While summer movie buffs were being bombarded with the latest big screen super-hero extravaganzas, a lot of kids from the real world in the greater Phoenix area, who are truly in need of heroes, were discovering that the economy had conspired to eliminate some of the key volunteers at the Two Hearts Horsemanship Program at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home in Mesa. Many of the at-risk kids who find healing and learn character-building skills from those volunteers will return from summer vacation to learn that while the horses are still there for them, some of the volunteer mentors have had to drop out. Cindy Jones, Director of the Program, is calling out for help from men and women who have a heart for kids and horses to give her a call at 480-832-2540. You may think you are just an average, decent, and good-hearted man or woman but Cindy Jones can turn you into a “super-hero” to kids who have had their hearts broken from abuse or neglect. “The best part is that you don’t have to wear a cape,” says Cindy, joking around about the task at hand, “Our kids and our horses will love you just for showing up.”
The Two Hearts Horsemanship Program is in its fourth year of operation at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home at 3405 North Higley Road in Mesa. And Sunshine Acres Children’s Home is in its 57th year of providing residential care for these at-risk children. “The horsemanship program has proven to be a major leap forward in reaching deep into the hearts of these kids and helping them learn how to trust and love again,” says Cindy Jones.
“There’s just something about entering a round pen with a 1,500 pound, four-legged, giant animal that causes our kids to drop their defenses, get immediately in-touch with their instincts and start accessing their ability to be resourceful.” Cindy Jones picks the horses for the program with great care so the children are exposed to animals that are gentle, loving, and smart. Each animal is also selected for its own story to tell, according to Cindy. “These horses each teach an important lesson about survival in a tough world.”
Take, for example, “Tilly.” Tilly is an amazing twenty year old horse that can do it all. She does dressage, western saddle riding, plays horse soccer, runs barrels, and more, much more. That would be amazing in and of itself, except what is more amazing is that Tilly is completely blind. “Tilly helps our children discover that the burdens we are required to carry in life don’t have to push us to our knees. We can see these burdens as challenges that will make us tougher, stronger, and turn us into miracles of resourcefulness,” declares Cindy with a tone in her voice that is more than a little convincing. When I heard that story, I sort of felt like an under-achiever for a moment or two.
But the healing miracle of the Two Hearts Horsemanship Program isn’t complete until the children transfer the lessons they learn with horses to adult humans, people who have great character, who are gentle and safe, who guide by example and who are trustworthy in every way. That’s where the volunteers come in. As Cindy explains, “The Two Hearts Program really requires three hearts. The loving heart of the horse can heal the broken heart of a child. But we also teach our kids how to be discerning among humans. So we expose them to adult mentors who role model what it means to be a good and decent, strong and caring man or woman.”
So if any of you buckaroos out there reading this story want to learn more about the Two Hearts Horsemanship Program, take a tour of Sunshine Acres and the horsemanship facilities, and be able to learn about all of the volunteer opportunities that are available in the program, you are welcome to attend their “Welcome Wagon Meeting” on Saturday, September 8th from 10am-Noon. The meeting will take place in the Sunshine Acres Chapel (just follow the signs once you come in the gate). You do not need to RSVP for this event and please feel free to bring along a few friends!!
You can also visit us on the web at www.sunshineacres.org or www.twoheartshorsemanship.org
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