Editor’s Note: The monthly Resource Spotlight is an Q&A that provides information about nonprofit organizations who serve military spouses and their families. The purpose is to connect military spouses with available resources designed to help them thrive in military life.
Name of your organization:Brave HEART (Heroes Equine Adventure & Riding Therapy) Program
What’s the history of your organization? When was it founded?
In January of 2012, Jeff and Laura Unsworth had a vision that merged their love of horses with their desire to give back to the community, through the creation of a therapeutic riding program for military families. On a mission to make this a reality, they have combined a variety of outdoor activities (therapeutic riding, nature hikes, arts & crafts and more) in a peaceful and stress-free farm environment.
It has been said that “You must love soldiers in order to understand them and understand them in order to help them.” Jeff and Laura have been married and living the “military life” for over 20 years. They know firsthand the stress that can come along with military duty and deployments. Jeff has served in the active Army, as an enlisted soldier, as a traditional National Guard soldier, in both an enlisted and officer status, and as an active duty National Guard officer. He served overseas in Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation New Dawn.
Jeff and Laura recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. It has been their horses that have helped them so much over the years, and they want to share this wonderful healing equine interaction with other military families.
Who is the founder? Laura J. Lane-Unsworth. Horses have been a source of enjoyment and strength in Laura’s life since the age of 5. From early lessons and showing to training young horses, Laura has spent a lot of time with these special animals. Some of her experience includes: Starting and training young horses, trained horses of different skill levels and disciplines for clients, retrained retired racehorses for hunters/jumpers and fox hunting, taught lessons to beginner and intermediate students, schooled polo horses, multiple awards won, in Hunters Under Saddle, Huntseat Equitation, Equitation Over Fences, and Open Jumpers and Foxhunted with the Potomac, Goshen and Wicomico Hunt Clubs.
How has the organization’s purpose evolved through the years?
Since we are still relatively new and growing, we are just beginning to refine our purpose. Jeff and Laura want the Brave HEART Program to be unique in 2 ways. First, for it to not only provide help and healing to the military member or veteran, but to their family as well. Second, the program offers not just therapeutic riding, but a customized variety of enriching outdoor activities that address not only the military service member, but that also work to rebuild, and reinforce the bonds of family relationships which are stressed due the nature of military service
Please describe the mission of Brave HEART: The Brave HEART Program is a program for military members and their families, including therapeutic activities. Our mission is to provide an environment where veterans, military members, and their families come together to facilitate healing and strengthen relationships through equine interaction and outdoor activities in a peaceful farm setting.
We appreciate the immeasurable courage, sacrifice and dedication of our military personnel and their families, and honor this by giving something back to them. We believe every military family is special– military service and overseas deployments take a toll on the service member and on the family, both during the deployment and after they return home. Each deserves the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the American way of life, which they have worked so hard to support and defend. Our individual tailored farm visits, variety of activities, and friendly environment in a convenient location, are the keys to improving family relationships and strengthening family bonds.
What services does your organization offer?
The Brave HEART Program offers a variety of “adventure options” for service members and their families. From a short visit to a full day on the farm, each visit is custom fit for the individual service member or family. Headed up by Executive Director, Laura Lane-Unsworth, our team plans the activities for each visit based on a questionnaire and phone interview with the client. We take into consideration physical abilities, age, and special requests or interests of the client and the family. Making sure the itinerary for the visit meets the service member (and the family’s) approval before the visit takes place.
Activities that are offered at the farm:
- Horseback riding (therapeutic riding, lessons or casual rides)
- Horse grooming
- Nature Hikes
- Arts and Crafts
Which population(s) do you serve (spouses, veterans, children)? The Brave HEART Program differs from other therapeutic riding programs for veterans because it involves both the military member (active duty or retired), as well as his or her family.
How can NextGen MilSpouse readers support your organization? Please help us spread the word about this wonderful program. We would love it if you would “Like” and support our Facebook page. We will be posting information on future fundraisers! Thanks so much!
We do rely on donations to operate the BHP. A donation helps the Brave HEART Program provide life changing services to military member and their families. Brave Heart is a 501(c).3 tax exempt status. Donors will receive a document verifying their generous support and 100% of all donations go directly to Brave HEART Program.
If you prefer to mail in your donation, our mailing address is: Brave Heart Program, Inc., P.O. Box 3133, Hagerstown, Maryland 21741
Can military spouses volunteer with Brave HEART? Our doors are always open to those who are interested in volunteering at the Brave HEART Program. Volunteers are an integral part of our team. The minimum age for any new volunteer is 14 years old. Volunteers are chosen based upon their maturity, personal integrity, skills, patience, dependability, sensitivity and respect for our military members and their families. To volunteer your time and services, please follow the link on our webpage: www.BraveHEARTRiding.org
Anything else our readers need to know? One of our many goals is to help veterans and military members heal their visible and invisible wounds from war. We also want to help strengthen and build family relationships that will sustain them throughout the future. Because… Strong Families=Strong Military.
We watch this happen at the farm because when people spend time around horses, they learn to communicate without words and find a sense of peace with the world. Horses remind us how strong we are inside and how to overcome our fears. They teach us to love and be loved back. Horses bring out the best in people. As Winston S. Churchill once said…”There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
For more information about Brave HEART connect with them on Facebook.
Does your nonprofit organization serve military spouses? Are you looking to spread the word?
Send an email to NextGen MilSpouse Content Editor Michelle Volkmann at michelle<at>msbnewmedia<dot>com to find out how your organization can be a future Resource Spotlight.