It looks like a typical summer camp morning, brushing the horses for a riding lesson.
"I love it here," said Emily Lowell of Starksboro. "The people are just amazing and the horses here amazing and you just have so much fun."
But this camp is on a mission, a mission to keep kids on the right track in their young lives, to prepare them for the turbulent high school years.
"They get dropped off here 6:30, 7 o'clock some mornings and stay until 7 at night, as long as we have light," Kerry Kurt said.
Kurt runs the camp, Sentinel Farms-Unbound Grace. She is a registered nurse and has her master's in divinity. She grew up in Vermont and in the 1990s even served in the Legislature.
"Yes, was a state rep for Colchester for a number of years and I totally enjoyed serving the community in that capacity. I loved being in there and trying to create answers, ways to make a difference," Kurt said.
She moved for a time to Colorado working in the prison system, and it was there that she created the nonprofit Unbound Grace. The idea was to bring people with talent from the community into the prison to share with the inmates, like artists and musicians.
And when she moved back to Vermont in 2005, she bought this farm in Starksboro and continued Unbound Grace for local kids.
"If they are sitting around just playing video games and eating potato chips and hanging around with other kids who are not necessarily well directed, we all know all kinds of things can happen and move them in the wrong direction," Kurt said. "We try and get them focused; it's their passion that brings them here and the work and move forward."
While the emphasis this morning has been on horseback riding, the whole point of this camp is to teach these kids some really important life lessons. And it is working.
"I have learned how to communicate with other people better," said Autumn Burbo of Richmond.
Autumn Burbo has been coming here for four years. She is now 14.
"And when I first came here my father passed away, so I got over it by communicating with horses and other people and that is pretty much how I became the person I am today," Autumn said.
The emphasis is on educating the campers about all kinds of physical activity and nature, and the importance of taking care of your body.
"We ride in the morning for about an hour and then we get to go and do poetry or swimming or nature walks. She teaches a wide variety of stuff," said 10-year-old Madison Shepard of Bristol.
Kurt is now working on taking the next step and offering her riding and camp program throughout the winter as well, but she needs an indoor riding facility to do that. And she is working on it. The plan is to convert this old structure into a new indoor center.
"We need indoor space and if we all come together as a community and create a space so these kids can be active during the winter months, some are going into high school, if they don't have their community to hold them into space and keep them directed and training, most kids we know that go off track-- it's in high school," Kurt said.
Sentinel Farms-Unbound Grace is now planning a silent action, family fun day and potluck dinner and barn dance in September to raise funds for the new building. And all the campers are involved, making sure the event will be a success.
Wednesday, March 12 2014 9:48 AM EDT2014-03-12 13:48:45 GMT
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