While Michelle had not been around with AWH since its inception in 1968 (she wasn’t born yet), she learned about the program when she was just 5 years old. Michelle would come and watch her sister Stacy, who had Trisomy 9M and was severely disabled, ride in the program, starting right before she turned 3.
Michelle can still remember and can appreciate what Stacy learned while at AWH. She started to make more noise and communicate with others, as well as learn how to safely get off a bed by sliding off the horse’s tail. Michelle loved coming to watch her sister and the horses. Michelle even got to take some hoof clippings for a report she did in elementary school on horses and ponies. She also remembers coming and participating in Costume Day, an event she was always enthusiastic about.
Michelle started volunteering for AWH the summer before her junior year in High School, and would always come back to work over the summers while attending college. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Redlands, she started working there full-time in 2005, both teaching lessons and working in the office. Michelle worked closely with Liz Helms, the Founder of AWH, who taught her how to run the wonderful non-profit.
While Michelle has gone through many different titles and job descriptions at AWH, her current, all-encompassing title is Executive Director and Head Instructor which she assumed in 2012 after Liz Helms passed away.
Each day Michelle looks forward to witnessing little miracles in each session. As one child is able to hold their head up a little longer on their own; another shy child is breaking out of their shell to tell Michelle how much they love the horses. It’s a little boy finally able to complete a “quad” on his hands and knees while the horse walks for a whole circle, and a little girl who was afraid to let go of the handles now stand up on her horse…there are just so many amazing moments to cherish.