‘There’s just a healing element to being out in the outdoors’: Leesburg nonprofit serves disabled people
LEESBURG, Ga. (WALB) - A Lee County non-profit is serving disabled veterans and people with special needs and disabilities in a unique way.
Miracle in the Woods Foundation was established in 2022 and ties in an outdoor experience that helps those individuals feel included.
“I was disabled 100% due to injuries in my back,” said Clate Sinyard, a Vietnam War veteran.
Life after serving 20 years in the Army has proven to come with challenges for Sinyard. He said because of his disability, he isolated himself from physical activities. He also said there were little to no veteran resources for his emotional and mental needs — something he said a lot of other veterans experience. According to an August 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 4.9 million veterans have a service-connected disability.
“We had nowhere to go, no one to turn to except family in most cases or another veteran,” he said.
But now, Sinyard said he’s found some relief with the help of the Miracle in the Woods Foundation. The nonprofit provides a free outdoor lodging experience to disabled veterans and people with special needs and disabilities — a mission inspired by Miracle in the Woods Foundation founder Jamie Kiep’s personal experiences.
“Honestly, I feel like that’s what God put us on this earth to do. Having a disabled child ourselves, knowing the financial burden of having a child or somebody in your family that’s disabled, or on some type of disability that wants to be in the outdoors, but necessarily can’t because of the cost,” Kiep said.
The organization serves participants all year round with three guests getting the inclusive outdoor experience each weekend 52 weeks out of the year.
“We’re going to make sure that’s possible and they don’t pay anything to have that kind of journey,” he said. “There is something about the outdoors that is good for the soul.”
Equine therapy riding is one of the many things part of that outdoor healing experience this nonprofit will be offering to those impacted by disabilities.
“Seeing what God put us on this earth to love and to cherish is just something to behold and for people with disabilities. There’s just a healing element to being out in the outdoors and we want to be a big part of that,” Kiep said.
Fishing and hunting will also be a tailored experience participants can look forward to. Kiep says he plans to bring handicap-accessible equipment outdoors so anyone can get a safe experience. With hunting season right around the corner, he says he already plans to serve several families in and out of town.
“That way someone in a wheelchair or someone who inadvertently makes noises can go out and have a successful hunt just like you and I can,” Kiep said.
But Kiep says he needs your help to bring his bigger vision to life. He wants to expand his non-profit to a permanent lodge in Edison where he will continue providing outdoor resources to disabled people.
“The more boots we have on the ground, the more hands we have in the pile, the faster we can get the lodge built and the sooner we can make a difference,” he said.
With community support, he hopes to have the lodge built within the next two years. For more information about Miracle in the Woods Foundation, click here.
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