers — a gala, a golf tournament and Boots N BBQ.