March 2014 marked a very important time in Agape’s history – it marked 20 years of service to our central Indiana community at our center in Cicero. As many of you may know, Agape was actually founded in 1986, by Cheryl Miller and her daughter Dawn. Cheryl and Dawn were given the opportunity to partner with Indiana University Bradford Woods to serve youth with disabilities through equine-assisted therapy during the summer. This summer program was the start of Agape and it was in this fertile ground that the mission and vision for our organization took root.
In 1992, Dawn unexpectedly and tragically passed away. This is a kind of heartache and pain that I cannot even begin to imagine. While I do not know the kind of pain that accompanies the loss of a daughter, I do know that such a tragedy could have closed Agape. Cheryl and Jerry Miller could have decided that the dream to love, lead, and develop people through working with horses was too painful to bear. But that was not their decision.
In March of 1994, precisely 20 years ago, Cheryl and Jerry Miller continued the dream and established running Agape year-round at our site in Cicero. Just last year we served 1,419 people through our equine-assisted programs. And now- 28 years from our beginning- we are thrilled to announce that we will be “returning to our roots” by adding a second location at Indiana University’s Bradford Woods in Martinsville. Beginning in June, Agape will open new barn doors to provide the same excellent equine-assisted therapies all year at Bradford Woods’ Equine Center as we do now in Cicero. For Agape, there is no greater way to expand and spread our wings than to return to where we originally took root. 2014 marks a very special year for us at Agape as we venture into new heights of “mission-focused growth” and spread our wings both north and south in Central Indiana to impact more lives than ever before.
Wow. Now just take a moment and think on this: think about our past – and think about our present – and think about our future. Personally, it overwhelms me and reminds me that in God’s story tragedy does not mean the end – it actually precedes triumph.The faith and perseverance of the Millers should grip us firmly, gently stir our hearts and minds, and awaken our spirits to respond to God’s calling in our lives regardless of circumstance and tragedy. This story of Agape’s past as it relates to our present reminds me of Winston Churchill’s famous speech at Harrow School when he commanded students,
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in…We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished…Very different is the mood today.”
Our awe-inspiring present moment, which greatly defines and shapes our future, would not only be possible without the Millers but would also not be possible without the thousands of donors, volunteers, and riders that have rooted and grounded us in love from our past. It is our greatest desire to see these ambassadors of Agape continue to journey with us into what we believe to be a very bright and hopeful future for our organization. So please join me in celebrating our past, our present growth, and our future. And remember – never, never, never give in because triumph awaits around the corner of perseverance and faith.
~Amanda Bocik, Executive Director of Agape
P.S. If you are interested in learning more about our beginnings, watch this short video. We are currently planning special tours during the summer months for those who wish to see our the new location. Please subscribe to our blog and newsletter to stay updated. In the meantime, here are a few pictures for you to enjoy and to occupy your anticipation.