August 3, 2017
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
REEDSVILLE – For Mary Ellen Kiel, her Sunrise Horse Farm’s annual summer event, Summer Gallop, is just one day in a busy schedule of bringing people together. The event this past Saturday featured music, demonstrations, food, prayer and a petting zoo and it appealed to all ages.
“That, I think, in this day and age, is very important,” Kiel said.
Since October 2007, Kiel has operated the horse farm, but the land means so much more than an ordinary horse farm. She works with children, teenagers, some of whom have been in trouble legally, and special needs students.
Some students have spent their community service at the farm, and it changed their life. It’s an emotional thing for her, as she rattles off tales of the farm’s previous visitors. There was the teenager who called Kiel years after his work on the farm to give her an update that he had beaten his alcohol addiction, found a job and an apartment. When he called Kiel, he asked her if she remembered who he was. Like so many, Kiel holds their tales close to her.
“They get to be like family after a while,” she says.
Then there was the girl who was convinced that none of the horses on the farm liked her, until one day a horse put her head on the teenager’s chest. Tears filled the teenagers eyes as she realized the horses did like her.
“That was a turning point for the girl,” Kiel said. “It warms up my heart to see those changes.”
Then there are the parents or grandparents who call Kiel to tell her that she helped change the lives of youth who spent time at the farm. The experiences changed Kiel’s life too.
“I still get tears in my eyes just thinking about those instances here,” Kiel said.
The farm has had more than 3,000 visitors in the last 10 years. Last year, there were 360 visitors. It operates and relies on fundraising, with the gallop being their biggest annual fundraiser. Kiel says that the farm is always looking for more people to help on it. Right now she has around three to five regular volunteers.
Kiel started an equine therapy program for children and teens to experience healing therapy that horses can bring to an individual. She has also spent time helping people in Belize, Honduras and Mexico.
She is a certified natural health consultant, a certified aromatherapy consultant and a retired librarian aid. She also is active in her church, which helps crossover into events like last Saturday, and is on the board of directors for Missions in Motion International Ministries.
Maybe most importantly, she’s a mother to six children, grandmother to eight and great grandmother to nine. While she uses the farm to teach responsibility and work ethic, she also loves to unite people and have fun, like last Saturday.
“Just seeing everyone enjoying themselves is my favorite part.”
This story was featured in the August 3, 2017 edition of The Brillion News.