BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Each month, “WBZ Cares” highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community. This month WBZ is profiling Strongwater Farm Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Tewksbury, MA that helps individuals with disabilities and mental health issues.
Jean from Lowell calls it her church. “It is my serenity here. It’s my sanctuary,” she said.
Jean volunteered at the farm while living at a halfway house for treatment of her alcohol addiction. As a former nurse and mother of five, she was used to taking care of everyone but herself.
“In nursing, a lot of nurses either turn to food, alcohol, drugs. I turned to alcohol. To take care of themselves. Because I was an ER nurse, for a long time, you saw a lot,” Jean stated.
Once Jean started caring for the horses, her life was transformed.
“This program here has a lot to do with my recovery. It’s kept me sober. I can help other people. I do thank God every morning for my life and for what the day brings. The grounds here on this property are so beautiful, the barn itself is beautiful. I found a new-found love for nature. I look forward to the sunrise every morning,” Jean said.
Jean was offered a job at Strongwater and now works there as one of the barn managers. Chris Perley watched his autistic son Brian improve by leaps and bounds once he started riding lessons. Perley says the horses have an amazing calming effect on now 28-year-old Brian.
“A lot of autistic kids, they just have a need to feel their body and so they make these different movements. We see with Brian that after his lesson he is much quieter,” Perley stated.
“Obviously this program means a lot to you,” WBZ’s Kim Tunnicliffe concluded.
“It does, it gets me emotional,” Perley replied.
The center is so important to Perley, he’s now serving as a Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors.
“It’s meant so much for my family and I want to do that for others,” Perley stated.
During my interviews, I asked every person the same question about Strongwater Farm and every time I got the same answer.
“What keeps you coming back here every day?” Tunnicliffe asked.
“The horses,” replied Jean and Riding Instructor Ellie Coolidge Behrstock.
Tunnicliffe asked another volunteer at the Farm, Tommy, what he’d say his favorite part of the job is.
“Working with the horses,” Tommy replied.
Tunnicliffe then asked barn worker Thomas Carpino what keeps him coming back and he replied, “Of course the horses, number one.” She went on to ask Barn Manager Linda Ardisson who said, “Just being around the horses. They’re caring animals that are capable of stuffing their own fight or flight impulses because they want to make sure their riders are safe. That takes a really special and rare horse.”
WBZ NewsRadio1030's Kim Tunnicliffe Reports