Volunteers at Dogwood Ranch each have their own journey that brings them to this special place. I just so happened to stumble upon mine. In December 2019, I was preparing to move from California closer to my fiance (now my husband), who was in Tennessee at the time.
words + photos BASTIAN WHITE
I had previously volunteered at an amazing place called Ride Above Disability in California; however, I knew eventually I wanted to be involved with equine assisted counseling to help people work through trauma by working with horses.
>> Equine Therapy for At-risk Youth + Military Families <<
I did a Google search, hoping to find something of that nature in the Springfield, Missouri, area. As soon as I found Dogwood Ranch, I was in love. They not only use equine therapy to bring hope to hopeless situations for at-risk youth and military families struggling with mental health and behavioral challenges, they are also Christ-centered, and members of the staff live it out daily. As someone who was raised in church and taught the importance of serving others from a young age, I automatically knew this was something I wanted to be part of. Additionally, I am starting my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health this fall and grew up around horses. How could I not find Dogwood Ranch so enchanting?
After a longer than expected game of phone tag, a laughable and memorable meeting with CEO Dana Lopez in Los Angeles (let’s just keep it short and say God uses everything), and a 1,603 mile journey, I was gladly welcomed into the Dogwood family as more than just a volunteer. As much as Dogwood Ranch blesses those whom it serves, serving at Dogwood Ranch has been a bigger blessing than I have time to express in these few words.
>> Hope for a brighter tomorrow <<
Dogwood Ranch serves our community by filling in gaps in care for at-risk youth and military families. I have seen how Dogwood’s commitment to serve the community by serving these demographics has impacted our world down to the family unit.
One story in particular involved a boy who was part of a group therapy I was able to help with. He was terrified of the horses and had never ridden before. The first part of the day involved choosing, grooming, and then saddling up a horse. He did a minimum amount of work, while barely interacting with the horse. When he and the others led the horses to the outdoor round pen to do some riding exercises, a switch flipped. He grew a little more comfortable watching his peers ride and, surprising us all, jumped right up on his horse when his turn came. He was glowing telling the others during lunch the name of his horse and how he rode. It was a special moment to watch how confident the young man became that morning.
services offered by Dogwood Ranch have led to the first sign of hope at the end of a very long tunnel.
A family friend, who is also family member of a veteran, says the services offered by Dogwood Ranch have led to the first sign of hope at the end of a very long tunnel. Though the VA offers great and extensive services, sometimes our veterans need something a little more hands on than typical in-person sessions, or online sessions per COVID-19 restrictions in some areas.
Everyone is a specific individual with different needs, and there is no one-type-fits-all therapy session. For those who have risked their all to serve our nation and who need something outside of traditional services, Dogwood Ranch does all it can to serve our veterans so they can be more present fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, wives, and husbands. And so our veterans can have hope for a brighter tomorrow. BW
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