Veterans spend time with horses to relieve stress

A veteran spends time with a horse at Gateway Family Services, Potomac, as part of a new partnership with the Illiana Veterans Association. On his ear, the veteran wears a monitor from Heart Math.

POTOMAC — Gateway Family Services of Illinois, a non-profit mental health organization located in Potomac, began a new partnership with the Illiana Veterans Association.

Veterans stepped onto the ranch Dec. 13, after a two-year wait for the program to be developed and approved. Staff from the VA and Gateway partnered to work with 10 participants. The veterans spent the morning selecting their equine partners, with whom they will build a relationship. Some individuals rode, some brushed their horse, and all shared their stories with their new equine friends.

While brushing his horse, Kitty, one veteran began talking about his time spent in Vietnam, something of which he had not spoken in his nine years at the VA. When a VA staff member pointed this out to him, he smiled and said, “Wow, I must really be happy and feel safe here!”

Another participant said in the short time spent with the horses, he noticed his anxiety had disappeared.

As part of their time on the ranch, the veterans wore monitors from Heart Math.

The devices, donated by Working Out PTSD, assist in demonstrating the effectiveness of the work done with the horses.

Gateway will track heart-rate variability in participants to show how partnering with horses can reduce psychological symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression.

In June, the Lamb Bill was passed, which allows the VA to explore alternative and creative forms of therapy for veterans.

The goal of the partnership with the VA and Gateway is to provide qualitative and quantitative research to demonstrate the effectiveness of Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. To learn more about Gateway Family Services and their other programs, visit

— Potomac Food Pantry will hold its distribution at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, at the old ambulance building.

Those who live in Middlefork Township, which includes anyone in the Potomac school district, and meet eligibility requirements is invited.

Bring a box or basket to hold items.

— A bingo night fundraiser will be held for Cory Abernathy, an Armstrong Township High School graduate and local resident, on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Royal Community Building.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., with bingo beginning promptly at 7 p.m.

A cash bar and food will be available for purchase, as well as a 50/50 raffle, silent auction, and other gambling tables. A per-person charge will buy 10 bingo cards, with payment at the door.

Abernathy is in treatment for glioblastoma.

— Potomac Public Library will have Homework Club from 3:15-5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, followed by Lego building from 4-5 p.m.

Adults will meet for a Potomac History Talk at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, with

Homework Club from 3:15-5:30 p.m. later that day.

Homework Club will also be held from 3:15-5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, and a children’s activity from 4-5 p.m. The story “The Mitten” will be read, and a craft with this theme will be offered.

— There will be no senior lunch meetings in January and February. It will resume in March.

— The Potomac American Legion will hold a chicken and fish fry from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Legion building.

— Thought for the week: “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” — Oprah Winfrey

Angie Walsh of Potomac writes a weekly column about Potomac area happenings. Information may be mailed to her at