Horse Rescue Organization Wins Spirit of Virginia Award | Local News

AFTON — At Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue at Castle Rock Farm, a donkey named Donkey caught the eye of Governor Glenn Youngkin on Thursday.

“The donkey smiled at me,” the governor said ahead of an awards ceremony to recognize the Albemarle-based organization.

After touring the farm, meeting Donkey and feeding a rescued horse named Red last week, Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne Youngkin presented Hope’s Legacy with the third Spirit of Virginia Award, which recognizes “unique qualities and outstanding achievements in across the Commonwealth”. Suzanne Youngkin created the award earlier this year.

“We wanted to put all creatures, big and small, first,” the First Lady said. “It’s about serving humans and all Virginians who live here, but we were also very proud of how Virginians serve the animals they love.”

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Hope’s Legacy is a non-profit organization that rescues all breeds of equine from abuse, abandonment, neglect, slaughter and owners who can no longer care for them.

The rescue was started in 2008 by founder and CEO Maya Proulx. The group moved seven times until finding a permanent home in 2017. Since then it has been located at Castle Rock Farm, where the rescue center currently operates 36 acres of fenced pasture, a hay barn, nine lapped sheds and a 2-stall medical barn. On Friday, Hope’s Legacy will save its 500th horse.

The Spirit of Virginia award winner hasn’t always had such a large operation.

“It took 14 years to get to this point,” Proulx said. “We started very slowly. During the first year of operation, we only accommodated one horse. The second year, we welcomed three. This year, we have welcomed 54 so far. So to have reached this point and then getting recognition from all the volunteers and the hard work they all put into creating this is just awesome.

The organization has two full-time and two part-time employees and over 80 volunteers. These volunteers came out in force for Thursday’s ceremony, representing about half of the approximately 80 people present.

“When you step back and see what’s going on here, you get to look at a horse that two weeks ago was in the worst of circumstances,” Governor Youngkin said at Thursday’s ceremony. . “To see a family come around this horse, not just ‘horse-family’ but ‘family-family’. It’s amazing.”

Meanwhile, Hope’s Legacy does more than save equines. Kyle Snow, a volunteer who spoke at the ceremony, said Hope’s Legacy gave him new purpose after serving in the military for 20 years.

“Hope’s legacy basically saved my life the same way we’ve saved so many equines over the years,” Snow said. “The emotional roller coaster, the mental distress you feel walking away from it [previous job] is harder than anyone will ever be able to explain, but every day I come here and find therapy with these animals that is second to none.

Hope’s Legacy joins the ranks of other winners of this year’s Spirit of Virginia Award, the National Center for Healthy Veterans and Jill’s House. Each Spirit of Virginia award winner received a glass bowl and an invitation to Richmond for a year-end celebratory engagement. The fourth winner will be announced in August.

Aubrey L. Morgan