People come to our PATH International (www.pathintl.org) Equine Assisted Activities or Therapies (EAAT) centers because there is nothing else like it in the world. Unlike traditional therapy our work takes place in a barn, arena or trail in the woods with ponies or horses who play a key role. Goals/objectives are met via Therapeutic Riding, Hippotherapy (treatment with the help of the horse) or during mental health sessions, including Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy added soon. Hippotherapy treatment is combined with traditional licensed Physical, Occupational, and Speech Language therapy.
The vision for Acorn Hill EAAT, Inc was put into motion over 30 years ago, when Kelly (Ries) Peterson survived a near-fatal car accident when she was struck by a drunk driver. Both legs and her lower jaw were broken. She also suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). During surgery, her lungs filled with fluid. Things looked grim.
After spending eleven days in a coma, Kelly woke up on December 27, 1988. Her first thought? How cool would it be to help a child who is unable to walk get onto the back of a horse? Kelly would devote her life to making that happen. In August of 2016, Acorn Hill EAAT Inc. was granted official 501(c)3 status. Her dream was realized. Kelly and her team have served all types of people with special needs ever since, starting on December 1, 2016. See that vision came to life at a local boarding facility courtesy of Lakeland Public TV. In 2017 program ponies were relocated to Upper Oak Farm, Motley (Leader). From 2018 to present participants have been able to ride in the outdoor arena during late spring and summer months. Winter came early in October 2019 and riding outdoors had to stop. However, services creatively continued when enough funds were raised to install two heaters in the barn plus tarps to cover hay previously stored inside. Newfound space and heat enabled us to successfully maneuver Ruby and her small riders through February 2020 inside the barn. Many thanks to those who gave during giveMN last year, for you kept kids riding!
Meanwhile, work had started on a pilot program to add Mental Health Services in 2020…
Then the Unthinkable Happened. Before COVID19.
On February 29, 2020, Kelly and Ty Peterson’s 18-year-old son Paul was in a freak snowmobile accident. His parents and local medics did their best to save him, but by the time the helicopter arrived, Paul was gone.
Paul Peterson was beloved by his family, community, friends, and fellow students. It is a profound loss, and he will be deeply missed by all who knew him. The pilot program in Mental Health Services has been profoundly helpful for family and friends as we begin to heal. From personal experience we know this type of service needs to be available during winter and inclement weather months as well. All equine-assisted activities or therapies are desperately needed year-round.
And yet, every year, Acorn Hill EAAT Inc. is forced to suspend Hippotherapy (therapy on horseback) and all equine-assisted services for clients because of long, harsh Minnesota winters. Sometimes, up to six months. Treatment programs need to be consistent. An online fundraiser "Keep Kids in Horse Therapy" ( Go Fund Me) was started in March. The purpose is to raise funds for a covered, heated arena named after Paul. By establishing the Paul Peterson Arena: A Place of Comfort, Strength, and Healing, Acorn Hill will be able to provide year-round treatment for children and adults with physical and emotional special needs.
Our story means something to Maury Glover of FOX9 News. He and cameraman Casey spent an August Wednesday afternoon at Acorn Hill, doing interviews and even flying a drone over the farm and arena during a session. The following Sunday evening our segment shone brightly in countless homes across the state and beyond. Fabulous!
Currently alternative space is in use to keep kids riding. A greenhouse has recently been added to the farm. Since winter is here and nothing can grow riding takes place there instead. Now dark comes early, so lights have been added. While the covered arena fundraiser grows so do operational costs and the need for rider scholarships.
Again, if you contributed to our cause last year, we thank you!!! Please consider donating again and stay updated. By supporting us you join in "realizing the full potential of the horse to inspire stronger, happier and healthier people in central Minnesota."
Acorn Hill EAAT Inc
Employer id number (ein)
Address7969 65TH AVE SW