Our nation is struggling with an opiate crisis causing some alarming casualties. The Surgeon General announced overdose as the leading cause of death for those under the age of 50. Many of these fatalities were mothers and fathers who’s children’s heart now break because they couldn’t save their parent – no matter how hard they tried.
One in every four children under the age of eighteen have at least one parent who’s struggling with addiction – approximately eleven million children. Sadly, few programs exist to offer support and guidance for these children. Fortunately, there is a safe-haven in South Florida (Delray Beach) where these silent victims learn life skills to prepare them for a life of success. And through unconditional love, the horses of HHH teach them to open their hearts to trust again – so they can begin to heal.
Horses Healing Hearts (HHH) helps children facing adversity from parental substance addiction. Founder, Liz Olszewski, grew up with an alcoholic mother and step-father and attributes horses and mentors as her saving grace. Although the charity is almost a decade old, this unique program makes a difference at a time when “out of the box” solutions are desperately needed.
Lisa Ruth, HHH Board Chair, shares “Prevention programs teaching healthy life skills are essential to our nation getting in front of this epidemic. When you grow up in an alcoholic household, you don’t see “healthy habits” being practiced, so you have no model to emulate. You carry a great deal of shame and feel like you’re all alone, when indeed you’re not.”
The unique nonprofit organization was founded in 2009 by Olszewski, whose stepfather became sober when she was 12. At that time, she began learning about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and the man who had once caused her bitterness soon became her mentor. He arranged for her to stay with his sister in PA who introduced Liz to horses. Later in life she wanted to pay forward the favor and mentorship shown to her, and Horses Healing Hearts was born!
“Horses are highly instinctual,” says Olszewski, “Being prey animals they can instantly tell if the emotion someone is presenting is authentic or not. Children who grow up around addiction learn three unspoken rules;
1) don’t talk, 2) don’t trust, 3) don’t feel, so the horse’s unique ability to “detect authenticity” is key here. A horse will not connect with someone who isn’t congruent, and the children want to connect with the horse. So they’re motivated to be authentic even though it’s very foreign and frightening for them. This is the first step of healing – to trust a horse with their deepest secrets and shame and know the joy of releasing the pain and not being judged.”
HHH is the only nonprofit in the United States using horses to help reach children of parents struggling with addiction. Children ages 6-18 meet weekly for two-hour prevention education sessions that consist of peer-to-peer counseling, riding, and mentorship with healthy adult mentors. HHH provides a safe place to share their feelings and to learn coping strategies.
Through these efforts, HHH hopes to reduce the generational cycle of addiction and provide these children with skills to succeed in life. Through the support of generous individuals, organizations and volunteers, Olszewski hopes to see Horses Healing Hearts spread nationwide, bringing healing to children of alcoholics and breaking the cycle of addiction everywhere.
HHH is having their 8th Annual White White West Gala on Tuesday, February 26th at the Coconut Creek Casino in Coconut Creek FL. Seating is limited for this exciting evening of dinner, dancing, auctions, and Roulette! Over half of the tables are already sold. Don’t miss out! For more information or to purchase event sponsorships, tables or tickets go to https://www.horseshealingheartsusa.org/white-white-west/
Other Ways to Help
If you’re unable to make the event you can support HHH by “texting” your donation. Text the word “HOPE” to 561-220-6468. Or you can become a “Project 500 Member” here https://www.horseshealingheartsusa.org/project-500/
To learn more about our program or contact us www.hhhusa.org