With each issue of The Cat’s Meow, we intend to feature one of our clients and share how they make a difference in their community. Today, we are delighted to share our first client spotlight with Amanda Slugoski, registered psychologist, owner of Equinox Therapeutic And Consulting Services, and the Making Strides program’s compassionate founder.
Making Strides is a non-profit program that has been in operation since 2012. It provides free courses of long-term mental health therapy to Edmonton’s adult inner city and homeless community members, using an unconventional modality called equine-assisted therapy. It takes place at Whitemud Equine Learning Centre Association (WELCA).
Why the Making Strides Program?
In 2012, Equinox Therapeutic partnered with the Whitemud Equine Learning Centre Association to put on their inaugural annual gala event. As a result of this event, Equinox fundraised just under $10,000 to put toward a charitable cause. The inner-city community had long been in my heart and on my mind, and I saw this as an opportunity to build something meaningful that might be able to contribute to one of society’s most vulnerable communities in a novel way. The horses’ addition to the therapy setting brings something unique – a particular way to connect – that the traditional therapy setting cannot offer.
Who can participate?
Any individual receiving support through Boyle Street Community Services or the Bissell Centre is eligible to participate in Making Strides. These participants are currently or recently homeless and are looking for hope and help to create stability and positive change in their lives.
What is the impact?
Since 2012, more than 75 inner-city community members have received long-term therapy courses, with over 1,200 total therapy hours provided at no cost to the participant or the community.
Tell us about your gift to Boyle Street Community Services.
I gifted the Making Strides program to Boyle Street Community Services (BSCS) in 2020 because I wanted the program to have a larger support base than I could offer it! I have come to understand that my role with Making Strides was to create and nurture it through its growing years, and now, it is my privilege and pleasure to have found it a sustainable home with BSCS.
How can we support the Making Strides program?
We want to reach more participants. Therefore, we invite you to become a member of our newly created annual Community Champion Circle with an individual or group donation of $3,333.00. Boyle Street Community Services will issue charitable tax receipts for all donations. This amount will benefit one participant with an equine-assisted mental health therapy program, including transportation to and from sessions, the expertise of an equine-assisted therapist, a supervising registered Psychologist, and the use of the therapy horses for 32 weekly therapy sessions.
What do you want people to know about our homeless community members?
Our homeless community members are loving, struggling, hopeful people, just like you and I! Maybe this sounds obvious, and sitting with that thought can be profoundly transformative. Over the years, our therapists have learned some of our client’s stories. They were previously teachers, computer programmers, construction workers, oil rig workers, and even wrangled cattle on a Texas ranch! One participant was a makeup representative at a high-end department store, and several were artists. One of which once had their work displayed in City Hall.
While some of our clients were born into circumstances probably quite different than most of ours – they were born within a deep cycle of financial and emotional poverty, addicted as infants and abused as children, just like their mothers and fathers often were – others lived “normal-looking lives” before the tide turned. Some fled from abusive marriages, with only the possessions they could carry. Another was a high-stakes gambler who, with one lousy bet, lost his mortgage and his wife in one fell swoop. Some gave everything they had to try to save a sick parent. The losses continue – the loss of a baby sister to suicide, losing a job when drowning in grief, losing a child in a car accident, and then the loss of a will to live in depression. In some cases, their pride and their misery pushed their family and friends away.
At the core, so many of our clients are just like you and me. They had youthful aspirations, and they danced at their wedding. They have fallen in love, have felt the awe of birth, and have felt the crushing grief of death. The line that separates us from the slightly different circumstance that takes us down an entirely different road is sometimes so thin you can barely see it.
Tell Us About Your Experience with Pounce Support Services™.
“After operating for seven years on a wing, a prayer, and lots of pro bono services, Kat joined Making Strides’ team in 2019 as our first professional fund developer. In learning about what we do, Kat said that she was drawn to our passion for the inner-city community, and this has certainly demonstrated itself throughout her work with us. With boundless energy, Kat has transformed our wing and prayer into a concrete, workable plan with solid strategies, leads, and funding proposals that ensured Making Strides’ future sustainability. We have benefited from Kat’s years of experience and ability to translate good intentions into concrete actions. In turn, this will no doubt benefit one of Edmonton’s most vulnerable communities for years to come.”
*To support the Making Strides program, Get in touch with Amanda by phone at 780.885.6454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.