Host Jeremy C. Park talks with Tracy Kujawa, Founder and Director of Angel Heart Farms, who shares her personal story as a four-time cancer survivor and what led her to found the organization that serves children and families battling cancer using equine assisted therapy. During the interview, Tracy highlights the farm and the program, their 11 equines, the lessons and impact, how they help parents with mom’s night out, dad’s night out and bereavement night out, and more. She also spotlights their mini horse, Buddy, who has become a bit of a celebrity with his own barn at Bridgestone Arena, and then she talks about how the community can help their efforts.
Angel Heart Farm serves children and families battling cancer using equine assisted therapy. We are the only program of its kind in the southeast. There are many wonderful programs that serve children with physical and mentally challenges with equine, but I saw the need to serve children and families battling cancer, this population is highly under served.
I am a four-time cancer survivor and my entire life from day was evolved around horses. The program is in our 20th year. As one of our mom’s said a while back, Tracy gives real riding lessons and teaches my five-year-old life skills. It was such a complement to our mission. When creating the program, I knew I wanted all services to be at no charge, have every child receive them own boots and riding helmet and serve the entire family, not just the children in treatment. Our farm is in College Grove, Williamson County area and we just love it! We are in the midst of our capital campaign, finished building our indoor riding arena last year and we are currently working on the outdoor so our children can ride outside during nice weather. We are also creating a trail system on our property so they children and families can ride or walk on the trails in a peaceful setting.
We have 11 equines on the farm, a crazy border collie and two barn kitties. Most of our families have never even pet a horse let alone ride one, the highlight for us is always the first ride our kids have! They are so excited and forget about their cancer and the parents are so happy to see the smiles and joy the ponies and horses give their children. It’s a sense of normalcy during a chaotic time in their lives. We have some children that have ridden with us for years. We continue to give lessons even when they are in remission and healed. We see the importance, the self-confidence and joy they get from riding, and hopefully will become longtime equestrians. Many of our children compete at local, regional and national level shows. In fact, this weekend three of our children will be competing and the following week one will compete. Lots of practicing to win that blue ribbon!
Our program offers other programs to families battling cancer including mom’s night out, dad’s night out and bereavement night out. These nights are for the cancer community moms and dads to get together outside of the hospital, drink wine, have a nice dinner and relax on the farm kid free zone! We are gearing up for nights out next month since Covid, we try and have the evening sponsored by local companies, restaurants etc., to help offset costs. There is so much opportunity to partner with us and help some very fragile families feel loved and nurtured.
Covid hit our program hard last year, because most of our grants we write are focused on health and wellness and most funding went to the research for a vaccine. We are grateful we were able to keep afloat and that there is a vaccine. A few weeks ago, our favorite place in the world, Nash Family Creamery partnered with us for the first Derby Days at the Creamery, it was a great time and we met so many awesome folks. We have several volunteer opportunities as well on the farm! We always need grass cutting, weed eating, planting flowers fence mending, all the things I try to do but the program is 18 hours a day, so we really rely on great folks to help us. Someone’s time is worth millions to us so we can focus on the families and their wellbeing and happiness’s.
Angel Heart Farm believes in community service outside of the farm as well, we go to the local hospitals with our mini horse Buddy to do on site visits, Ronald McDonald House, Nashville Predators Cancer Fight Night Games, in fact Buddy has his own barn at the Bridgestone. We also visit senior centers and libraries with our mini horse. He thinks he is a major celebrity. Currently we are working on grants, funding and hopefully can announce a big fundraiser for the late fall if everything falls into place.