Effingham County equine therapy center fights to stay afloat

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GUYTON, Ga. (WSAV) – An Effingham County nonprofit is reeling from the pandemic’s impact. The founder of the therapy center said their significant loss of revenue could force them to close their facilities—seeking help from community members to keep their programs going.

“It’s hard enough on a typical child, but if you imagine a child that has a special challenge and you know they don’t understand, ‘why can’t I go.’ It’s so important to them cause this place is strictly for them,” Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center founder Bonnie Rachael said.

Rachael retired from the Savannah Police Department and said she wanted to find a way to give back to her community. With an extensive equestrian experience and what she said was “a whole lot of faith,” she opened an equine therapy center focused on helping kids with special needs.

“God knew that I needed her, he knew what it would do for both her and myself and the blessings that we have been able to see here have been incredible,” April McKinnon whose daughter has been in the therapy program for ten years, stated.

Lauren Todd, a social butterfly and an avid horseback rider is one of more than 160 kids who rely on the therapy program at FETC. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Todd takes weekly riding sessions to build physical strength and improve her cognitive functions.

“So being able to not ride has just, it’s almost like a small setback, a small regression that just kind of occurs over time because she’s missing out having that repetition and that therapeutic riding that just does her body so good,” McKinnon added.

The center works on creating special relationships between riders and their extensively trained horses to provide mental, physical, and emotion support.

“When you see a child out there going through their paces, engaging with the horse and the instructor and the volunteers and getting, it’s making a big impact on them,” Rachael said.

Rachael said it has been devastating having to suspend their services for the kids due to the virus, and especially now that they are struggling to stay open.

“I work very hard and our crew has worked very hard to build it up for our community. We went from serving three kids in 2006 to serving over 160 kids. People see the impact and I just hate that our kids are having to suffer for it.”

FETC offers programs and activities for Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham, Effingham, and Screven Counties. The center and its employees are following safety precautions and CDC health guidelines for their summer camps. The camps start on June 1st, and run through July. They have programs available for kids with and without disabilities. You can register for a spot by emailing Rachael: bonnierachael1293@gmail.com.

The center is asking for community support. Rachael said any donation would be: “a blessing to the kids.”

Click HERE to donate. For more information about their programs click here.

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