As 2021 comes to an end, Forward Stride’s Executive Director, Amber Varner, reflects on the year behind as she looks forward to the year ahead. Amber and her family have been laying trails for a bright future at Forward Stride since its inception, read her letter to the community below.

Dear Community Members,

2021 has been a year of regrowth for Forward Stride. Thanks to the new M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Arena, the Vaulting Program has been able to expand. The Riding Program is nearing pre-COVID capacity. Rehabilitation Services and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy are rebuilding and hiring new staff members. Thanks to generous donors, we are entering 2022 in a positive financial position. Thank you to everyone who is helping us to make a difference in many lives every day.

As I think about the year behind us and the year ahead of us, I am also filled with gratitude for the health of those around us. There have been tragic losses in many families and my heart goes out to all who are in mourning.

I am incredibly grateful that all of my personal and barn family is intact and yet, I find myself in a different kind of mourning. I feel like I have lost the ability to connect with many folks. It is a combination of factors – working from home to reduce the risk of COVID transmission, giving up time with friends and family to keep everyone healthy, getting used to seeing my daughters every day for homeschooling and then getting used to not seeing them because they returned to school, hectic work schedules for both my husband and me, valued friends and coworkers moving on to new phases in their lives; the list goes on. This kind of change is very difficult for me to navigate. It hits all of my emotional buttons and leaves me exhausted at the best of times. When the hits just keep on coming, it is close to overwhelming.

Whenever I am feeling this way, though, the very best medicine for me is to come to work. Truly. How many people are able to say this? Forward Stride and the community of people and equines here are amazing. Not only am I able to make a difference for others, but my family and I are recipients of others’ generosity as well. I am eternally grateful for the support, connection, passion, and leeway to live in the present moment. It allows for processing and healing. Most importantly, though, Forward Stride is a place for goals to be made and plans for a better tomorrow to manifest. Thank you for being a part of this amazing community and our journey through the past year and into the new one. May it be bright!

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All donations made before the end of the year will be matched! If you donate $10, Forward Stride will receive $20.