by Lindy Williams
When Jennifer Williams’ son, Arly, was injured in a car accident on Jan. 1, 2014, she knew she had to do something to help others who had experienced similar trauma. The dream of Crossroads Ranch was born.
Located at the end of South Broadway Ave., in the former Farm Supply building, Crossroads will be, first and foremost, an equine therapy center. They will also teach skills such as blacksmithing, leather-working, and gardening to instill life and job abilities to people with disabilities or emotional trauma. Crossroads also hopes to treat those with ADD/ADHD, autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, PTSD, Down’s Syndrome, and emotional issues stemming from divorce, abuse, and abandonment.
Williams was inspired by several figures during Arly’s recovery. The first was Kevin Pearce, a professional snowboarder who was injured in a serious accident on Dec. 31, 2009. Pearce’s documentary, The Crash Reel, was played at the Desert Historic Theatre. Upon seeing it, Arly and Jennifer set out to invite Pearce to Burns.
“When Pearce came here, there were more than 200 people in the high school cafeteria with some form of brain condition: injury, aneurysm, autism, stroke, PTSD. All kinds of things,” Williams said. In that moment, she said she realized that Harney County had a need for a place of hope and healing.
Through Pearce, Williams learned about the Carrick Brain Centers (currently called Cerebrum Health Centers).
Jennifer and Arly traveled to Cerebrum and encountered many different therapies for people with a range of conditions. While at Carrick, Williams stated that Arly improved immensely and she began to dream of a place in Harney County where the same therapies could be performed. Upon his release from Cerebrum, it was suggested that Arly begin hippotherapy. Hippotherapy is the use of horse riding to help specific disabilities.
Another person who inspired Williams was Will Frary, a blacksmith in Grapevine, Texas. The Williams family met Frary during a sightseeing expedition they took while Arly was receiving therapy at Cerebrum.
“He actually took the time to experiment to see if working with things helped Arly. And it did. It helped him to realize that he had something he could do,” Williams said. Because of Frary, she was inspired to include blacksmithing as one of the life skills taught at Crossroads.
“Except for Desert Dream, there’s very little here in Harney County to support those with disabilities or who have been in accidents. We want to do that,” Williams said. Like Desert Dream, they also want to help clients learn job skills, in addition to therapy.
“We want to start up a little store or coffee shop where we could teach life skills. Not just to people with disabilities, but also kids who have gone through emotional trauma or veterans with PTSD. We want to bring hope,” Williams said.
Williams stated that, with luck, therapy will be conducted by Cerebrum therapists. She is also hoping that private functional neurologists will get involved. She noted that there are three Cerebrum Health Centers in Oregon and she is hoping that they will conduct mission trips to Burns and Crossroads Ranch.
“The overall dream is to have an indoor arena so that we can have these therapies year-round,” Williams said.
Upon arrival at Crossroads, a client will be matched with a mentor to deal with emotional trauma and issues one-on-one. Then, therapy will be tailored to the individual. Williams stated that the horses that will be used in these programs will be mellow, calm, and, at a later time, certified by PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) International.
She is hoping that, in the future and with funding, PATH International will also be involved in the hippotherapy aspect of Crossroads Ranch. She also noted that she knew that hippotherapy is not for everyone, so there will be other therapy options available.
Williams understands the high costs associated with advanced therapies and stated that Crossroads would not demand payment from clients.
“We’re not going to turn anyone away who needs help,” Williams said. She also mentioned that clients could do chores to work off sodas or other goods bought from the store or coffee shop.
Now that the property is officially in Williams’ name, clean-up begins. There is a lot of work to do before Crossroads is functioning, but Williams has made significant headway.
The 501c3 (a tax exemption whereby a nonprofit organization is exempt from federal income tax if its activities have the following purposes: charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering amateur sports competition, or preventing cruelty to children or animals) that Williams filed was approved in four days, much quicker than she had hoped for.
Williams was also recently granted a $5,000 check from St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, and the Burns City Council and planning board have both approved Crossroads Ranch.
“The community support and enthusiasm we have has helped immensely,” Williams said.
“This isn’t about me, this isn’t even about Arly. We were just the stepping stone to helping people here,” Williams said.
Crossroads Ranch first fundraising event, a dinner and auction, will be held on Feb 25. If the public would like to donate and receive a 2016 donation slip, they need to contact Williams by Dec 31. However, Crossroads takes donations at any time.
For more information on Crossroads ranch, visit their website at www.crossroadsrhc.org.