Traveling the miles to bring the smiles – Equine Therapy from Step into TLC

Equine therapy in pediatric unit at Tucson Medical Center. “What do you think Buddy likes to eat?” George Roach asks Viah. Buddy, a miniature horse, stands at may be 3 feet high, nuzzling alongside Viah, his eyes closing as she gently strokes his forelock.  Viah is focused on Buddy seemingly barely hearing George whose soft calm voice continues to gently ask questions, share information about the horse and respond when Viah does talk. Viah smiles, these equine visitors were a surprise and a welcome break in what is otherwise a long day in a hospital bed.

Nancie Roahrig director of non-profit Step Up into TLC, volunteer George and their horse friends travel 68 miles round trip from Marana to TMC for Children to bring smiles to children and their families. Nancie and her volunteers have been making this trip three times a month for the past fifteen years. Sometimes they visit with the children outside allowing kids and their families some respite from the  hospital, other days they put specially made Build-a-Bear shoes on and venture into the hospital to visit children who can not visit outside.

At one point a parent asks George how often he brings the horses to TMC for Children, ‘Any day I’m not working’ responds the Border Patrol Transporter and 20 year Air Force veteran.
Sir Snickers and Nancy Roahrig visit a young patient for a little equine therapy
Why do Nancie and her volunteers dedicate this considerable amount of time? Nancie shares,  “It’s because of the unbelievable feeling I get when I see the smiles from the children, the family members and the staff when we enter their view. Because of the tears, stories and thank yous that we receive from the parents and the staff when the children come outside to walk, ride and pet our little horses. Because of the stories of how we were a morale booster, how our visits lifted spirits and sometime made memories more memorable. Because we feel that the staff understands, supports, enjoys and integrate us as a tool in the healing process. Because our mini horses and ponies have become friends to children who need a non-judgmental, non-medical but comforting unconditional soul to just be with them.  We have had families that see us around town and tell us of how much our visit helped when they were at TMC. Even if it was 10 years ago they still remember.”
And the horses? Nancie elaborates on how working with Step into TLC helps them,
 “Horses need a job.  Like any creature they feel better when they have a purpose.  For our carefully selected group they enjoy their work and I feel they do it well.  As one of the RN’s said “Not only are they so cute they are quiet and just so proper!”
Equine therapy A Physical Therapist joins Child Life Specialist Lyssa Adams as the Step up into TLC team visits the rooms. “Can we have the horse wait outside the room and have Aleia meet them at the door? She needs a little boost to get out of the bed and move about.” Buddy waits at the door. Not only does Aleia venture from her bed, but takes Buddy on an extended walk of the Pediatric Unit. A little equine therapy can go a long way!
Step up into TLC is a 501c3 non-profit organization. They’re currently fundraising for a horse trailer to replace their fifty year old horse trailer so they can continue to travel the miles to bring smiles to children at TMC for Children.

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