Featured Story: Adorned in Grace
Our girls began attending Forward Stride in July of 2017. Most of them face obstacles that put them at risk for human trafficking, such as poverty, abuse or neglect, single-parent families, substance abuse in the home, domestic violence, etc. Only a couple of the girls had ever been around horses. Most were excited but a few were fearful and it took a lot of encouraging to get them to agree to ride. You could see their pride when they overcame their fear and got up on the horse for the first time! I don’t have much experience with horses, so I didn’t expect that the girls would bond so strongly with them right away. They learned the horses’ names and remembered them. They were so proud when they learned new skills (grooming, veterinary care, vaulting, and leading). It was especially inspiring to see them learning communication skills with the horses that also apply to communicating with other people. I also didn’t expect the special interaction between our girls and the Forward Stride volunteers who worked with them over several sessions, remembered them, and were so patient and kind.
An important benefit of the girls’ time at Forward Stride is that they now have a skill that is fairly unique and especially so in their circle of friends. Some of our girls have no extra-curricular activities in their lives – no music, sports, or special academic activities – so having this experience is more meaningful than it might be to children in different circumstances. Amy started coming to the Design Studio shortly before we came to Forward Stride. She was very tough and rarely smiled. At one of our workshops, our mentors had the girls fill out a questionnaire about safe people in their lives. Amy checked that she does not feel it’s important to talk about feelings and that she does not have a safe adult to talk to. She came to Forward Stride and we watched cracks forming in her tough façade. As she rode around on a horse, she tried very hard to hold back a smile, but it kept sneaking out. I felt that this was a huge breakthrough in our relationship with Amy – she made herself vulnerable by showing her feelings and she seemed to understand that we took joy in seeing her succeed. When I later sent pictures to Amy’s mom, her mom mentioned how important the experience had been to Amy. -Rachel
(Amy not pictured)
Adorned in Grace began with the donation of one wedding dress to help a survivor of sex trafficking. After hearing her story, donors came forward with over 400 pre-loved and new wedding dresses. It became obvious that the gifts (all those dresses stored in volunteers’ spare bedrooms!) were meant to be used to raise money and awareness for the prevention of sexual exploitation and the restoration of victims. Today, Adorned in Grace runs two bridal shops in the Portland area and others around the country. The Portland shops help fund the Design Studio, a model for the prevention of sexual exploitation. At the Adorned in Grace Design Studio, volunteer mentors come together to serve at-risk teens through creative and personal development activities. Mentors foster healthy relationships, create a sense of belonging, and teach the warning signs of sex trafficking. By empowering and equipping young women, they hope to direct them toward healthy lifestyle choices so that none become victims of sexual exploitation.
We are thrilled to be able to partner with organizations like Adorned in Grace so that we can serve a broader range of individuals. When you donate to Forward Stride, you support programs that help people just like Amy to feel safe once again.