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"What takes place on this site is absolutely a miracle" : Burned equine therapy barn plans to rebuild

Wednesday night, a fire turned the stall-barn and storage garage at Equine Assisted Development in Kentwood to rubble. No humans, horses, nor goats were harmed.

KENTWOOD, Mich. — Deb VanderBand knows how well horses can aid in therapy. She sees it firsthand, running Equine Assisted Development (EAD). That is a non-riding horse therapy program, servicing those who have faced trauma, mental health struggles, dementia patients, at-risk youth and so many more. 

"Sometimes, this is the last place they come to, and they’re looking for hope and connection," said VanderBand, "That’s exactly what the horses can do. They are capable of holding people's feelings for them."

The work at EAD is all about restoration.

However, after a fire toppled the therapy's stall-barn and storage garage Wednesday evening, VanderBand and her team of volunteers are the ones facing restoration of their facilities.  

RELATED: Fire destroys stable, barns at Kentwood horse therapy farm

"It’s just a structure, right?" said VanderBand, "The mission is strong. I don’t foresee us skipping a beat. I think we’ll rebuild strong. A therapist friend of mine said yesterday it will be good for them [the patients] to see the tragedy, because that tragedy will turn into a story of hope and restoration."

The cause of the fire is still unknown. No humans nor horses were inside or injured during the fire. VanderBand also managed to save goats behind the barn during the fire. 

Credit: 13 OYS
The cause of the barn fire is still under investigation.

"What takes place on this site is absolutely a miracle," said Stephen Kepley, Mayor of Kentwood. 

Kepley stopped by the burned barn Thursday afternoon, to give his condolences to VanderBand. He said he hopes to see the therapy site rebuilt, stronger and more fitting than even before. EAD had restored a historic barn site in Kentwood for their services. 

The arena structure is still standing. That is where patient groups walk with the horses during their therapy. VanderBand said because that structure is still available, and the horses are able to live outside for the time being, she hopes to have groups back for sessions as soon as next week. 

"The outpouring of the horse community," said VanderBand, "I always knew we were together on this. But to have that happen for us, was like, wow."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with expenses for the program. While EAD did have insurance, the organizer said the money raised will help EAD continue its services. 

You can visit the GoFundMe page by visiting this link.

VanderBand said many in the horse community have offered help and support, including hay, shelter, and other supplies for the animals. The first step, she said, will be building a fence as they will be housed outside now. 

"It’s really cool to know the mission is strong enough to know we have support along those lines," said VanderBand.

Credit: 13 OYS
None of the horses were harmed in the fire.

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