By Tara DeSantis, Central Square, N.Y. (NCC News) It was a rough time in Kate Starr’s life when she first started Sunshine Horses in 2003. A debilitating health issue was just one part of an uphill battle.
“You know when you feel like your life is falling apart, and it basically was, I couldn’t work, I had a three year old child, I was a newly single parent.” Despite all that, she wanted to make a difference, “I sat on the couch with my mother one day and said, ‘What do you think about starting a rescue?’ I couldn’t do it at the time, but I could be an intermediary between foster homes and people that were interested in adopting,” Starr said.
That was the beginning of what has become a unique treasure tucked in the rolling hills of Central New York whose mission is helping both horses and people.
Sunshine Horses is a non-profit organization that rehabilitates horses from various backgrounds: equine pets that can no longer be cared for, malnourished rescues, and former racehorses (some that have profited more than half a million dollars) – saving many of them from slaughter.A team of volunteers is dedicated to caring for the animals – in hope of eventually finding each horse a “forever home.”
Many volunteers find themselves being transformed in the process; taking care of the horses gives them a sense of both purpose and community. Sunshine Horses also partners with local neighborhood organizations to service young people and adults with unique challenges of their own.
Jan Lower was inspired to volunteer five years ago when she was going through a transition at home.
“It re-connected me with horses after my daughter went off to college,” Lower said. Lower’s been dedicated to the organization ever since, and took on the position of volunteer coordinator. Haley Witt, a student who volunteers at Sunshine has stayed on more than a year after a mandatory community service requirement was fulfilled. Witt said she loves being around the horses for the feeling of calm they give her.
Starr said people who otherwise wouldn’t know how to relate to eachother find a connection when they’re grooming the same horse. She’s grateful for the unique impact the organization has on both the equine and human community it serves.
“I initially wanted to save horses, that’s how it started,” Starr said, “but I realized it’s about the people. What people can bring to it, what we can bring to people.”
Starr and the volunteer community say their commitment to Sunshine Horses gives them a reason to get out of bed; they’re passionate about the friendships they’ve made with the horses, and with eachother.