Volunteering is a great way to get young people involved in their community. One young person who doesn’t need convincing of the positive ways volunteering can impact a life is Shadey Howard.
For those who know her, it isn’t surprising the 15-year-old spends much of her free time volunteering with the elderly, at her church and with therapy horses and riders of Tri-State Therapeutic Reinbow Riders. Loving animals as much as she does makes it easy to clean out a stall — something she considers a labor of love.
Why? Because she knows it makes things easier on those who are working with the physically and mentally challenged individuals who rely on the horses to provide a therapeutic riding session and because — even at her young age — she has learned it’s better to give than to receive.
“I love volunteering because I love to help people and see their faces light up when they get my help,” Howard said. “It’s something I do because I like it and the best thing is seeing kids and adults at Reinbow Riders learn to smile.”
Howard’s mother, Cynthia Howard-Mowery, said her daughter’s heart is filled with kindness and compassion for others.
“She is an amazing young lady who is always there to give a helping hand to anyone who needs it, even when she is hurting so bad she has to choke back tears,” Howard-Mowery said.
Tears because the considerate teen deals with the discomfort of fibromyalgia and the autoimmune disease lupus, a chronic illness that does not have a cure.
After a year of body rashes, mind-boggling frustration, several doctor visits and medical tests, it was finally discovered what was causing Howard so much pain. When the shock wore off of her some relief set in.
“I found out without proper care lupus could make my organs shut down, but it was still nice to at least know what it was. Finding out let me know God is on my side,” said Howard.
“The doctor explained to Shadey what her disease meant. He said eventually — years later, it will take her life,” said Shadey’s mother. “She told him as long as she had me and as she pointed up to God she said as long as she had Him she would be just fine.”
For Howard-Mowery, time stood still. The talk of immune suppressant medication and treatment raised many questions for her.
“My heart was broken. You could have knocked me over with a feather,” she said.
It was the positive words of her daughter that got her through the next few minutes.
Following an ankle surgery Howard was so appreciative of the people who helped her during her recovery that she made a conscious decision to do what she could to help others. This combined with the compassion shown to her after the fibromyalgia and lupus diagnosis at the age of 13 ignited her desire even more to be a volunteer and pass on the goodness she was fortunate to receive.
“Because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end, I’m glad to be a volunteer,” she said.
Shadey was excited when her mother, who was assigned to volunteer for a class she was attending in college, chose Tri-State Therapeutic Reinbow Riders.
“She picked there because she could bring her family with her,” Howard said. “I think I was immediately attached and fell in love with it.”
The fact she had never been around horses or any large animals before did not cause her any reservations. With four Great Danes, three Chihuahuas, two birds and a Maltipoo as pets she’s somewhat of a natural with animals.
“I have always adored animals ... well, all animals except for snakes,” said Howard.
From a visit with her family to volunteering three times a week, Howard began filling the role as volunteer by feeding horses, cleaning stalls and leading horses.
“I think it’s so cool to put aside her condition to help others. It takes her mind off of herself when she’s doing for others,” her mother said.
In addition to being precious pets for Howard’s family the Great Danes also help them financially. The puppies are sold to purchase schoolbooks for the home-schooled teen. School work is not her favorite thing but if she had to choose, she would say science is her favorite subject.
“I love being home-schooled because I have lots of free time to do things I love and be with people I love.”
When she’s not volunteering at the stables or at her church she can be found singing at a local nursing home, teaching younger children at vacation Bible school, enjoying a game of tennis or creating something with crafts.
“I love playing tennis; although I am not very good I still love it,” she said.
With the heart of a servant, Howard’s goal for the future is to do more of what she is doing now. She plans to become a certified nursing assistant and have an impact on others in a positive way.
“I also want to continue with Reinbow Riders because it’s an amazing program for the people it helps and for its volunteers.”