The Travis Mills Foundation welcomes volunteers of all ages at its Retreat and programming in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine.
Sonya “Sunny” Cahill, 13, of Mt. Vernon, is one such volunteer. The Maranacook Community Middle School student sort of fell into a volunteer position in the Foundation’s Warrior PATHH (Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) Program – specifically in the equine module.
Sunny grew up around the horses at Pure Country Stables, also in Mt. Vernon, riding horses as early as age 3. Stable owner Janet McIver asked Sunny if it was ok to utilize Sadie, Sunny’s horse, for the Warrior PATHH program.
“I thought it was an amazing idea,” Sunny said. “Sadie loves the attention and she loves being worked with, so I knew she was going to enjoy it.”
After observing the module, Sunny knew she wanted to volunteer with the program as a horse handler.
“I was a lot of funning seeing veterans and first responders connecting with the horses,” she said.
James Prindle, Director of Warrior PATHH at the Travis Mills Foundation, said Sunny is a great kid.
“Despite being dealt some tough cards in life, she has a great outlook on life,” James said. “The module is designed to teach students about connection and how our energy levels play a big role in developing connection and deeper relationships with others.”
According to studies, horses can sense your energy, emotions, stress and anxiety from as close as 30 to 40 feet away.
“You can’t hide those emotions,” James said. “Being grounded and authentic are super important when working with them. The same is true when dealing with humans – our energy plays a huge role in developing a connection, which we know is the key to living a happy life.”
Sunny’s personality and disposition are ideal for this module.
“Sunny has a no BS attitude and says it like it is,” James said. “Which when working with the Warrior Population, is extremely valuable. It’s pretty humbling when a little girl who’s young enough to be your child, tells you how to approach this majestic animal in the correct way. The Warriors who attend the PATHH program appreciate that.”
Sunny’s favorite story from her experiences at the horse stable is observing how different the men’s and women’s groups work together.
“I quickly realized they were very different – but in a good way,” she said. “The women worked together where the men worked more independently. In the end though, they all successfully completed the module.”
She also likes to observe how different groups traverse challenges in the program.
“While PATHH is geared toward veterans and first responders, anyone can live the life of a Warrior,” James said. “Warrior PATHH teaches people how to lead themselves and therefore how to lead others.
“It reminds us that despite what happens in our lives, we do, in fact, hold the pen that writes our story,” James added. “How we respond to life, with its various ups and downs, is completely up to us. Personally, I believe that every human would benefit greatly from this idea and the world would be a better place for it.”
“Sunny has overcome so much in a very short amount of time and if she can maintain that momentum and attitude as she grows older, she will do great things,” he said. “Her generation is the future of our nation and as history has proven time and time again, we will need great leaders like Sunny who aren’t afraid to say it like it is, and hold people accountable, including herself.”
About The Travis Mills Foundation
The Travis Mills Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports post 9/11 veterans who experienced life changing injuries while in service to our country. The Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat offers our nation’s recalibrated veterans and their families a week-long, barrier free, all expenses-paid experience at its world-class retreat in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine. It offers various programs that help these brave men and women overcome physical and emotional obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation. The Foundation also offers Warrior PATHH (Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) for combat veterans and first responders, the nation’s first of its kind program designed to cultivate and facilitate post-traumatic growth. Learn more >>>