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Equine therapy program inspires Round Lake family

Sarah Hyatt

KILLALOE – After a unique, equine inspired therapeutic program touched the hearts of a Round Lake family, three children asked for in lieu of their birthday presents this year, people donate to the Hope Reins Equine Assisted Therapy Program.

The Round Lake family has called this “Desmond Family Birthday Fundraiser.”

The Desmonds have donated to the program in the past and are thrilled to support the Hope Reins program again this year for the second year in a row, mom Cheryl Desmond said.

On Sunday, the Desmonds and Hope Reins staff celebrated a $1,000 donation at Vanderbrook Farm in Killaloe thanks to the initiative taken by the Desmond children.

This was the second year in a row the kids opted to share their birthdays and marks the third year the family has been finding ways to support Hope Reins.

Cheryl and Dwain Desmond’s children, Gillian, 11, Dakai, 10 and Demirius, eight, each have birthdays in the months of February and March, tightly squished together – so it just so happens, it works out, Cheryl laughed.

Two of Cheryl and Dwain’s children have special needs and Hope Reins’ Equine Assisted Therapy Program has made a world of difference for them, Cheryl said, as well as for her whole family.

“That’s what so special about the program,” she added. “It helps our boys and our whole family. We go as a family and have a great time with the animals and with each other.”

The Hope Reins program invites and encourages all family members to participate in the therapy offered, however only charges for those who need the therapy, Cheryl explained.

Hope Reins prides itself on its motto that a family or group that works and plays together, stays together.

A child or individual receiving treatment has the added benefit of extra support with their family members around and are more likely to experience increased success rates as well, according to organization.

Meanwhile, for the Desmonds everyone always has a great time, Cheryl said. And for the children who receive therapy through Hope Reins – the one to one friendship, trust and communication that arises between horse and human as the therapy progresses is phenomenal, Cheryl added.

It’s the Desmonds hopes that as equine therapy becomes more widely known, people will consider turning to Hope Reins for help and support. For the Desmonds, equine therapy has certainly helped with their military family tremendously in all aspects of life, Cheryl said.

Currently, Hope Reins is partnered with the Phoenix Centre in Pembroke and Hope Reins itself has two sites within Renfrew County, one located on B-line Road in Pembroke and the other in Killaloe at Vanderbrook Farm.

The unique program offered by Hope Reins aims help people with anxiety and mental health issues, development delays, grief and loss issues, addictions, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and operational stress injuries, those with autism spectrum disorder and youth at risk.

Hope Reins is also gearing up for their launch of their War Horse Program soon.

To learn more contact program director Alison Vandergragt at 613-585-1208 or visit online at

Sarah Hyatt is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist.


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