“Founder of Marley's Mission, an equine based therapy program for children dealing with trauma.”
In July of 2009, April's 5 year old daughter was viciously attacked. The damage was both physical and emotional. This very badly hurt little girl shut right down. The perpetrator of this attack was tried and given life plus 20 years in prison. The community rallied around this family and poured out support. Money was sent to the family and April wondered how she could use it to help her daughter. With the funds they had been given, she bought her daughter a horse, Strawberry. Her daughter's interactions with Strawberry gave April hope. She started to see glimpses of the little girl she knew before the attack. Watching her daughter come back to her made April wonder if this could be a way to help other children experiencing trauma and so Marley's Mission was born. It is a non-profit equine based psychotherapy program. Service is offered free to children who have experienced trauma and loss. (There is a YouTube video about the start of this organization: "Our Story: The Mission Behind Marley's Mission". Please watch it.) I met April three weeks ago when my son, Scranton Patrolman John Wilding, was killed in the line of duty on July 12, 2015. April's husband, Kyle, is a K-9 handler with the Scranton Police department and was watching over my son's family after his death. My son left behind a wife and two young children, a 3 year old son and a 7 year old daughter. The kids have no way to understand what has happened. Daddy went to work and now he is never coming home again. He was helping to pursue three suspects in an armed robbery. He leapt over a wall and fell 15 feet, striking his head. My beautiful son died less than a day later. Kyle suggested bringing my granddaughter up to the farm in Newton Township. She was a very angry and scared little girl. She wouldn't let herself cry, wouldn't talk about her daddy. The sweet happy little girl we know was retreating behind anger. She was having bad dreams. April called and we made arrangements. My granddaughter went up to the farm with April's family and for the first time ever, rode a horse. A pony she called Brownie. She was so excited. She bonded quickly with this wonderful, giving family. Since going up to the Mission, we are seeing less of the anger and more of the child we know and love. She is starting to talk about her Daddy. She recently told me that her Daddy is a hero. He chased bad guys so the people of Scranton could sleep. Kyle said that he has never heard a child laugh so much. April's generous and caring spirit makes it possible for children like my granddaughter to find their laughter again. She found a way to help her child survive this terrible event and in doing so found a way to save other children. Others could have retreated into depression and anger. April was stronger and braver than that. She found a way to help her little girl and our little girl too. Have you ever just met someone and known immediately that you are going to be friends? That is April for me. She is a rare soul.
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