MAHWAH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A one-week day camp is putting smiles on the faces of chronically ill children in New Jersey through the healing power of horses.

Horseback riding comes naturally to 6-year-old cancer survivor Violet Spiliotes. She took the reins and called out commands.

Pony Power Therapies is a New Jersey nonprofit that offers horse therapy to children and adults. (Credit: CBS2)

“I can tell she listens to words,” Violet said.

She can also tell her horse, Missy, is something special, helping in her recovery.

“Missy is my best horsey friend and also my only horsey friend. I love Missy,” Violet said.

In December, the Cliffside Park girl was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer. Her mother, Jaime Spiliotes, says surgery, radiation and chemo helped her beat it, though it’s still a struggle.

“We go to appointments all day long. Even now that she is in remission, she’s going to acupuncture, therapy, you name it,” she said.

But at Pony Power Therapies in Mahwah, New Jersey, Violet gets to forget all about that stuff.

“She just thinks this is fabulous. She’s a unicorn lover, so this is as close as you get,” Spiliotes said.

Pony Power Therapies is a New Jersey nonprofit that offers horse therapy to children and adults. (Credit: CBS2)

“Using horses to help humans is just the most incredible way to be,” Dana Spett, founder of the nonprofit, said.

Pony Power Therapies services kids and adults in need of extra support or therapy.

“It is a little bit of PT, OT, speech, recreational opportunities, social skills,” Spett said. “It’s going to help with core strengthening, with balance, with processing, with language development, following directions.”

This week, 10 chronically ill patients from Hackensack University Medical‘s Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital are taking part.

“I just like to be a regular kid and, like, not have to go through stuff,” 11-year-old Erin Hanney said.

“It’s a way for us to help children get the kinds of interventions and therapies that they need in an environment that isn’t in a hospital setting,” said Dr. Judy Aschner, chair of the department of pediatrics at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital.

The powers of ponies helping to power their recoveries.


Leave a Reply