In one day, Michele’s life fell apart. Police charged her husband – stepfather to her two kids – with sexually abusing her 16-year-old daughter, Alaina.
Devastated, angry and guilt-ridden, Michele began to pull the broken pieces of her family back together after his incarceration. Her primary focus was on Alaina’s mental health and on nine-year-old Kyler, who felt the crushing weight of losing the only father-figure he’d ever known.
For two years, Alaina met weekly with a therapist trying to grapple with her own guilt and shame. She tried twice to commit suicide. “My husband had threatened her to never tell about the abuse or she’d be sent to foster care,” says Michele.
The months following Alaina’s release from the hospital, Michele knew her kids still desperately needed help. “I just wanted to see them smile again. Then I found Hope Reins.” Michele says the ability for Hope Reins to enroll both Alaina and Kyler was a defining moment for their family’s recovery. “So much of the focus had been on healing Alaina, but Kyler was in despair as well.”
Both kids connected with a horse immediately. Alaina was drawn to Kody, a beautiful sorrel quarter horse whose wariness of people and things mirrored her own feelings. Kyler, whose self-esteem was deeply wounded, bonded with Deetz, the herd leader at the ranch. A few weeks after his Hope Reins mentor, Mr. Jim, told Kyler that leaders like Deetz are drawn to other leaders, the young boy decided to run for student council at school. “His stepfather always told him what he wasn’t. He needed someone to tell him what he was,” says Michele.
A turning point in Alaina’s healing was her recognition that she could trust others outside of her mom. When her relationship with her session leader, Karen, deepened, it was like a light bulb went on. “It went from a wonderful relationship with a horse to a trusting relationship with Karen.”
According to Michele, Alaina’s healing progressed steadily and this past summer, she volunteered as a counselor for Hope Reins summer camp. This fall, Alaina is studying law at The College at Southeastern. “Your money is spent wisely if you donate to Hope Reins,” says Michele. “Healing happens. I’ve seen it with my own kids.”