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Horseback riding makes a difference for Kaitlyn

June 11, 2013


Youth Villages’ annual Baggo tournament raises funds for positive extracurricular activities for the youth in our programs in New England. Jena Daniels, a Youth Villages family intervention specialist in West Springfield, Mass., shares how Baggo funds helped make a dream come true for Kaitlyn, 15, and help her achieve treatment goals.

When I first met Kaitlyn, her sense of humor immediately stuck out. So did her love for horses. To introduce herself to me, Kaitlyn brought me a huge stack of drawings to look at. They were all of horses.

When I began working with Kaitlyn and her mother, they were going through a difficult time. Kaitlyn felt a lot of anger toward her mother and that had landed her in a short-term residential program and then a foster home at the age of 15. The goal of our intensive in-home services program was to help Kaitlyn and her mom live together successfully as a family and to address whatever issues the family was dealing with.

I helped mom and daughter learn to talk to each other more calmly and solve problems together rather than yell at each other. I helped them learn to take a step back when they got angry or frustrated and to take a time out when needed. There were many long hours we sat talking about issues and looking for solutions. There were many phone calls about Kaitlyn’s behavior.

But over time, those calls decreased, and I started receiving more positive updates from Kaitlyn’s afterschool programs.

Kaitlyn began working hard to take control of her emotions and behaviors, and she completed various court-appointed programs, ranging from a soup kitchen program where she learned life skills, to a wonderful program where she wrote and performed a play. Over and over, Kaitlyn kept telling me about the one thing she really wanted more than anything else: horseback-riding lessons.

Our program is rewards-focused. We motivate the children in our program to work on part of their therapy for a reward they set themselves – within limits, of course, and with the agreement of their family. It was always the same reward Kaitlyn wanted to work toward. But horseback-riding lessons are expensive, and this was a reward that was out of reach for her mom at the time.

Four months into the program, Kaitlyn and her mom had made incredible changes in the way they interacted with each other at home, and their relationship had turned around. However, horseback-riding lessons remained out of reach for Katilyn’s mom.

After multiple conversations with my supervisor and exhausting all of the family’s connections to try to find a way to make horseback-riding lessons a reality for Kaitlyn, we decided to ask if there was anything Youth Villages could do to help Kaitlyn.

Thanks to the generosity of everyone participating in the Youth Villages Baggo tournament, Youth Villages was able to fund this activity through proceeds raised from the 2012 Baggo tournament. With the help of this support, a stable agreed to offer an affordable payment plan to Kaitlyn’s mother, so that after the riding lessons Youth Villages provided were over, Kaitlyn could continue to ride.

These lessons were a lifelong dream for Kaitlyn, and now it was becoming true thanks to your support of the Youth Villages Baggo Tournament. It was the best motivator and reward for her to keep on working hard on herself and her relationship with her mother.

Thank you!
Jena Daniels
Youth Villages family intervention specialist
West Springfield

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