NIMISHILLEN TWP.  Many area military veterans and first responders and their families spent the afternoon July 29 touring the new Military Family Center, a facility meant to focus on programming for veterans, first responders, Gold Star and Blue Star families. The facility and property located outside of Louisville is owned and operated by Pegasus Farm.

A newly formed partnership between Walsh University, Pegasus and Rotary International Districts 6650, 3131, and 3132 has made opening the center possible. It features a large horse barn and a house that will be used for programming for veterans and first responders.

"Adding this location which has 20 acres with pastures, a horse barn and the home will allow us to expand our Veteran’s Salute programming, it’s really a perfect property for us to use," said Pegasus’s Executive Director Carol Lichtenwalter.

Lichtenwalter said the idea for the Center started with a series of breakfast meetings between the Rotary International and Gold Star and Blue Star families.

"The groups met over several years to identify the needs of veterans," she said. "They eventually applied for and received a grant to develop and offer rehabilitation and therapy for veterans. Part of their plan was to include equine therapy in their model. They came to use because we already had an equine program for veterans in place."

Walsh’s Provost Doug Palmer said faculty and students from the Occupational and Physical Therapy (OT and PT) programs will work in a clinic that will be set up in the basement of the house. Palmer said he believes this will become a national model for offering such facilities and therapy programs.

"Our faculty and students under faculty supervision will be offering occupational and physical therapy and mental health counseling in the clinic area for those who need such services," Palmer said. "Pegasus came to us after receiving a grant from the Rotary. Walsh is committed to being here as long as there is need for our services. The open house today is to help get the word out about the Military Family Center and to invite people here to tour the facilities and the property."

The Rotary is partnering with accredited therapeutic equestrian center Pegasus Farm to provide equine activities as a proven, effective treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome, brain injury and other physical and emotional conditions to meet the critical needs of veterans, active duty military, first responders and their families.

Lichtenwalter said research has shown equine therapy helps to reduce anxiety and frustration and enables the release of problems and increases social connectedness. Pegasus Farm will serve as the Center’s fiscal agent and property manager of the MFC site.

Many students and faculty from Walsh volunteered to help visitors touring the center and to answer questions. The open house offered family friendly activities such as horse grooming and safety demonstrations, a HORSE basketball tournament, children’s crafts, a roping demonstration, bean bag toss, face painting and a blacksmith demonstration. Plus, refreshments including ice cream were available.

The newly purchased farm property on Meese Road was made possible through grant support from local foundations including the Timken Foundation. Grant support from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International will help purchase equipment and training for the OT, PT and exercise activities.

For more information about the MFC and programming available, contact Tammi Gainer of Pegasus Farm at 330-935-2300, ext. 104, or email tammi@pegasusfarm.org.