A masked crowd of about 30 gathered at Healing Strides in Boones Mill on Tuesday to celebrate the organization’s rebranding.
Founded in 1991, the organization’s mission statement is to “promote wellness for people with personal challenges who can benefit from equine assisted activities and therapies in a safe and supportive environment.”
Healing Strides’ former logo featured a person sitting on a horse; however, the updated logo features a person embracing a horse.
Betsy Osborne, director of Programs/Head Instructor, said she is excited about the new branding.
“The new logo is more representative of all of our programs, because it speaks to the horse-human bond which is what we’re all about,” Osborne said.
She explained the new logo depicts the diversity of programs offered at Healing Strides and lets people know there are a variety of ways to engage with horses, both clinically and non-clinically.
“There are different ways to approach human-horse relationships,” Osborne said. “They [horses] are really talented about teaching us about themselves and ourselves. Horses are very authentic. They can’t lie. They are very good in their situations and so willing to share themselves with us.”
Radford University history professor Suzanne Ament was on hand for the rebranding celebration. Blind since birth, Ament has been involved with Healing Strides for nearly 12 years and participates in the para-equestrian program. She said her time with Healing Strides is “really fun” and she learns a lot.
Grayson Mills, 9, is another beneficiary of Healing Strides’ services. The high-functioning autistic fourth grader at Back Creek Elementary School was involved with the organization for about a year when he was 4 years old and came back about a year ago. Each week, Grayson spends an hour with his horse, Arnie, and instructor, Kaitlyn.
Last weekend he participated in a horse show at Healing Strides where he won a blue ribbon in the Western Obstacle Course and two red ribbons in Ride as You Please. He said he’d recommend Healing Strides to others so they can have fun riding horses and making new friends.
Grayson’s mother, Maribeth Mills, said Grayson has always been drawn to horses. Being a horse rider herself, she knew the benefits of riding that could help Grayson, including developing core strength and right/left brain processing.
“Healing Strides has so many different programs to touch so many people,” Mills said, adding that she would encourage people to get involved with the organization. “We want to make sure they’re here for years to come.”
The organization’s Chief Executive Officer Carol Young said Healing Strides’ new tag line, “‘Horses Inspiring Hope’ encourages hope, and we need to celebrate small wins and remember that life does have good things going on. At Healing Strides, we support people with personal challenges, and everyone I know has personal challenges. So, to be in a space where things are seemingly normal, is a win.”
Rebranding wasn’t even on Young’s radar. She said that as a nonprofit organization with a constant eye on finances, there certainly wasn’t money to consider rebranding.
The opportunity for rebranding came from the persistence of Michael Hemphill, founder of the “Buzz,” a television show that profiles nonprofit organizations to assist with marketing efforts.
Hemphill first reached out to Young in the spring of 2019. He told her his company was created to bring awareness to nonprofits through partnering with a marketing company. In this case, that marketing company was Bruce Bryan’s 5 Points Creative, formerly known as B2C. Hemphill’s offer to Young was for a documentary focused on helping Healing Strides with rebranding.
He told her that with horses, veterans and children, it would make a great story with photos. On Hemphill’s fourth call, Young said, “What’s it going to cost me?” He said, “Nothing. It’s really a gift to your organization.”
Next, Young said, “We met with Bruce’s team and told stories about what Healing Strides is about. We laughed. We cried.”
Bryan’s work on behalf of Healing Strides included new branding, a new website and video and commercial production. The process of working through these projects was the source for the documentary that first premiered at Roanoke’s Grandin Theater last November.
Another showing is scheduled at the Grandin in Roanoke on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.
There’s more to Healing Strides than just helping individuals.
“Healing Strides is always looking for ways to serve our community,” Young said. “With upcoming school challenges and needing to have a positive impact on our students, we will be offering Equine Day Camp for middle and high school students.”
Also attending the rebranding ceremony were several of Healing Strides’ board members and Franklin County officials.
David Rotenizer, Franklin County’s director of Tourism, said, “I view the facility as a unique fixture within the county’s diverse panorama of tourism offerings. It is a major player within our equine sector of agritourism, therapeutic recreation and overall community quality of life.”
More information on Healing Strides is available by calling 334-5825 or visiting www.healingstridesofva.org.
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