Sometimes life is a bumpy ride. There are many things making up those bumps – stress, conflict, trauma, uncertainty, illness, disability and more. Just as shock absorbers on a vehicle can help smooth out the ride down the road, the people and programs around us can help to smooth out the ride of life. Two local nonprofit agencies help people with both figurative and literal rides: SOS Outreach and Medicine Horse Centers.
First, imagine someone on a snowboard for the first time. It is almost guaranteed that he or she will fall – probably multiple times. These falls are a great metaphor for the bumps in life and provide opportunities to practice how one reacts to these hurts and setbacks. SOS Outreach serves approximately 110 middle and high school students from the region, using Durango Mountain Resort as their classroom. The program combines snowboarding with life lessons to enhance decision-making and to promote successful life experiences. As skills improve, participants set goals and celebrate when they make new runs or jumps. The connections between resilience, hard work and success become strong, and these young adults translate that into the other areas of their lives.
At the graduation ceremony for SOS in February, participants stood up and talked about what they had gained from the program. A lot of comments involved the five core values they are taught: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion. However, what really came through was the confident sense of self and sense of hope in these participants. Thanks to the directors and more than 40 volunteers who support the program.
For those who prefer the whinny of a horse to the whoosh of a snowboard, there is Medicine Horse Center. This nonprofit organization works with a variety of people to provide emotional and physical therapy and to build social and life skills. The central idea at Medicine Horse is horses can be therapeutic partners to humans in many different ways.
When a participant first arrives at the facility, he or she may be approached by a pushy and curious large horse named Jade. This horse is pushing for interaction – and therein lies the opportunity for learning. Depending on circumstances, a participant may need to act assertively, gently, respectfully or playfully to get the horses to react the way that is desired. These behavioral skills are built in a fun, nonthreatening environment. After working with the horses, participants talk about their experiences and how to translate lessons learned from Jade and others to interactions with people. Medicine Horse has additional programs helping people connect with these beautiful animals through grooming and riding.
Both of these organizations are supported by funds raised by United Way of Southwest Colorado. Our annual fundraising campaign will be ending within the next month, and we still need your help to reach our goal to make sure we can continue supporting innovative and successful programs such as these. Visit www.unitedway-swco.org today to see how you can help.
Thank you for Living United.
Lynn Urban is president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Colorado.