SOUTH CANAAN TOWNSHIP -- A non-profit organization right here in Northeastern Pennsylvania has grown dramatically over the past three years, thanks to lots of community support.
Using horses, Marley's Mission has helped hundreds of children deal with traumatic events.
This mission was all started by one woman's vision. That if using a horse could help just one child cope, then it could help hundreds more.
The founder of Marley's Mission talked with Newswatch 16 about the difference the organization has made in the past several years. April Loposky's work and dedication to children is why she is honored in our 16 Salutes.
The sun shined brightly on this chilly February afternoon. Several horses grazed in the field: a picturesque scene at Marley's Mission headquarters in Wayne County.
But all this has a very serious purpose. Folks are getting ready for some equine assisted therapy sessions for troubled children.
"Some are so excited to be here, to be around the horses, some are scared and they don't want to participate and some don't even want to be here to begin with, they know it's still therapy," says April Loposky, Founder of Marley's Mission.
April Loposky says the majority of the children who come to Marley's Mission suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. That could be caused by a number of events, like physical abuse, sexual abuse, or an extreme emotional experience.
"They share the scariest moments of their lives and as hard as it is to hear, you push that aside because you get to watch them overcome these crazy difficult things," says Loposky.
Loposky says children begin to heal by doing simple exercises with a team of specialists, and the horses.
"The interesting fact about the horse is they can feel your heartbeat up to three feet away, so instinctively they know if you don't want to do something, so nine times out of ten, we'll see the horse if the child stops, the horse stops, and you just see what the treatment teams have helped them with, they can talk to people, they're not afraid anymore," says Loposky.
Loposky has seen kids smile, who she thought would never smile again.
She's seen how working with horses can help a child who has been through unthinkable violence act like a normal kid again.
For Loposky, the idea of Marley's Mission sparked after a personal experience involving a victim who was brutally attacked.
"Everything you once knew is taken away from you. As much as you want to crash and fall and lay down and die, you can't," says Loposky.
Loposky says the victim did not respond to traditional therapy, but when around horses, the child was a completely different person.
"You watch her smile and there's no better feeling than to know that she's smiling, I didn't think she would ever again," says Loposky.
Soon donations started pouring in, from all over Northeastern Pennsylvania. So Loposky bought the child a horse of her own, something she always wanted.
They immediately began equine-assisted therapy sessions, and the child began to respond.
"She kind of thinks she's a rock star sometimes which is cute but she's not ashamed either, you know?" asked Loposky.
And Loposky says if it can help this child, she knew it would help others. And for the past three years Marley's Mission has helped hundreds of children through equine-assisted therapy, begin to heal.
"I just want to give back as much as I can to whoever I can," says Loposky.
If you are interested in helping out Marley's Mission, the third annual Blue Ribbon Gala this Saturday night is sold out. But you can still come out and support the mission this Friday night at the Pre-Gala at the Hilton Scranton beginning at 6 p.m. It’s free and it will be a night of fun, all to raise money for a great cause.
Or you can make a donation online, just head to marleysmission.com for more information.