Agape Therapeutic Riding Resources is returning to its roots to celebrate the nonprofit organization’s 30th anniversary Saturday, May 7 at Bradford Woods.
Agape’s 15 horses and seven miniature horses help support our mission to cultivate personal growth in our riders and students through unique horse-facilitated activities. Each year, Agape, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center, serves nearly 2000 individuals and 42 different diagnoses at its two locations: Bradford Woods and Cicero.
Before Agape was born 30 years ago, there was one man, a mother and a daughter who saw exactly what therapeutic riding can do.
The idea of Agape was ignited when mother-daughter duo, Cheryl and Dawn Miller, learned of therapeutic riding’s impact when a close family friend was electrocuted. The family friend lost a large portion of his mobility; and with that, he battled the mental struggles of having physical limitations for the first time in his life. After taking riding lessons with Cheryl, the man’s strength increased — as did his mental health.
Cheryl said seeing the value of therapeutic riding firsthand, stirred an idea within her soul.
“I spent a month away from home getting my certification to be therapeutic riding instructor [after working with my friend]; and I thought a lot about how I want to impact riders,” Cheryl said of the journey she started more than three decades ago.
In 1986, Dawn and Cheryl developed a summer-only program at Bradford Woods, where they also served Camp Riley, during the summer months. It was under the southern-Indiana sky, that Dawn and Cheryl saw the true power of partnering horses and individuals with disabilities. That power provoked another dream for Cheryl and her daughter.
“We began to dream about a year-round therapeutic riding center,” Cheryl said. “We often thought of how to do it, but when it came time to start we let fear get in our way. It was fear of failure, fear of financing. We just didn’t feel we could move forward with it.”
Then, the most-feared moment for a mother happened. Dawn, who was a mother to an 11-month-old son at the time, was tragically killed; and Cheryl nearly died alongside her. The tragedy took away a little boy’s mother, and Jerry’s and Cheryl’s daughter. As Cheryl’s body healed in the critical condition wing of the hospital, she said she and her husband, Jerry, made two decisions.
“We were going to adopt my grandson, who was an orphan now. And we were going to start a year-round therapeutic riding center,” Cheryl said. “The scariest thing had happened and we were going to build a tribute for Dawn’s and my dream together.”
In 1992, Cheryl and Jerry transformed their family’s tragedy into a living tribute to a dream that Cheryl and Dawn shared. Cheryl and Jerry broke ground on 13 acres in Cicero for the organization’s first year-round facility that year. In that moment, Cheryl and Jerry built something that everyone can relate to. They built a home for those, who didn’t want to give up or give in to the tragedies that happened in their lives. They built a foundation for the riders, who knew they were more than their diagnoses. They built a legacy that has touched lives in ways we never saw possible. They built Agape.
We are thrilled to celebrate where Agape has been; and where we are going at Bradford Woods Saturday, May 7. We look forward to celebrating our journey with those, who have traveled with us.