Kalispell Business to Host Fundraiser for Local Nonprofit

Organization aims to provide equine therapy and educational programs to veterans

By Madeleine Lamon

For 25 years, Pro Clean Carwash has sat on the block of Fifth Avenue and Idaho Street servicing cars from around the Flathead Valley. In celebration of their quarter century of success, owners Shelli and Mark Hilde are hosting a fundraiser to benefit Valor Equine Therapy Service Inc. (V.E.T.S.), a local nonprofit that is close to their hearts.

Founded by Lynn Murray, the owner of Glacier Horse Blanket, V.E.T.S. aims to offer a short-term residential program for veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries.

Shelli Hilde, who has supported the organization on a personal basis before, said the fundraiser’s purpose is twofold. Ideally, the drive, which will take place on Aug. 2, will raise money for the organization — Pro Clean will be donating half of its profits from the day to V.E.T.S. and volunteers will be accepting donations — and will heighten community awareness about the nonprofit. She noted that veterans would also be on site to barbecue for attendees.

The daughter of a military instructor and mother of an equestrian rider, Hilde described herself as “intrigued and compelled to help this organization.” She explained that she has observed the ways in which horses helped her daughter throughout her life and said she believed equine therapy could do the same for veterans and first responders.

Murray, who said she and other volunteers “have been aggressively working” on the program for the past five years, echoed Hilde’s opinion of the benefit of equine therapy, noting that she has worked with horses her entire life and knows how beneficial they can be for people.

“Horses can sense what’s going on,” she said. “They mirror your emotions, and in doing that, it helps [you] to understand the problems that you’re having.”

So far, the nonprofit has helped a handful of veterans, but it wants to expand to eventually help at least 100 people per year. Before doing so, the organization must secure a physical location suitable to hosting their residential programs. Murray said the V.E.T.S. board of directors has been in contact with a ranch owner in Northwest Montana to negotiate leasing the property.

Once the physical location is up and running, Murray said, the nonprofit will be able to set up both equine therapy and educational programs that help veterans and first responders to learn new skills to better integrate into society. She added that volunteers will work to partner with the community to establish relationships and hopefully stir up support.

For more information on V.E.T.S., visit www.glacierhorse.com.

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