One of the many great non-profit organizations around the Gainesville area is HOPE, HOrses Helping PEople, Inc.. HOPE was started in July of 2000 as a backyard program and has grown tremendously over the years and now is located on 40 acres right outside of Gainesville on Archer. A local physical therapist started HOPE with the goal of being able to enrich the lives and experiences of those living with disabilities.
HOPE gives the opportunity to patients, “riders” as they call them, to step out of their daily routine of multiple doctor office visits and clinical settings. When they are at HOPE, riders do not even realize they are having therapy, they just think they are learning to ride a horse. As of now, HOPE offers occupational therapy instead of physical therapy but their future goal is to offer physical and speech therapy in addition to occupational therapy. There are about 25 riders who come to HOPE each week for therapy.
On top of the services they offer at the farm, they have Pony Pals program, which helps them serve people who aren’t able to come to the farm. They take their miniature horse, Rocky, to residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
While interviewing Kristen Shimeall, the executive director at HOPE, she said that if she could describe HOPE in one word that it would be inspiring. Shimeall elaborated saying “to watch the strength that our families have facing the obstacles they have had put in front of them by having a family member with a disability is just amazing and that always inspires me.”
As HOPE has grown into such a big and amazing facility, so has their staff. They have four different directors, two occupational therapists, several riding instructors, and two farm managers. In addition to their staff, they have about 100 volunteers a semester. Since horses require attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week their volunteers are completely necessary and utilized. Shimeall explains that their fundraisers could not be put on without the help of their volunteers and HOPE can not thank their volunteers enough for their hardwork and dedication to making HOPE a better place in every aspect at the farm.
HOPE has blessed the lives of many riders and we can only hope that it's success continues as while as it's inspiring therapy in the future. Kristen Shimeall, executive director at HOPE, will be receiving a complementary $20 gift certificate at LAE for her hard work and dedication at HOPE for the past 3 years.