Meet Kai, a resilient teenager who has navigated the challenges of autism with courage and determination. Kai’s story at Shining Hope Farms is a testament to the transformative power of equine-assisted services.
Kai’s journey with us began through a unique proposition. His grandfather, who happens to be a Veteran, offered to join him in the program, sparking his interest and leading him to our Conover farm.
Over the course of a year, Kai formed special connections with our therapy horses through our Therapeutic Riding program. During his time in our program, he worked hard on learning horsemanship skills ranging from independently leading the horse through various obstacles to becoming an independent rider. As he honed his riding skills, his confidence soared, making a positive impact on his self-perception. As his grandfather Ric commented, “The more independent he became as a rider, the better he began to feel about himself.”
Kai’s time at Shining Hope Farms coincided with a crucial period in his life. His decision to concentrate on school marked a turning point, as he entered his junior year at Hickory High School with newfound confidence. What followed was a surprise even to those closest to him – Kai expressed an interest in trying out for the lacrosse team.
Kai not only made the team but played in most games and even scored a goal in the final home game of the season. This unexpected turn of events filled his family with pride and shattered preconceived notions about his capabilities.
The positive changes weren’t confined to the lacrosse field. Kai’s success at Shining Hope Farms translated into an improved self-image, giving him the courage to explore new opportunities. He secured part-time employment at a local restaurant and he has also visited Western Carolina University, which has a two-year program designed specifically for students with special needs. His grandfather remarked, “He’s thinking about college now when that had never been – in his mind – a possibility.”
Unlike previous engagements, Kai wholeheartedly embraced the program at Shining Hope Farms. He had great enthusiasm, contributing to the remarkable progress he has made.
Kai’s journey is a shining example of the motivating impact equine-assisted services can have on individuals facing unique challenges. At Shining Hope Farms, we are honored to be a part of Kai’s story and look forward to witnessing more triumphs as he continues to navigate the path toward a bright future.
Help us continue making transformations like Kai’s possible. Consider donating to our Giving Tuesday campaign today. A gift of $32 feeds a horse for a week, ensuring these incredible therapy animals can continue to inspire and empower individuals like Kai. Your support fuels the hope and healing we provide. Donate today and be a part of the journey!