It’s that time of year – time of wonder, hope, and joy. Are you a believer in the wonder and miracles that happen at Agape, which bring hope and joy to thousands? We want to share this story with you that happened just a few short weeks ago. And we want to ask you to consider giving to Agape this holiday season. Our goal is to begin 2016 well and have the scholarship support we need to continue serving our riders like Vince. So let me tell you about Vince…
Vince, a young man with autism, walks quietly through the halls of Warren Central High School. He doesn’t cause a problem, he doesn’t speak, hardly gestures and communication is a huge issue for him. While at AGAPE, I continuously reminded volunteers, “Vince doesn’t speak” or “remember Vince needs to be partnered up because he doesn’t talk”. The volunteers and AGAPE professionals worked patiently with Vince building a rapport and friendship with him. Eventually, Vince began to smile at the horses. He wanted to spend time near them and pet them. He enjoyed his time with the horses and volunteers.
Our last two visits were soon approaching and all of our students had been requesting and wondering when they would be able to ride the horses. The day had finally arrived. That first ride was as expected. The students were apprehensive at first but that burst of energy from each volunteer encouraged each kiddo to take a chance, ride with confidence and do something they had never experienced. I can’t recall Vince’s reaction that day, but I do remember the volunteer telling Vince to tell the horse to “Walk on”, a command that the students had practiced for several weeks. I remember saying again, “Vince can’t talk!” It was then that Wayne, a volunteer, informed me that being around the horses, he has seen nonverbal kiddos start talking. For me, I don’t know if it was just disbelief or an unfaithful attitude, but I didn’t see how this could happen. I was so excited that day seeing the smiles on the student’s faces and joy that each student was filled with as we loaded the bus. I couldn’t see that it could possibly get any better than this.
The last day was here. I arrived with gifts for each volunteer and something for AGAPE along with a feeling of sadness that we would not be back for a while. I didn’t know then that I would be receiving the best gift of all! The kiddos wanted to know if we were riding. With an enthusiastic group of volunteers we were told they would ride for their last day. I may have been more excited than the kiddos! Divided into groups, students took turns riding while following the directions they were given. I was talking with a colleague sharing how great the morning was going, when I heard some funny noises coming from behind, the clicking sounds, giggles, grunts, sounds of happiness. “What is that?” I asked “It’s Vince!” the volunteer said. I couldn’t believe it.
I had never heard Vince make any vocal sounds. It was then that the volunteer requested that Vince tell his horse to “Walk on” and he did. I couldn’t believe it! Tears began streaming down my face.
He was laughing, telling Butterbean, his horse, to “Walk On!” and that he “loved him”. In fact he said, “I love you Butterbean!” I pulled my phone out, sent a text my department chair and Vince’s Teacher of Record. With tears streaming down my face, I typed Vince is talking!! Can you believe it? I have never heard him talk and he’s talking to his horse!
I walked over to Wayne and apologized to him. I was so sorry that I didn’t believe him. His response, “Sometimes you just have to see to believe!” I was a believer! AGAPE is so much more than just being around the horses. It is a therapeutic system that works! Vince is a testament of what one can do in a program like AGAPE! Life changes are possible!
Submitted by: Dena Condra, Warren Central High School and Walker Career Center
Now are you a believer? Because of the support of the Junior League of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Foundation, and gifts from generous families like yours – Vince SPOKE. You truly can make a difference through giving. Consider giving a gift of hope today. And may your season be full of wonder.