There’s not much a grandmother won’t do for her grandson. Just ask Victoria Bryant why she started a non-profit that brings equine-assisted services to children with autism.
“My grandson is my inspiration,” she says, explaining that after he was diagnosed with autism, she began working with him on horses. After seeing the change it made in his life, Victoria felt called to offer the same help to other children, and soon, Journey of Hope 4 Autism was born. Situated in rural Virginia, Journey of Hope provides a safe space for children with autism to learn and grow.
“Around our horses, the children get a sense of peace,” Victoria explains, adding that the calming effect can last for hours or even days. “They build muscle and body awareness, while also gaining self-confidence.”
Most of the animals that call Journey of Hope home are rescues, which Victoria and her dedicated team of volunteers rehabilitate and retrain to work with children. The kids get to be part of that process, giving them a chance to learn about compassion and second chances.
Ragan Wiseman is one of those regular volunteers. She admits it takes a lot of hard work to keep Journey of Hope going, but insists the time and sweat she invests is worth it. “Animals can make a difference in ways that people simply cannot do,” Ragan says. “They connect with these kids cognitively, emotionally and physically, and love them unconditionally.”
Victoria concurs, reflecting on the many lives that her horses have changed since the non-profit first opened. “We’ve seen miracles that parents and teachers never thought possible,” she says, “which makes being hot, cold, tired and achy so worth it.”