Our Mission: Stormlily Ranch exists to provide a safe and peaceful ranch environment where at-risk youth and those affected by sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking find hope and the healing touch of Jesus through hands-on experience with rescued horses.
I’ve read and collected hundreds of stories from similar ministries across the United States since the seed of Stormlily Ranch was planted in my heart. From those, I’ve put together a few to share with you that encompass well the heart of Stormlily Ranch ... and the powerful ways horses are being used as God’s tools to bring about true change.
West Philadelphia is well-known for being a “rough” area to grow up in, to say the least. Gangs, single-parent homes, drugs, violence are all just “a way of life” for many kids.
Here’s Kareem’s story of how an equine program helped give him hope, motivation, and the skills necessary to not just “get out” but to truly excel.
Note: I’ve read his memoir and this snapshot doesn’t do justice to the harsh reality of his early years and how it was for him and his siblings to grow up in “The Bottom”, a community and neighborhood devastated by poverty and violence.
Kareem was born and raised in West Philadelphia. At the age of eight, he began riding horses and playing polo through the local non-profit, Work to Ride after his brothers discovered a barn full of horses riding their bicycles through Fairmount Park.
“Work to Ride saved my life and my family’s life, as it took us away from the drugs and violence we faced in our community and at home.” ~ Kareem Rosser
He made history in 2011 when he led the Work to Ride team, featuring his brother Daymar Rosser and Brandon Rease to a National Interscholastic Polo Championship, becoming the first ever African American polo team to do so. As a result he earned the Polo Training Foundation Male Interscholastic Polo Player of the Year award. In 2015, he led Colorado State University to a collegiate National Championship and received the Polo Training Foundation Intercollegiate Player of the Year award.
Kareem graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in Economics in 2016. After graduation, he returned to Philadelphia to work as a financial analyst. Kareem is also a board member and treasurer of the Work to Ride program. Since 2018, he has led development efforts for Work to Ride, helping to raise millions to support the program.
(Founded by Lezlie Hiner, Work to Ride empowers inner city youth through horsemanship, equine sports, and education programs.)
More on Kareem's story:
The Most Joy-Filled Polo Match Courtesy of Work to Ride
This story is taken from a post by The Wild Hope Austin, a similar ministry in Texas that’s serving survivors of complex trauma. It’s written by the founder.
“It was what I thought a very simple exercise; teaching a survivor how to lead her partner horse. Decide where you are going. Focus your eyes in that direction. Hold your head up. Take and release a deep breath. Take a step forward. It was in that moment that this timid, distrusting and deeply wounded, yet brave survivor changed my life forever.
After taking one step forward with her horse she stopped. I didn’t think much of it; great first step. Let’s try again. The girl stood there for a moment. I wasn’t sure if she was frightened or if this part of building a relationship with her horse was too much at the time. Then she looked up at me and said, “If you do this horse ranch thing you’re going to help a lot of survivors.”
I was a bit taken aback and asked her what she meant. She went on to tell me that when she was being trafficked she and the other girls in the trafficker’s stable (yes, stable is how they refer to the girls they “own” ) were not allowed to make eye contact with another human being… ever. They were to keep their heads down and do as they were told. She said it made her feel like an abused dog and that by doing this exercise it made her feel human again. IT MADE HER FEEL HUMAN!”
Another client from The Wild Hope Austin reflected on her time there:
“I trusted a horse before I was ever able to trust a person. Horses taught me how to trust the right kind of people.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. What really excites me is thinking about the stories I’ll be writing to you to share the change that’s happening in youth and survivors at Stormlily Ranch because of your prayers and partnership.
P.S. Interested in reading more stories from similar ministries? Here are two of my favorite books:
1. Joey: How a Blind Rescue Horse Helped Others Learn to See
2. Hope Rising
Sources & Additional References
Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers and the Sport that Changed Their Lives Forever
Atlanta Horse Camp Helps At-Risk Youth Turn From Violence and Suffering
Do you want to be part of bringing hope and healing through Stormlily Ranch?
Right now, Stormlily Ranch is in its infancy. That's what's so exciting—God has put this vision on my heart, and I know He is going before us preparing the way and preparing the hearts of people like you who will come alongside us to make it happen.
Your first step? Join the Stormlily Ranch Prayer Team!