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Buckingham ranch helps violence victims, rescued horses heal together

At one Buckingham barn, horses once bound for the slaughterhouse are getting a second chance at life, and an opportunity to help young victims of sex trafficking.

The ‘Animals and Kids Rescue LLC’ was started by sisters, Kim Aquedo and Jill Stickles, who are inspiring people. Their mission is pairing rescued animals with children recovering from a painful past.

“They (horse and rider) definitely both start building trust, confidence and building a relationship together where it includes a lot of love,” Stickles, 42, said.

Dawn Hamm, 54, started bringing human trafficking victims she shelters through her, ‘Ground Up Ministries’ to the Animals and Kids Rescue ranch, last year. Now, these children are paired with the horses at least twice a week, which Hamm sees helping the victims heal.

“They’re angry about what happened to them, and they have to learn how to handle those emotions,” Hamm said. “Our girls get to come out and ride and help care for the horses and it’s just been a great partnership. It’s so therapeutic.”

Aquedo is happy to see the partnership and bi-weekly sessions benefiting both the rescue horses and the children they are paired with.

“I’ve really enjoyed watching the girls grow in confidence, when they come out they’re a little bit timid or not very secure with themselves,” Aquedo, 36, said. “But when they get out here with a 1,200-pound animal and they see they can build a relationship and a friendship with them, their confidence just grows.”

Hamm added that the greatest reward is watching these children heal and get back to a life of independence. She said her goal for 2020 is to open a house in Southwest Florida for human trafficking victims who are over the age of 18, since several victims currently living in her shelter for minors are about to age out.

“Nothing is better than watching these girls heal and get back to a life of independence,” Hamm said.

This Saturday at the Christian Life Fellowship in Cape Coral the first annual, ‘Freedom Fun Run,’ will benefit Ground Up Ministries’ goal to keep providing residential recovery programs to children sold into sex trafficking. That race starts at 08:00 a.m., with registration beginning at 07:00 a.m.

Reporter:Melinda Lee
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