NEWTON TWP. — A facility that has helped many children through emotional distress and trauma since 2010 will begin treating active duty military members and former military personnel in November. Marley’s Mission recently formed an alliance and partnership with the non-profit organization Equines for Freedom.
“Over the last several years, we have seen a great need to help treat active service members and veterans for post-traumatic stress,” Gene Talerico, president of the Marley’s Mission board of directors, said during a news conference Sept. 2. “We worked very hard to find a quality organization, made up of quality individuals who are committed to this effort. We are absolutely thrilled to have met the folks from Equines for Freedom. They will be utilizing our grounds, facilities and horses. They will bring their talents to veterans in the region to help undo the struggles they have been dealing with, some for a very long time.”
Brian Graves, who served in active duty for six years in the United States Marines, is the vice president of the Equines for Freedom board of directors and feels the organization will have a big impact on people in the Abingtons and beyond.
“The need for these services are great due to a strong tradition of military service in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Graves said in a news release. “We are humbled by the sacrifices of the brave men and women we are striving to serve.”
According to Talerico, two therapists, Ann Marie Lewis and Heather Stage, from Equines for Freedom have been working at Marley’s Mission, a non-profit organization, treating children since January and have been a great asset.
“We’re very lucky to have folks of this quality and talent level willing to do this work,” he said. “We’ve seen what they can do with children, I can’t even imagine what they can do with grownups. Our plan is to build in growth so there is a permanent home here for the capacity of Equines for Freedom. We have an absolutely exquisite campus here and we’re happy to share our home with people who have done so much for all of us, our veterans.”
Equines for Freedom, based out of Factoryville, will use an innovative equine facilitated therapy to treat veterans.
Lewis, who is certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and equine-assisted EMDR, believes Equines for Freedom will fill a big void in the area.
“A lot of people don’t know about EMDR and that’s very sad, however we’re very grateful to Marley’s Mission and our board who have worked diligently to help us start treating military veterans,” Lewis said. “I call EMDR a miracle tool. The biggest thing with EMDR is that it processes (trauma) on its own. If a military person has classified information, they don’t have to divulge it. If there is an event that is extremely horrific, they don’t have to talk about it. It’s actually the person healing themselves and it’s phenomenal to see it work.
“It’s extremely effective and we’re thrilled to be able to bring this treatment to Marley’s Mission and the veterans.”
According to Lewis, the treatment can also have a positive impact on the loved ones of those suffering from post-traumatic stress.
“The symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can affect families as well,” she said. “We’re hoping when we treat the military veterans, we will not only help them but also help their extended family.”
Stage, an equine specialist, believes the horses will have a powerful impact on the veterans.
“Horses are therapists, so it’s easy to see why they would be useful in psychotherapy,” Stage said. “They pick up on your nervousness or lack of it. My job is to watch the horses, give feedback to the therapists and see what we need to work on with a client. We’ve seen miraculous things happen with horses and kids and we’re so excited to bring that to the veterans.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.