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WellSpan BrightSpot: WellSpan Philhaven therapist arranges special trip to hug horses

WellSpan BrightSpot: WellSpan Philhaven therapist arranges special trip to hug horses

Who: Mellissa Thomas, a WellSpan Philhaven therapist in York. 

What: Mellissa works with the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program, which is a community-based program for individuals living with pervasive and serious mental illness. She regularly sees Mike Kelly, a York resident. Mike likes horses and was interested in visiting the Central Pa. Horse Rescue in Lewisberry, where Mellissa happens to volunteer. 

Mike was anxious about an upcoming medical procedure, so Mellissa took him for a special outing to the horse rescue, to take his mind off the procedure. The visit took place a week before Mike's 63rd birthday and Mellissa took him out for a cheesesteak lunch afterward. 

Mike says, "I love horses. I asked if I could hug them, and they let me hug them. I fed them carrots and I spent time with them both. 

"I was petting them while I was brushing them. I brushed them to get all the dirt off their coats from them lying down. I loved them. When I saw them, they made me happy. I love them so much. It was a nice, wonderful treat." 

Words to live by: As a therapist with ACT, Mellissa works with people in the community, providing therapy and supporting them where they live and go about their daily routines. She might go grocery shopping with them or accompany them as they do their laundry, noting, "While waiting for your laundry to get done, there is a lot of time to talk." 

Mellissa said the horse rescue visit was a bit unusual but had a simple purpose. 

"We knew that it was a stressful few months for Mike, with the hospital procedure and appointments he had to go to," she says. "The visit was designed for him to pet some horses and, as Mike put it, just to give some horses some love." 

Mellissa said Mike's reaction to the horses, named Walker and Chloe, made the trip special for her as well. 

"The outing was great for Mike. They found two very gentle horses who let Mike brush and pay attention to them," she says. "He also played with a few of the dogs at the rescue and talked to some of the people there. This was something fun for him to do. It nice to see him happy and relaxed."