Spirit Reins breaking the cycle of abuse

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Situated on 125 acres on rolling hills in southeastern Liberty Hill, Spirit Reins combines traditional mental health services with innovative approaches like trauma-focused equine assisted psychotherapy. (Dana Delgado Photo)

Situated on 125 acres on rolling hills in southeastern Liberty Hill, Spirit Reins combines traditional mental health services with innovative approaches like trauma-focused equine assisted psychotherapy. (Dana Delgado Photo)

By Dana Delgado

A horrific 14 car pile-up involving an 18-wheeler left crash victim Rhonda Smith questioning why she was spared while others had suffered severe injuries and one had lost his life.

Her small sports car had been a total loss; yet, she walked away without a scratch. Why she survived became a burning question that didn’t seem to have an answer or an end. Unsettled, Smith abruptly left her corporate job in human resources with an Austin technology company, Computer Science Corporation and went to work with Dell.

“I loved the helping people part while I was working in human resources,” Smith said. “People trusted me.”

After grappling with the question of her survival for nearly three years, a beleaguered Smith woke up early one morning crying uncontrollably. It was then that she had a revelation about her life’s true purpose.

“I realized that I had survived because there was more I needed to do,” she said.

Almost immediately, Smith quit her job, called her mom, and summoned her Georgetown neighbor who had just gotten his real estate license.

“I told my mom I needed her horses,” said Smith who had grown up with horses at the family ranch near Waco. “My neighbor thought I was crazy for quitting my job.”

With that said and done, her new life journey was launched. Her healing had begun and her unrelenting question of survival was truly about to be reconciled.

With the help of her neighbor, Smith found and purchased land in the far southeastern reaches of Liberty Hill and brought in some horses. In 2003, nearly four years after her brush with death, Smith founded Spirit Reins, a non-profit organization fashioned to transform the lives of children and their families affected by abuse, neglect and other trauma.

“I knew with my very first client that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing,” Smith recalls.

This year, Spirit Reins was selected as one of four in Texas out of the 100 small businesses and non-profit organizations from across the country to be recognized by Deluxe, a national company that supports small businesses with a variety of services. The Liberty Hill organization was selected for for its exceptional work and was one of only 12 to be featured in professionally produced documentaries.

“On the 100th anniversary of our company, we wanted to tell the story of 100 businesses,” said Amanda Brinkman, Chief Brand and Communications Officer for Deluxe. “We looked across the country for golden nuggets. We were so inspired when we came across Spirit Reins. On our first site visit we could feel their passion, connection and commitment.”

All of the documentaries will be available for viewing throughout 2015 on the website www.smallbusinessrevolution.com.

Brinkman said the year-long celebration is an effort to create a movement to support small businesses. Organizations were selected from a national call for nominations.

The documentary of Liberty Hill’s Spirit Reins was released March 13.

Spirit Reins is situated on 125 sprawling acres on rolling hills in far southeastern Liberty Hill, where it combines traditional mental health services with innovative approaches like trauma-focused equine assisted psychotherapy.

“Horses are honest and live in the moment,” Smith said. “Horses give the kids honest and immediate feedback. Foster children, in particular, are my passion. They have suffered at no fault of their own and we want to give them the very best so they can recover, learn to trust again and build relationships based on mutual respect, love and understanding.”

Smith said the organization has evolved over the past 12 years but has remained committed to creating a culture that helps kids find their place and value in the world.

“Our vision is a world where all children who have experienced trauma grow into healthy, productive adults and break the generational cycle of abuse,” said Smith who serves as the Executive Director.

Smith said Spirit Reins serves an average of 120 clients a week and works closely with the Texas Baptist Children’s Home, The Starry Program, Child Protective Services, the Travis County Probation Department, and Bluebonnet Trails to obtain referrals. Recently, the non-profit therapeutic organization initiated a capital campaign to raise funds to expand their onsite facilities including a covered arena, additional offices, and a covered round pen complex.

There is also a great need for partners to sponsor a family’s therapy and to care for the therapy horses. Although there is a wish list of items listed on their website www.spiritreins.org, funding is the critical need for the non-profit organization.

Informational ranch tours are scheduled from 2-3 p.m. Sunday, April 12.

In addition, an informational “Friend-Raiser” Event will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, at Dahlia Café with a special musical performance by country music singer/songwriter, Templeton Thompson. Individuals interested in attending either or both events or making a donation should contact Amy Crook at amy@spiritreins.org or at (512) 515-0845.

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