In 2004 my wife, Margaret, and I purchased this 29-acres parcel with the intent of blessing our family and further helping our daughter Abigail Joy. Abby was known to be fun and loving, witty and thoughtful, energetic and spontaneous. She was a source of joy to many. At the age of 9 she was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes and at age 15 with an eating disorder. By 2004, Abby’s struggle to navigate the murky waters of those conditions had led to numerous hospitalizations and 12 treatment settings. It was at an equine centered program in Wickenburg, AZ where we had the following conversation:
“Papa, can I get a horse?”
“Abby, a horse?”
“Honey, I don’t know anything about horses!”
“Well… let’s just think about it.”
That unexpected conversation proved to be the beginning of a journey that has led to the creation of Acres for Joy. Abby’s interest in animals and children had always been visible but her interest in a horse was new and caught my attention, for by then her interest in many things had dimmed under the weight and wear of her difficult journey.
This is what led Margaret and I to go knocking on doors looking for enough land for a home, a horse, and new direction in our treatment efforts. It was at the 8th door that we were pointed to a vacant 29-acre field that would soon become our own as we planned, prayed, built, and dreamed. During this time Abby was again hospitalized, this time in a long-term setting.
In the spring of 2005, our house was finished and we moved to our field of dreams while eagerly looking forward. Soon Abby joined us after a 10-month hospitalization, and was reunited with friends and readjusting to life outside of an institution. Then the unthinkable happened... just a few short weeks later, on September 11, 2005, Abby passed away unexpectedly due to complications related to diabetes.
Words cannot capture the onslaught of shock, grief, and questions that followed. How? Why? What if? Where was God in all of this? How do we go forward? How do we look upon this field now amidst the sorrow that has filled our hearts? We had not anticipated that we ourselves would be in such need of comfort, help, and recovery; but September 11, 2005 demanded it be so.
Step by step, little by little, we have survived the greatest of sorrows while receiving help that only God could supply. From the shock and grief has grown a steady resolve to channel our pain, and our hope, toward the worthy cause of helping others who face their own set of challenges.
Abby’s journey brought us in direct contact with the weight and wear that chronic illness often has on those who bear it and those who love them. It awakened us to the sorrow associated with things not being as they ought to be and to the awareness that so many are burdened with so much. That is the context of our beginnings and the foundation of our conviction to help as we have opportunity. Sorrow and grief cannot have the last word, but hope and joy must have its say. We have decided to use what we have, as best we can toward betterment. We are only a few, but we are a few. We cannot do everything, but we can do something. We have decided to not allow what we cannot do to keep us from doing what we can.
As Abby left Winnebago State Psychiatric Hospital, following a 10-month stay, she told a good friend that she was eager to come home and that she wanted to change the world. She did just that. She changed our world and the world of a growing number of those whose paths cross these acres.
Many hearts and hands are joining and co-laboring to develop programs that partner with horses and caring individuals providing equine assisted learning, mentoring, and outdoor activities. A 501c3 nonprofit organization, Acres for Joy INC, has developed that is all about bringing people together for mutual benefit and encouragement.
This once vacant field is vacant no more! It is now a place where horses and humans connect and help one another; where the pressure of the day yields to the activity of the moment and joy finds yet another opportunity. Ten thousand footprints, hoofprints, and pawprints give testimony to these acres being truly Acres for JOY.
Thank you for visiting, learning about us, and for your part in changing the worlds of those we serve.
Jeff Jackson, Abby’s Father