ELEVA, Wis. (WEAU) - With every passing day, the thoughts of hopes and dreams live on. But one local family is taking the reins on their hope to spread joy to the lives around them.
On a crisp fall-day in November, a blissful world exists on 29 acres, that is Acres for Joy.
"The name Abigail means the source of joy,” says co-owner Jeff Jackson.
But for the Jackson family, there are memories that weigh heavy on their hearts.
"It was about 10 years ago that our second daughter was struggling with some serious medical challenges,” said Jackson.
At nine years old, Abigail "Joy" Jackson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and at age 14 developed an eating disorder.
"That combination set the stage in her life for tremendous challenges. Challenges that led to multiple hospitalizations and just a real personal struggle that she had,” said Jackson.
During her hospitalization in Arizona, fate met Abby and her family. It was there that equine therapy became an idea, awakening their hope.
"While sitting on a horse she looked at me and said papa, could I get a horse?” explains Jackson.
So in 2004, the family packed up and moved from Eau Claire to Eleva.
"In July of 2005, Abby left the state hospital and came home to live with us. 10 weeks later, on September 11th of 2005 she passed away unexpectedly. Here we were on 29 acres. A field of dreams. A new house and the kind of grief that one can only imagine,” says Jackson.
Through the tears, it became a field of dreams. For young women like 19-year-old Lauren Foeckler working with horses is a chance at a new beginning.
"I've struggled with an eating disorder since I was 16 and I have friends who have passed away from complications of the same,” says Foeckler.
After hearing about Abby's story, she saw a reflection of herself that could have been her.
"It really could have. I was really sick,” says Foeckler in a tearful explanation.
After a few weeks of riding combined with months of outside treatment, Instructor Beth Crandall says she’s seeing its effect on Lauren firsthand.
"We may not talk about things that are bothering them, but working with the horses it starts to translate over into your everyday life. It’s very beneficial,” says Crandall.
"Its challenged me in a way that has separated from food and like the gym and maybe even schoolwork, because those are usual ways I challenge myself,” explains Foeckler.
"Acres intended for joy. Acres intended for her. Acres intended for the joy of others and that's our desire,” says Jackson.
If you or you know someone struggling with an eating disorder call 1-800-931-2237 to find help.