Monday, November 10, 2014

Through an Intern's Eye: AHA Beach Ride

This week Fidelis had an amazing opportunity to volunteer at the American Heart Association Beach Ride.  We had a spot right by the beach access selling AHA merchandise.  Over the course of the four day event we have reached hundreds of people and have been able to share Fidelis with them.

In addition to selling merchandise from the American Heart Association we also gave away 200 treats homemade by our participants. We bagged up each treat and attached a little information about Fidelis. It has been a great opportunity to get our name out to the public and to different horse people from all over the country. Not only do we get to give out information about Fidelis but we have also been placed on the back of every participant’s t shirt and are included on each promotional display.

On Friday we sold lanterns for the Lantern Release.  When someone purchased a lantern they were able to release them over the ocean in honor of a loved one.
On Saturday 1,500 horses took to the beach in the 33rd Annual Jack Monroe Beach Ride.  There were some local media outlets present at the event and Fidelis was featured on Horse Tales!  It was great to see the horse community come together for this great cause!

We are so thankful to everyone at the American Heart Association who helped us get our name out there! We also appreciate all the time and energy that our volunteers have given us by coming out and helping us.  We donated 60 hours this weekend and could not have done it without you.  Thank you to all of those who spent their time with us giving back to the American Heart Association in honor of Fidelis.  We are also thankful to our new friends on Facebook!  We hope to see and hear from you all soon!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Through an Intern's Eye: Seacoast is here!

This week we had 6 riders from Seacoast Youth Academy come out and ride with us!  The girls were   between the ages of 11 and 16, half of them were return visitors while the other three were joining us for the first time.  After opening up with our prayer and discussing barn rules we moved into the barn to groom and tack up our horses.  This week we used Maya, Yokum, and Tee. Each horse had two girls, one new and one returner who learned how to groom and properly tack up a horse.

In addition to three new riders we also had two new volunteers.  Thank you to Suzanne and Sarah for joining us from Brightwater Retirement Community!  I spoke about them last week when I blogged about the Internship Fair Fidelis attended.  We gained two new volunteers and a court sponsor for our Tennis Tournament.

Volunteers, Abby, Eli, and Emma Kay are helping the girls tack up Yokum.
After tacking up our horses we split up into two groups.  Our first group went out in the arena, today we set up an obstacle course for the riders to navigate their horses around. It was made up cones to weave their horse in and out of, a square for them to turn their horse around in and stop and 2 sets of ground poles to go over. After they were comfortable in the saddle and had completed the obstacle course they did a few laps of trotting.  Obstacle courses are a great challenge because it make our riders think!  They use problem solving techniques and learn to communicate with their horse to get their desired outcome.

A view of our obstacle course from this week.
While half of the girls were riding the other half were working with Sybil.  It is amazing to see Sybil work with these young adults.  Today the focus was on self-esteem.  To help the girls build confidence Sybil had them create a crest.  She shared about her experience in the PeaceCorps and how the citizens of Swaziland represented themselves though their crests.  Each girl was given a blank crest and asked to fill it in with pictures that answered the following questions.

What animal best represents you and why? 
Draw a picture that represents where you want to be in 5 years.
Draw a picture that represents your past.
Draw something that represents your ideal future. 

Sybil leading group this week!
I got to listen in on some of the discussions and I was amazed at the discussions Sybil was having.  The girls had great insight and provided some really thought provoking answers.  They were able to decorate their shields and bring them home as a reminder of where they came from and what their future holds! Our volunteers did a great job, leading by example and sharing some of their experiences.  It is important for youth to have a diverse perspective and our volunteers did just that during this activity.

We are very thankful for the staff at Seacoast Youth Academy.  One staff member volunteered her time so that the girls could come this week!  That tells me that they value the service we are providing to their residents.  Thank you to that staff member for being so dedicated to our program!

We had an amazing turnout of volunteers today!  19 in total! Special thanks to Lucy for stepping in and working hard with our riders out in the arena! We are always thankful that our volunteers are always willing to step in when needed.  Our volunteers are the reason we can continue to provide these awesome opportunities!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Through an Intern's Eye: Searching for my Replacement

This week Sybil, Nicole and I were able to attend an internship fair that was being held at Coastal Carolina University. In the past when I have attended this event I was looking for an internship. This time it was different being on the other recruiting volunteers and possibly an intern for next semester after graduation. This opportunity allowed us to not only look for individuals who are interested in our organization but also meet businesses who may be interested in assisting us.
Here is our booth at Coastal Carolina University's 2014 Health, Hospitality and Recreation Internship Fair
Our time was well spent! We met a few people who will be a great addition to Fidelis. We had the chance to talk to different people who will bring diversity to our program. I was surprised to see how many of the people who signed up actually had past experience with horses.
Not only did we get a few new volunteers to add to our organization, we also got the chance to network! I personally met a nice business woman who works for a company in Myrtle Beach. She had previously heard of Fidelis and was enthusiastic about giving her time and volunteering with us! She also helped us by getting her company to contribute a court sponsorship for our upcoming tennis tournament which is less than a month away!
Fairs like this are just one more way that we can get out into the public to tell people about what it is that we at Fidelis! If you are reading this post and know of a way we can share our organization to a group of individuals please let us know!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Through an Intern's Eye: October 20th

This Sunday we hosted Heartland at Fidelis. It was a relatively small group of three riders which gave us more time for the kids to ride in the ring. All 3 riders had been to Fidelis before so they knew what they had to do to get the horses ready to ride. After grooming and tacking up we all went in to the arena to ride for about an hour. It started out with the normal mounting and riding around the arena getting use to each horse and learning the regular commands.

I personally worked from the start with a four year old named Liam. Liam had absolutely no fear getting involved with the horses. He helped us groom and tack up Yokum and then we were the first ones out into the arena. We got him up on Yokum and his feet just barely reached the stirrups. Liam after about 20 minutes knew exactly what to do, he was able to make Yokum stop and go by himself.
It was great seeing this young rider be able to show that he could control Yokum and that he could get the results he wanted from him. At the beginning he was on the quieter side, by the end he knew that if he spoke loud and clearly he could get his desired results from Yokum. When I asked him how he felt to control an animal 33 times his size, he replied, "Awesome!" Yokum, responded so well to this tiny equestrian, it is clear to see why he is a barn favorite!

While I did not work hands on with the other two riders they looked like they were having a blast! They were older then Liam and could nudge the horses along when they wanted to go. I watched them while I was waiting in line to do the obstacle course that Ms. Joy had set up in the arena and they did great. They were able to tell their horse where they needed to be and when to stop, when to turn and when to walk on.
This was my first time working with Heartland Hospice and even though we did not have that many riders I think the event went great! Everyone was able to work hands on with the riders and really form a connection. It was also a great opportunity for our two new volunteers who came to be able to watch what we do at Fidelis.

Through an Intern's Eyes: Fall Fun!

This past weeks event was another great one! We had 7 riders join us from Peggy's Kids. This is my second time working with these young riders and they did just as great this time as they did last time. Peggy's Kids was the first group that I ever worked with when I started my internship with Fidelis. In my previous experience with non profits I never really got to work hands on with the people of the group so it is a nice change for me to be able to work with different populations.

After meeting and grooming our horses the 7 riders split up into small groups. One group started out riding and the other group put together scarecrow like pumpkins. I thought the design for the pumpkins was pretty cool, the riders had a design they could follow on the package but most of them went with their own designs. It was really interesting to see how some of them decided to design their pumpkin scarecrows. Some had very little on it, and some had so much hair it was layer on top of layer. Not only did the riders get to enjoy making a pumpkin, but I also saw a few volunteers get in there and design one!

Peggy’s Kids have been coming to the barn for a while now, so out in the Arena they know what they are suppose to do. We were lucky enough to have a lot of volunteers to help assist in the arena. With a volunteer on each side, the riders walked around the arena, then trotted for a few laps. We also practiced stopping our horses and instructing them to hug the fence. At the end we set up a few obstacle type courses for the riders to ride their horses around, such as barrels and zigzagging through cones.

Not only did we have a lot of riders last week but we also had a lot of volunteers! We had probably 5 or 6 new volunteers which is great! Most of them had come from Coastal Carolina University and they jumped right in to helping out! It is always great to see that people can come out to volunteer and dive straight in without any hesitation.  All in all we had another very successful time with Peggy’s Kids!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Through an Intern's Eye

When I first started my internship at Fidelis I was worried there might not be enough things to do to fulfill my 290 hour commitment. I am now 5 weeks into it and I know nothing could be farther from the truth.
From an outsiders point of view, it may look like our program is run for three hours a week. However, to make sure that our program goes off without a hitch it takes a weeks worth of effort. On Thursday morning we reach out to each individual group to make sure they are still able to come and to get head count on how many riders to expect. After that, we email all of the volunteers and to make sure we will have enough to run our program safely.
For me, I have spent most of my time so far working on getting the Fidelis name and mission out to the public. I have created an account on which is a site that anyone can go on and look up local volunteer opportunities. Even though our account has only been live for less than a week we already have one volunteer that we have talked to who is excited to work with Fidelis! Being a Coastal student, I have reached out to different groups on campus who might also be interested in being volunteers. The one that I think is most fitting is the Coastal Equestrian Team. They seem very interested in helping and have a background in horses which is always an added plus!
The last thing that is very important is all the work being done by everyone for the 2nd Annual Serving Aces for Smiling Faces Tennis Tournament! Our goal this year is $5,000 which is twice the amount of what was raised last year! Each member on the Board of Directors is trying to get as many sponsors as possible at $100 each. We are always looking for different sponsors but also for players!

Last week I also got on my first horse in over 10 years! It took a bit to remember all you had to do with tacking up and getting the horse ready but it’s coming back bit my bit. It was awesome being back on a horse, the first day I rode Yokum who was an awesome teacher. It took a bit to get him to move but he put up with me pretty well. The second time I rode Mya who had  a little more get up and go in her. Being back in the saddle and a little more familiar with the individual horses that Fidelis uses will help a lot when it comes to helping the riders.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Through an Intern's Eye: September 7th

This Sunday was my first Fidelis experience.  We had two different groups of riders, Peggy’s Kids and Celebrate Kids.  These two groups of children are our youngest participants and have overcome some difficult circumstances in their lives.  I was amazed by the number of people we hosted at the barn, in total we had 11 riders and 19 volunteers! 
19 volunteers, 11 riders and 5 horses!  It was a full barn!

With so many riders we broke into three small groups and rotated everyone between two different activities and riding in the ring. Everyone came together at the beginning and brushed and tacked up our five Fidelis horses. Each horse had 2 – 3 riders grooming them along with two volunteers each. While Maya, Yokum, Tee, and Buddy were being ridden in the ring, Lexington was very happy to be groomed and walked around by participants who weren't riding.  

The participants who were riding worked with trained volunteers to develop balance, confidence, and communication with their horses.  The volunteers were amazing at sharing the skills they knew as well as making each participant feel comfortable.  For several riders it was their first time on a horse and in no time they were steering, halting and even trotting!

When one group was in the arena riding, the other two groups were split up between two activities.  One activity was playing horseshoes on the front lawn; this gave me a good opportunity to meet some of the riders individually.  In my past internship experiences I had worked planning and running events to benefit the American Cancer Society.  For my 290 hour internship I wanted to make sure I had a hands on experience working with those who were benefiting from the organization
The other group was inside the kitchen working on a self-esteem building activity.  The participants traced their hands and were then asked to share five nice things about themselves on each of their fingers.  In the palm of their hand they drew something that represented themselves.  I enjoyed working with one rider who had a difficult time thinking of nice things about himself.  It made it worth it to me when I could talk with him and find out things he liked about himself and helped him write them on his "hand."  Throughout the two hours at the barn each rider was able to groom, ride, play horseshoes and discover some things they like about themselves

My first experience with Fidelis brought many eye-opening moments.  However, there is one particularly that sticks out to me.  One of the counselors from Celebrate Kids shared with us that she was concerned about one of the riders.  This particular participant had a lot of tactile and sensory issues and while she thought this experience would be great for him, she wasn't quite sure how he would adjust.  I asked her to take a walk into the barn with me and introduce me to him so I could spend extra time with him.  When we walked up to Tee we were shocked to see that he was busy picking up brushes and practicing his grooming skills on his horse!  It is amazing what horses can do!  This same rider hadn't even been on the horse for 2 minutes when he was asking when he could come back again!

I want to give a big thank you to the 19 volunteers, old and new that showed up to help us this past Sunday with a large group of enthusiastic young riders!  I am glad to be a part of this great group of people!
So long, until next week. - Jamie

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Meet Jamie

This post is written by our latest edition to the Fidelis team.  Jamie has joined us for the Fall semester and brings a lot of knowledge about fundraising.  We are looking forward to teaching him about equine assisted learning and learning some tricks of the trade about fundraising from him!  Jamie will be blogging weekly about his experiences, so here is a quick post so you all get to know him!

Jamie Relays for his Mom.
He is excited to work with Fidelis for the kids!
My name is Jamie O’Connell and I am a senior at Coastal Carolina University. I was born in upstate New York and grew up in Wilmington North Carolina. I am currently a senior at Coastal and will be graduating in December of 2014. I spent a lot of time around horses during my summer vacations in New York and was a counselor at a summer horse camp at my home barn. 
In my four years at coastal I have been heavily involved in Coastal’s Relay For Life event which has raised a little over $460,000. My first three years I was a sub chair working with both logistics and fundraising, my last year I was the co-chair for the entire Relay For Life. Relay has always been my biggest focus during my time at Coastal and helped lead me into my major of Health Promotion. 
In my first semester at Coastal Carolina I changed my degree to Health Promotion because after being a sub chair for Relay For Life I knew that I wanted to go into the nonprofit field with a specialization of cancer related opportunities.  In my field I have been able to intern at different places such as the American Cancer Society and Fidelis. 

This semester I decided to change it up and pick a field that is not normally associated with cancer related institutes. I am excited to be able to work with children of different ages and get back to spending more times around horses. With my graduation coming up very soon I am looking forward to working with Fidelis for my senior level internship and getting to know everyone that is involved! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fidelis Benefit Show

On Sunday, April 6th, Hardee Lane Farms hosted their third annual benefit show in honor of the Fidelis Foundation.  We are beyond grateful for their support.

We were blessed with a dry day and a great turnout.  Congratulations to the winners below:
     Champion:  Sophie Reese
     Reserve Champion:  Shelby Chapman
Adult Walk/Trot:
     Champion:  Carolyn Murray
     Reserve Champion: Karen Lesko
Beginner Walk/Trot/Canter:
     Champion: Maddie Todd
     Reserve Champion:  Anna Gore
     Champion:  Morgan Cook
     Reserve Champion:  Terah Lesko
     Champion:  Madeline Canipe
     Reserve Champion:  Hope Leslie
     Champion:  Nicolle Gillman
     Reserve Champion:  Eli Basile
18 inch Hunter:
      Champion:  Nicolle Gillman
      Reserve Champion:  Mary Drosieko
      Champion:  Nicole Smith
      Reserve Champion:   Christina Ruksenas
2 foot Hunter:
      Champion: Rhett Balding
      Reserve Champion: Grace Sutz
Open Hunter:
      Champion: Cooper Chapman
      Reserve Champion: Nicole Smith

All participants are encouraged to see the photos that were taken at the event at the following website,  Make sure you order your photos, mugs, and keychains!  There are a lot of unique items available!  All proceeds from the photos will benefit the Fidelis Foundation.

The Fidelis Foundation is especially thankful to our judge, Libby Viau, who not only donated her time but her expertise as well.  Thank you, Libby!

As we are always preaching, "it takes a village!"  Our small horse community in Horry County know the benefits our equine partners provide us.  With your help we are able to continue to share these beautiful animals with the at-risk youth in Horry County.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Changing Lives and Growing Gardens

As some of you may know the Fidelis Foundation is blessed to have Sybil Lee as part of our board.  I do not remember when I first met Sybil, but I do remember hearing her name associated with many non-profits in Horry County serving the at-risk and disadvantaged.  It has been 7 years since I have entered the non-profit world and I am glad to say that she and I are on the same team!  Her enthusiasm is contagious!

Yesterday, she and I met at Double C Ranch, the home of Fidelis, to begin our garden.  Although fearful of snakes and other creepy-crawlies I jumped right in.  Double C Ranch is located on the Socastee Swamp.  Although at times it makes for messy paddocks for our horses, it is an ideal location for a garden!

For those readers with green thumbs, the specific location on the property was chosen because it is close to water access, is on a downward slope, has some shade combined with direct sunlight, and is far enough out of the way that it will not interrupt the daily business of the barn.  Here is our before photo.

As you can see, it was run over with weeds and random cinderblocks.  Not to worry!  We were able to use those to construct a wall on the other side.  After some raking and replanting of those "weeds" we were able to find some great soil.  We replanted the weeds above our garden to help with soil erosion.  

The after picture looks promising!

As you can see under the hearty soil was a concrete slab. Although we don't know why it is there, it will make a great solid ground for raised beds.  Also in the after picture, you can see the beginnings of a compost pile in the upper right hand side.  This was constructed using 5 pallets and some left over lumber that was behind the barn!  While constructing our compost pile we found a pile of angry fire ants.  Did you know that baking soda and vinegar will remove these pests from your yard?  

This garden will provide not only a learning experience for our Fidelis riders, but also means for us to reach out into the community.  The vegetables grown here will be donated to various organizations in the community, except for the carrots.  I know a few horses that will be glad to munch on them right here at Double C.  In the mean time we are seeking support from various community members and businesses.

Our needs list currently includes:
Hoses and nozzles
One raised garden bed
Various vegetable seed
Community members with green thumbs who wish to help!

Spring has Sprung!

The Fidelis Family has been busy this Spring!

We started off on Sunday, March 30th with a little Spring Cleaning!  As you may already know our program meets every Sunday of the month.  The first four Sundays we have scheduled for various at-risk youth in our community to come out to the barn.  On the occasional fifth Sunday we encourage our volunteers to come out and ride so they get to enjoy our therapy horses as well!

Unfortunately it was feeling more like January than the end of March and only three of our volunteers could join us.  Before they tacked up they stepped into Double C Ranch's tack room and did a complete make-over!  Thank you to Sybil, Lucy, and Thereze for spending your Sunday with us and organizing our tack room!

Monday, February 3, 2014


"You have plenty of courage, I am sure," answered Oz.  "All you need is confidence in yourself."
L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The above image and quote perfectly sum up Fidelis this past Sunday, February 2nd.  Fidelis hosted Peggy's Kids and was graced with 9 courageous riders and 18 beautiful volunteers.  I was lucky enough to spend my afternoon walking beside Lexington and his brave rider.  As the above photo shows his rider nearly comes up to his shoulders.

Typically, we save Lexington for our older kids that join us.  But not today.  She sized up the magnificent Lexington and said "Nope, I want to ride him today."  And you know what she did!  She did a fantastic job, walking him through the obstacle course and trotting independently.  The hardest part of our Sunday is always when the kids ask for one more lap around the ring and we finally have to say no.  Of course the no always comes after having "one more lap" three times!

As much credit as our rider deserves, I have to give Lexington some love here too.   He has been a HUGE asset to our program, and I am not just talking about in his size!  He is strong enough to carry our mature riders, but sweet enough for our munchkins too!  We love Lexington and would like to ask for some help from our friends.

Lexington costs our program approximately $3,000 per year in expenses.  We are currently seeking sponsors for him.  We need 150 of our followers to donate $20.14 to support Lexington this year.  This will be a tax-deductible donation and your $20.14 will us "Change Lives, One Stride at a Time!"

For more information please visit our website at or email us at

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fidelis has a New Partner!

Jonas Marc Style Studio has partnered with the Fidelis Foundation of Myrtle Beach!

I would like to extend a big thank you to owner Kathy Marcus for extending a warm welcome of our organization into her business' heart!  Kathy has asked each of her stylists to choose a mission that is close to their heart.  Lucky for us, stylist Amanda has chosen Fidelis!

This will be an excellent avenue for Fidelis.  Not only will this be an avenue to share our mission but the wonderful staff at Jonas Marc will spoil six of our volunteers in 2014!

I can speak first hand of the character of Kathy Marcus and her team.  Kathy has always been community oriented and I spent the morning of my wedding with her team.  Her studio is in Carolina Forest in the Forest Square Shopping Center.  Be sure to check it out.

I am beyond grateful for this opportunity!  A special thank you to Summer and Kathy for making this possible!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Charms for Change

The Fidelis Foundation is really excited to share our newest fundraiser.  We will be selling charm bracelets crafted from antique, silver-spoons.  These bracelets are hand-made and will be custom made for you!  You simply choose the charm, tell us the measurement for your wrist and send us $35.00.  We accept cash, card, and checks made to the Fidelis Foundation.

 This is the perfect gift for the horse-loving lady in your life.  
Order by February 1st for Valentine's Day delivery.  

For more information please email us at  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Seacoast Ladies on January 12th

Do you ever have one of those days where no matter how much you try things don't always go according to your "plan"?

That was the case for me this past Sunday.  It was my plan to arrive thirty minutes early, bring the horses in, lay tack out and wait for our participants. However, when I pulled into the gates, I was greeted by Lake Double C, located in our arena. After some mechanical errors and a quick lesson in tractor driving from Jennifer we had a usable arena for our riders today.  Before I knew it, the parking lot at Double C Ranch was full with volunteers and five young ladies from Seacoast Youth Academy.  I checked the time to realize I was behind schedule.  Our volunteers handled the rules and introductions with our new riders and off we went to bring in our trusty therapy horses.  Unfortunately, our equine partners had other plans in mind.  They were found way back in the mucky pasture.  Covered in mud up to our shins we returned with four horses who were ready to teach us some lessons!

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of trying to get things started on time, I noticed myself feeling stressed.  Little did I know I would be partnered with a young lady and pony who would teach me a thing or two.  This young lady not only shared my name and hair color, but she too was feeling stressed!  It was her first time on a horse.  I could tell by the look in her eyes and her posture that she was apprehensive about riding.  Horses have an amazing sense of our feelings, that is one of the many reasons they are so valuable in our program.  The tension in her body was quickly sensed by Holly (the pony) who began to pull at our riders hands, take quick steps, and carry her head high, which as you can imagine only caused more worry for our rider who had never been on a horse before. 

It was at this point I realized that perhaps it was my baggage that was impacting this situation.  I look forward to Fidelis all week and I was not going to let time and muck ruin our day!  I had our rider practice halting her horse.  While we were stopped we did some deep breathing exercises.  I could feel myself relaxing, I could see Holly relaxing and most importantly a smile on this young girls face.  Amazing how something so small has such a huge impact! 

As we continued our walk around the arena, this novice equestrian moved from gripping the horn on her saddle to riding with two hands on her reins to walking independently!  And her grin only got bigger!  It was an honor to see her gain such confidence in only a short period of time.

If you have not had the opportunity to join us for Fidelis I invite you to take the time out of your schedule and see what we are doing.  You may not know it, but you might be the one who leaves the barn with more than you came with!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jumbles of Fun!

First of all I would like to apologize for it being so long since I've last posted.  Never fear, it is part of my New Years Resolution to spread the word of Fidelis so you can plan on hearing from me at least once a week!

Our youngest Fidelis riders were in for a real treat this month!  On January 5th we were tickled to host Jennifer, Hans, and Morgan from Jumbles of Fun pottery!  Jennifer was introduced to Fidelis from our own Kimmi Case.  Originally from North Carolina, Jennifer has years of pottery and party experience!  She brought many beautiful pieces of pottery for our participants to paint.  It was a great way for our riders to express their creativity and be able to create a unique piece of artwork that is their own!  It was beyond fun to watch them paint their horses, piggy banks, tiles, plates, and jewelery boxes.  A very special thanks to Jennifer and her family for sharing their talent with us!  We will be posting pictures of their completed work when it is fresh out of the kiln.

Jennifer has also been kind enough to create a mural for Fidelis.  This will be an opportunity for us to sell tiles to businesses who chose to sponsor our foundation.  Keep an eye out for sponsorship opportunities in 2014!

It was a great day for many of us to step out of our comfort zone and make a mucky day into great memories!  Thank you to all of our community members who are making Fidelis possible!