Local mom’s program helps veterans in daughter’s honor

Veterans Voices

NEWVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) – A new program in the Midstate is aimed at helping veterans readjust to civilian life.

A self-proclaimed animal lover, Jodi Kelley decided to finally take the leap seven years ago and open Rock Run Animal Rescue in Newville.

“We have a goose, two goats, seven horses, 10 cats, and four dogs, although our main focus really is horses,” Kelley said.

Buddy, a horse, has quite the history. He’s been at the rescue since 2017.

“He was so, so skinny and had pretty much given up. His head hung low. He had no musculature at all, just super thin and starved,” Kelley said.

Fast forward two and a half years.

“Through a lot of I love yous and food, a whole lot of food, he’s just a gem,” said Kelley.

A gem that caught the eye of Army veteran Kelly Dworak. She volunteered to help at the animal rescue, right around the time Buddy showed up.

“He’s so lovable, and you can do pretty much anything with him, and he’s perfect for the role that he’s about to take on,” Dworak said.

That role is helping veterans readjust to civilian life, deal with PTSD, whatever it may be.

“Horses mirror human feelings, especially rescued horses, who have a little bit of history themselves,” said Kelley.

The program, Rock Run’s Equines Serving Veterans, is now up and running.

“Grooming and spending time with the horse, getting out and leading them out and learning some other skills as well,” said Kelley.

“You can just spend some quiet time and get some therapy, but you can groom him. He’ll show you the way. He’ll lead you the way,” said Dworak.

Eventually, Kelley plans to expand the program beyond veterans.

“The reason it was created was because, last year, our daughter died by suicide,” said Kelley.

And, she says, the animals sensed her pain.

“Right after my daughter died, there were certain animals that would not leave my side,” Kelley said.

That’s a kind of empathy she wants to share with others.

“When something affects you personally, you can go down with the ship or you can try to help others,” said Kelley.

“If you look at Buddy now, his head’s high. He’s happy. He’s got a home. He’s got a purpose in life. And I think veterans can learn a lot from Buddy,” said Dworak.

Hope is what Rock Run Animal Rescue has given animals, and hope is what the animals will soon give to veterans.

The animal rescue is accepting interested veterans now.

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