At Crossroads Corral in Sanford, this cohort of community leaders is making equine-assisted therapy accessible year-round to those who need it most
On a beautiful five-acre Sanford ranch just south of Sylvan Lake, people from all walks of life are finding peace of mind and healing through horse therapy. From veterans coping with PTSD to children dealing with unimaginable trauma, they come to the volunteer-run, nonprofit facility known as Crossroads Corral to seek a unique solution to mental-health challenges.
Equine-assisted therapy pairs horses with clients to help develop confidence and emotional awareness, all while overcoming obstacles – both literal and figurative. Clients don’t ride the horses, but they do connect with them, all under the supervision of a licensed mental-health therapist and an equine specialist.
However, due to Florida’s inevitable heat and rain, Crossroads Corral’s outdoor therapy sessions are often cancelled and rescheduled, denying essential therapy to those in need. It’s a problem Leadership Seminole Class 28 set out to solve for good.
Every year, the Leadership Seminole program challenges its class members to vote amongst themselves to choose and execute a community service project. It didn’t take much convincing to get the entire class of 54 members on board with the Crossroads Corral project. The class decided to help the Corral build a large, raised pavilion over its therapy space. That will allow therapy sessions to take place in shaded comfort, even during inclement weather.
“The stories about the pain people in the Crossroads Corral program have endured are heartbreaking, but this organization is helping change lives, and the mission has a special connection to our veterans,” says Sam Aycoth, one of the members of Class 28 who originally suggested the project. “Our class found that we could help by covering their therapy area, so no matter what the weather is like, therapy sessions are not compromised. It was something permanent we as a class could leave behind in the community.”
Sam also happens to be a Crossroads Corral volunteer who spends his Wednesday afternoons cleaning stalls, exercising the horses, and helping with barn maintenance. He knows firsthand just how therapeutic time on the ranch can be.
“Everybody goes through periods of mild depression and, especially as you get older, there are periods of stress and maybe even health issues,” says Sam. “It can get you down. My wife says I’m happier when I come home after volunteering and being with the horses. I just know that what I’m doing ultimately helps someone who really needs the therapy.”
“Raising money for a roof to cover the therapy area was one way to literally fill a big gap to help people get the services they need,” says Class 28 member Truth Stevenson, who quickly became the project’s treasurer and communications champion. “Our class was able to take a tour of the ranch, and it helped us better understand what Crossroads Corral does. I think it really bonded us to the project and the mission.”
Class 28 set a $50,000 fundraising goal, scheduled a workday at the ranch, and coordinated a large fundraising event. Thanks to multiple grants and community contributions, nearly all $50,000 was collected even before the Class held its Raise the Roof fundraiser in April. Included in the tally was a generous $10,000 donation from Class 28 member Andrew John Jones. Through his law firm’s Jones Family Charities, Andrew hosts a major Princess Ball daddy-daughter dance fundraiser every year. Proceeds from the event are earmarked for children’s and veterans’ causes, so a donation to the Crossroads Corral project was a perfect fit.
The Raise the Roof event itself added another $13,000 to the tally, to bring the grand total to a whopping $63,000. The fundraiser was a festive family fun day at Crossroads Corral, which gave supporters a chance to tour the facility and learn more about the organization’s great work. Kids enjoyed pony rides and fun activities, adults appreciated the mimosa bar and good company, and everyone delighted in getting to know the seven horses and two ponies that call Crossroads Corral home. Class 28 hopes to turn the family fun day into an annual event.
“Class 28 has been amazing to work with,” says Lindsay Brim, Crossroads Corral’s cofounder and executive director. “They more than put in the work – in terms of fundraising and real, tough physical labor! Having a proper corral cover is going to be life-changing for our clients, who do a lot of one-on-one therapy sessions. Depending on what our clients are here for, we use specific activities that help bring out their coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills. Actions speak louder than words, and we get a better idea about what’s going on with our clients by seeing how they react.”
Class 28 member Carolyn Bonaventura, a preconstruction manager, has been instrumental in coordinating everything from bids to design to permitting to ensure that the corral cover project is up to code and monitored for proper installation. The project is well underway with an expected completion by the fall.
Lindsay said it: Actions speak louder than words, and Leadership Seminole Class 28 has put its community spirit into action – for children, for veterans, and for everyone in Seminole County.
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