Marshalltown Rebuilding Unseen Tornado Damage In Youth Mental Health

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MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Scaffolding and construction prove that progress in Marshalltown is visible, but the unseen side of the EF-3 tornado may be just as important.  Now, the Marshalltown community has a plan to repair what’s on the inside of their most important residents.

With the right tools, many in Marshalltown have been able to physically repair damage from the tornado, but for some children, dealing with it mentally has been a struggle.  “Now even a year later if a storm comes or certain sounds occur the children are still being triggered. Some of the children are having trouble sleeping, focusing,” said Arlene McAtee, who serves at the executive director of Mid-Iowa Community Action.

This school year the Marshalltown Community School District, along with MICA and the Marshalltown Long Term Family Recovery Committee, will take straight aim at mental health in school kids.  “We will be doing crafts food games and interaction with the horses,” said Jennifer Daniel, who owns Rhia Reins Ranch and serves on the Marshalltown Long Term Family Recovery Committee.

Students will have the opportunity to work with horses at Wolfe Ranch with the help of Quakerdale Family Services and Rhia Reins Ranch for equine therapy.  “You learn leadership and team building. It helps with anxiety, depression,” said Beth Andrew, executive director at Wolfe Ranch.

The school district will identify over 200 kids most in need of a day at the ranch.  “They see these kids every day. They are interacting with them every day. They notice the changes,” said Andrew.  Receiving out-of-class care won’t interfere with school either.  McAtee said, “It’s being conducted on the seven in-service days that are held throughout the year for teachers and when there is no school.”

For families already taking part, organizers say the results have been quick.  “She said we’ve had three sessions with horse therapy and we come further with my 7-year-old than two years of counseling,” Jennifer said.

The kids will get to spend seven hours with the horses at the ranch.  Organizers say it may be just one day, but the impact can last forever.  Jennifer said, “They are our future and so we’ve got to invest in them and they were affected the most.”

The equine therapy is paid in full thanks to $25,000 in fundraising by the Long Term Family Recovery Committee and a $5,000 grant.

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