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This is a true story.

The names of the participants have been changed for reasons of confidentiality

Their lives have been filled with strife and tension.  Two young girls, ages 9 and 11 deserve, as all children do, to feel safe.  Their days should chime with laughter and be free of worry.  It has been quite the opposite for Kris and her sister, Megan.

Their father, who suffered from alcoholism, committed suicide in January of 2010.  Although the life they had with him was riddled with violence and previous attempts at suicide, he was, of course, still their Dad.  They experienced a sincere sense of sadness and loss with many unanswered questions that children of addiction develop.  The sisters found solace and strength in each other.

The more secure aspect of family life came from their mother, Jessica.  Her sense of responsibility to the girls prevailed.  She provided the financial support.  Established in a job, Jessica understood that maintaining employment was a priority for the security of her daughters.  With the death of her husband, she felt emotionally overwhelmed, and chose to move the family into the home of a male friend.   This might not have been the best choice, but Jessica’s personality was one of co-dependency.  Those features dominated her decision-making process.

Suffice to say, Kris and Megan experienced a difficult adjustment.  Their mother’s relationship with this man, Nick, became more than platonic.  Understandably, the girls were still grieving the loss of their father, and were not emotionally prepared to accept Nick encroaching on the dynamics of the family relationships.

One evening within nine months in this new living situation, Nick and Jessica became embattled in an argument whereby Nick became assaultive.  His hands were around her neck, as he lifted Jessica from the floor and pinned her against the wall.  The girls were in their pajamas ready for bed.  Upon witnessing this trauma, they bravely bounded into action.  Kris and Megan were smart, and fast.  They raced across the street to their grandmother’s house, where an emergency 911 call was made.

Nick had absconded to parts unknown by the time the paramedics arrived.  Jessica was taken to the hospital for treatment, and the girls stayed with their grandmother that night.   Maintaining a regard for the girls safety, their grandmother decided to quickly accompany them back to the empty house before settling the girls down.  She advised them,” Girls, you have 10 minutes to gather what’s most important to you.  You’ll probably never be back here again.”  The girls realized they needed to make some meaningful decisions quickly.

Once Jessica was discharged from the hospital, the family moved in temporarily with her brother.   She fully understood how crucial it was to keep her personal life from interfering with her job.  Her employment was the family’s lifeline. At this juncture, the girls were a 30 minute drive from school.  Jessica would be their only transportation which was stressful for all concerned.  Nick resurfaced and escalated in threatening the safety of the entire family.  These were, indeed, difficult times.

Now, this is where Horses Healing Hearts USA comes in.  On a day when the girls were out of school, it seemed like a good opportunity to offer them some respite from all the chaos.  Getting them to a sponsor barn for a ride would surely raise their spirits.  At this point in time, their mother had no idea if they even had clean clothes, toothbrushes, or for that matter, riding gear.  The alternative plan would be doing a quick clothes shop at K-Mart, if necessary, and going to see the movie, Secretariat.  Jessica was in agreement that an outing was a fine idea.

As I pulled up to the house, there stood these two beautiful girls.  To my shock and surprise they were all decked out in their complete equestrian outfits with their hair pulled back looking eager to ride.  Lots of questions came into my mind.  How was it the girls had their riding clothes?  Did they go back to the house after that night?   Of course, the questions were asked and answered.

This, my friends is the best part.  Their response, “Our grandma told us to grab what we could put in our arms and what was most important to us.  Our riding clothes and boots were the first things we grabbed.”  In the short 10 minutes back at that house when they had to choose meaningful items, the girls seized their riding clothes; not just some items, the complete outfits.  There I sat, a bit stunned, eyes welling up and totally speechless.  Then I enveloped the girls in big hugs, gave them a beaming smile, and we then ventured forth to enjoy ourselves.

As this story is being prepared for publication, there is an update to the aforementioned events.  Nick eventually committed murder/suicide.  He violently beat his current girlfriend to death with a baseball bat and then hung himself.  This comes within the last 9 months of the dilemma with Kris and Megan.  The purpose of mentioning the culmination of events is to bring home the very serious nature of our mission at HHH.

Liz Olszewski Comments: 

“It is extremely humbling to be part of the work that touches the lives of these children.  We get to see their spirits restored, and their lives transfer into better experiences.  Those experiences eventually become joyful memories.  It is truly the relationship between the horses and the kids that accomplishes most of the work.  As volunteers, our objectives include keeping them physically safe, serving as mentors, nurturing their feelings of being loved, and that we at HHH are here for them.   It is the genuine hope of Horses Healing Hearts that the positive changes in our young people will in turn have a healthy impact on their parents or legal guardians.”