Launching lanterns of hope for child victims of violence
“Never underestimate the power of a mother,” said Lackawanna County assistant district attorney Eugene Talerico Jr. of April Loposky, as cheers erupted from a large crowd assembled at the Wallenpaupack Visitors Center during the first “Light the Night for Marley’s Mission” on July 29 in Hawley.
Loposky responded with gratitude for supporters of the non-profit organization she founded following a life-altering tragedy that occurred in 2009. Loposky’s five-year-old daughter, Kodee, was brutally assaulted and nearly killed by 40-year-old Felix E. Montoya, who attacked the child in her home in Taylor late at night on July 5. Montoya was captured by police and is serving a life sentence.
The devastation that ensued from the trauma led the family to key individuals as they slowly began to reclaim their lives and work toward healing. An important part of that process would ultimately involve horses. After limited success with traditional therapy, a horse was brought into Kodee’s therapy regimen, producing a recognizable change in the child.
Loposky realized that, if horses could have such a positive impact on her child, other young victims of abuse also might benefit from equine interaction. She researched the issue, then prepared a convincing presentation and began approaching potential partners, such as Talerico, who had prosecuted the case. Talerico never hesitated and now serves as president of the Marley’s Mission board.
Today, the non-profit organization, named after Kodee’s guinea pig, Marley, provides horse-based therapy free of charge to children and their families who have experienced trauma.
Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) supports those who have experienced abuse and suffer with depression, anxiety and other symptoms. EAP also yields psychotherapeutic benefits, such as building confidence, improving communication, reducing anxiety and most importantly, restoring trust.
Treatment teams include trained trauma therapists and equine specialists educated in the internationally recognized EAP model developed by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. With the assistance of the treatment team, the child learns an alternative way of expressing his or her feelings through interaction with the horse.
During the “Light the Night” event, Loposky gave a presentation about Marley’s Mission, which now serves seven counties in Northeastern PA and, since July 6, 2010, has treated 150 children who are suffering from physical, verbal or sexual abuse; bullying; illness or death of a family member; medical trauma and more.
Following Loposky, Hawley mayor Kevin Hawk presented a proclamation declaring July 29 “Marley’s Mission Day” in Hawley. Talerico shared news that the organization, which currently operates from a rented farm in Lake Ariel, PA, will be relocating to a permanent property made available through the generosity of several benefactors. The organization’s name will change to Marley’s Mission on Matt Burne Acres at Eckel Farms.
The crowd then walked to the nearby dam overlooking Lake Wallenpaupack to light more than 100 biodegradable white lanterns. Exclamations and murmurs of delight emanated from the flame-lit faces as young and old alike released the glowing lamps to drift into the darkening sky above a collection of boats bobbing on the inky water.
Board member Justin Genzlinger and other local sponsors who hosted the special event hope to see it become an annual tradition. Genzlinger noted that a significant number of children from Wayne and Pike counties receive services free of charge at Marley’s Mission and encouraged everyone to do their part to sustain the important work that happens there.
The organization is always in need of volunteers, but it is currently most in need of financial support to fund the transition to its new location and to help keep its services free to all who seek them. Donations made payable to “Marley’s Mission” may be mailed to PO Box 505, Scranton, PA 18501.
Visit www.marleysmission.com to learn more.