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LAKEVILLE, Minn.--The connection that is made between a person and a horse is one that both unique and beautiful to see. Kim Howard and her family always shared a love of horses, but had no idea how valuable that connection could be until Kim's granddaughter, Jackie, was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Jackie was born with Recurrent Respiratory Papillomas – a disease of the airway. Her life expectancy was three to four years. Jackie fought to beat those odds, even when she received her cancer diagnosis at six years old. After being diagnosed Jackie underwent chemo treatment that disabled her physically. Walking and lifting her legs became difficult and that was when Kim turned to therapeutic horseback riding.

Riding changed everything for Jackie. When she was on the back of a horse she seemed to forget about her pain and after a few weeks it was easy to see that she was much stronger. Jackie was able to walk, dance, laugh and enjoy her childhood despite her condition. Jackie had many surgeries and persevered, but unfortunately passed away at the age of 19.

Kim wanted to be sure that other children with special needs had the chance to experience equine-assisted therapy and started the Majestic Hills Ranch Foundation. The organization has served children and their families for 16 years and has most recently expanded their services to veterans.

Kim works with a fantastic team of program directors and riding instructors that keep Majestic Hills Ranch running, but she isn't afraid to get her hands dirty and help out whenever it is needed. Kim will clean stalls, paint, help to maintain the grounds and is passionate about the ranch flower gardens. Kim continues to be inspired by her granddaughter. Toward the end of her life, Jackie always remind Kim of the importance of believing and Kim carries that message with her today.

Majestic Hills Ranch is always looking for volunteers to assist with riding classes, fundraising events and maintaining the ranch grounds. For more information visit Majestic Hills Ranch.

Looking for a way to get involved in your community? Visit HandsOn Twin Cities to find additional volunteer opportunities today!

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