SOUTHPORT, Fla. — At Healing Hearts Youth Ranch, an average day consists of taking the horses out for a run, mane-brushing, and feeding some chickens; but for the kids who get to do all of that, it’s a day they won’t forget.
“It’s like a refuge for kids to come out and get away from all that they’re going through,” said HHYR’s founder, Sandra Bunch.
The ranch helps kids that are struggling with issues from abandonment, abuse, or other personal problems they may be faced with. It gives them a place to feel secure, loved and needed by the animals they care for.
“A girl who used to come out had a lot going on at home,” said Bunch. “I’ve seen her just over talking to the horse and she just had tears streaming down her face. She was just telling this horse all these things that were going on that she wouldn’t tell anyone else.”
And some of the horses truly understand, having gone through abandonment or abuse themselves.
“We tell the children about the story of the horses, and if that child has been abused or abandoned, there’s a deep connection that comes,” said Bunch.
Alyssa Archer has volunteered at the ranch for years. She says the bond formed between the kids and horses can be stronger than anything else in the world.
“It’s a very eye-opening experience, and it’s very calming for the heart.”
On Sunday, the ranch received help of their own, as Elegant Endeavors Antique Emporium donated around $2,100 to help them get back on their feet after Hurricane Michael.
“Once that kicks in she can start bringing them out here, getting them back on the right track of destressing and being able to come out here and interact with the horses,” said Archer.
Sandra Bunch says she’s very grateful.
“The kids have been calling wanting to come back out and we are just so thankful to be able to open back up,” she said.
She says they’re hoping to do that by September.