2020 – A Year of Loss and Hope

A letter written by Executive Director Amber Varner  

Like many people around the world, I am happy to have 2020 in my rearview mirror. It has been a year of major losses for me, Forward Stride, and our community. However, it has also been a time for deepening close relationships, learning new skills, and rediscovering the value of  the simple things in life.

Together, we weathered the tragic loss of three of our older, beloved herd members. While the passing of Tucker, Twister, and Mars left a big hole in our herd and hearts, we honor them by remembering their capacity to bond closely with their equine and human herds by encouraging the same relationship building in our sessions and through volunteerism. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to temporarily close our doors in the spring, we drew on the expertise of staff, board members, and volunteers to create safety protocols that have allowed us to reopen and remain a welcoming environment even as we respect COVID-19 guidelines. Lessons and sessions may look a little different, but our focus on the well-being and growth of the whole team has never wavered. We have even been able to expand our programming offerings, so that we can invite new individuals to enjoy the safe haven that is Forward Stride. 

When our larger community was threatened by wildfires this fall, our team unerringly answered the call to assist with the evacuation of animals from horses to goats. It was not easy to nearly double our herd in a matter of days, but, given our large network of supporters, there was no doubt we could make it work. It is a rare gift to be able to count on your friends when the chips are down.

As the year winds down at Forward Stride, we are celebrating the generosity of a limitless match from anonymous donors. We are overwhelmed by their faith in our community and our work, which they show with this honor. This amazing gift, combined with the donations of time, knowledge, necessities, auction items, tack, and money over the past twelve months, helps ensure that we are able to wrap up this uncertain year in a secure position in order to move boldly forward into 2021 and beyond.

Just as many others did, I lost a loved one this year. My maternal grandmother was an excellent example of someone who gave unconditional love with ease, persevered through life’s challenges, and wrote her own script with eloquence. It turns out that 2020 offered many occasions to draw on these skills. Thank you to all of our dedicated staff, volunteers, donors, clients, and board members for continuing to support one another in times of need, keeping cool heads in emergencies, and buckling down to get the work done even when it seemed insurmountable at times. 

Let’s march together, arm in arm, to take on a new year with compassion, dedication, and faith.

Happy New Year,

Amber H. Varner