The Waupaca Area Community Foundation (WACF) presented $96,000 in grants to 21 local groups at an event Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Best Western Grand Seasons Hotel.
Since its founding in 2003, WACF has awarded more than $1.2 million in grants to non-profit organizations involved in education, human services, arts, culture and the environment.
WACF gave three of its 2011 grant recipients the opportunity to give presentations about their programs.
CHAPS (Children with Horses Achieving Productivity and Success) Academy received $5,000 from WACF for an equine-assisted youth suicide intervention and prevention program.
WACF provides funding for Waupaca-area youths who have been referred to the program for counseling.
Ann Dake, founder and director of CHAPS Academy, said the horses develop a connection with the youths that helps counselors better communicate with them.
“Horses by nature are animals that respond to the environment by being very sensitive to the energy of their predators,” Drake said. She said horses are also sensitive to the emotional turmoil that may be troubling a young person who is suicidal.
“It’s very important that the therapic connection to the child start immediately. But when you ask a youth, ‘What’s wrong?’ they usually answer, ‘Nothing,'” Drake said. “With a horse, you don’t need to ask a child, ‘How are you feeling, today?’ You can tell how the child is feeling from the horse’s behavior. It’s difficult to ignore a 1,500-pound horse stomping its feet and swishing its tail in response to a child’ emotions.”
Drake said the horses also help the children describe their own emotions by projecting them onto the horses.
“If you ask them how they feel, the children will say nothing. If you ask them how they think the horse feels, they will tell a story that revelals their own feelings,” Drake said.
Drake described how the horse and child quickly develop a relationship at CHAPS Academy.
When a child is first introduced to the horses, the herd comes up to the fence to meet the child. Then all the horses leave and stand together in the center of the pasture.
“One horse will actually come back and choose the kid,” Drake said. “It’s an intense experience for the child to be chosen by the horse.”
Drake said each of the horses tends to select children with specific emotional or behaviorial difficulties. There are horses who tend to always choose chldren who are angry and there are horses who usually choose children who have been sexually abused.
In 2010, CHAPS served 75 suicidal youths.
Jeanne Bootz, assisted by Sue Hackbarth and Mary Jo Feldmann, described the efforts of Creative Caring Hearts, which received a $3,000 WACF grant for fabric for handmade layettes for newborns.
The local group has been making layettes since 1999. In 2010, the group of 75 volunteers knitted and crocheted 7,000 quilts, hats, afghans, bibs and other baby items and provided a total of 159 layettes.
The layettes are given to families with newborns by Riverside Medical Center, Healthy Beginnings and St. Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point.
The women donated more than 9,000 volunteer hours.
Some of the volunteers specialize making a single item, such as hats or sweaters. Others do most of the shopping for the group.
Bootz gave special attention to “the snap lady,” Jane Lowe, who has sewn thousands of snaps on the items made by Creative Caring Hearts.
“We have a lot of fun doing this,” Bootz said. “We’re always on the lookout for any of our items on the babies we see.”
Rawhide Boys Ranch received $5,000 for equipment, fuel and maintenance costs associated with the About Face program. Elizabeth Zeman, Rawhide’s grants coordinator, spoke at the WACF event about About Face.
Zeman said About Face is an intensive 120-day program that rehabilitates young men through vocational and life skills training.
The program is for teenage boys who have been through the court system or who have been recommended by school counselors or social workers.
Participants go through a two-week rotation of attending school at the Starr Academy and two weeks of community service. Each day in the program, the young men are required to undergo physical training. They also participate in daily Bible studies that focus on moral values and personal discipline.
“A lot of it is really hard, manual labor,” Zeman said, regarding the community service projects that the Rawhide participants perform.
Mike W. is a 17-year-old from Stevens Point who has nearly completed the About Face program. He told the audience at the WACF event that his community service projects included cleaning up at Spencer Lake after the summer storm and cutting wood for a family that needed it for heating their home.
“We live in a normal house. We learn how to communicate with each other and how to work together,” Michael said. “We live like a normal family.”