by nathan oster
For Body and Spirit, the end came quietly and with little fanfare.
In a letter to supporters dated Friday, Aug. 24, co-founder Sandy McFadden announced that the therapeutic riding and hippotherapy program, based at her arena northeast of Greybull, had closed its doors for good on Aug. 1.
“There just were not enough volunteers and staff to continue the dedication and hard work it requires keeping a program like this going,” wrote McFadden, on behalf of not only herself but also Body and Spirit’s current instructor Deb Brown as well as board members Ray Whatley, David Caldwell, Andrea Whatley, Theresa Caldwell and Marguerite Vandyke.
The purpose of the letter, McFadden said, was not only to inform all the “wonderful” past and present volunteers and clients of the closure and a Sept. 22 auction and barbecue at her ranch that will effectively close the book on Body and Spirit, but also to thank them for their support.
What a run it was for the organization, which McFadden founded in 1999 along with Cindy Hinckley, an occupational therapist.
In the letter, McFadden thanks Hinkley for “all the hours and years she put into the program,” as well as Marsha Hill, a physical therapist, “for all of her hours and years dedicated to making our program a success.”
McFadden also wrote about the impact that the nonprofit organization made on the area.
“For 12 years, the program has helped improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of over 70 clients, and over 300 volunteers have served in the program … hence the name, ‘Body and Spirit,’” she wrote. “Over the years, we have had over 25 horses, of various breeds, serve as the motivator for the clients. Without the influence of the horse, this program could not have existed.”
The final chapter for Body and Spirit will be written during the Sept. 22 auction, which is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. All equipment used in the program — saddles, halters, bridles, helmets, etc. — will be sold.
McFadden announced that 100 percent of the proceeds from the auction, as well as all of the remaining funds in the Body and Spirit accounts, would be directed to The Shack and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Wyoming.
Following the auction, there will be a barbecue.
All of the events will be held at the McFadden Ranch, which is located off Road 26 between MI Swaco and Wyo-Ben. It was there, in that very arena, that lives were changed — and for the better, according to McFadden.
“When we founded it, our hope was that it would last forever, but to be honest, I don’t think we thought it would grow as big as it did or last as long as it did, especially in this small of a community,” she said.
Body and Spirit worked with clients from throughout the Big Horn Basin, from Powell and Cody to Thermopolis and Meeteetse. The last session, which benefited three clients, wrapped up the week before last Thanksgiving.
“We were going to try to keep it open until this fall, but in July, we discovered that it wasn’t going to work,” McFadden said. “So I was prepared for this day. I knew it was going to happen. But still, when the board finally voted on it, I was still like, ‘Oh, this is really it.’ It was hard.”
McFadden said she’ll forever be grateful for the volunteers — and there were hundreds of them — and for the wonderful moments that she and others enjoyed while working with their clients.
“It was always very heartwarming to see the clients come in — whether it was in a wheelchair, walking in on their own, or in the arms of their mother or caregiver — and get this big grin on their face,” McFadden said. “It was just the smell, the noise, the snorting of the horses, the sound of the horses’ hooves on the arena floor … they just couldn’t help but smile. They’d get on their horse for 30 or 45 minutes and you could just see them come alive. It was fantastic for them, just as it was for volunteers, who often said it was therapy for them, too.
“I just want to thank the entire community for their support of our program over the years.”