A Payson-area horse camp that helps children and adults with special needs has received a $350,000 grant for facility improvements and a scholarship fund.
The Agnes Varis Charitable Trust awarded the Whispering Hope Ranch with the funds earlier this month based on the work the center does with children and adults facing life-altering or limiting illnesses, physical, emotional or developmental challenges and sudden loss.
The grant will establish the Agnes Varis Center for Interaction, Hope & Healing at the retreat facility east of Payson. The healing center will consist of three new amenities, providing greater service and access for camp attendees.
Additions include a Center for Human-Animal Interaction, the Jazz-n-Jets Splash Zone and the Hope and Healing Scholarship Fund, all named to honor the memory of Dr. Agnes Varis.
Varis, a business leader, co-founded two pharmaceutical companies. Varis supported organizations working with the underprivileged, in education, the arts, and the welfare of animals, believing that doing so uplifted both the individual and the community, according to a press release.
The Whispering Hope Ranch Foundation (WHRF), a non-profit organization, helps those in need by providing camp and retreat experiences.
“We are grateful to be the recipient of this generous gift that will honor the memory of Dr. Varis and bring comfort to those in need in our community,” said Robert Mayfield, WHRF board member. “It’s a direct investment in improving the quality of life for children who are coping with challenges, for their families and for the animals who call the ranch home.”
Designers will structure the Agnes Varis Center for Human-Animal Interaction to allow those with the most severe challenges to interact with animals at the center. Animals previously out of reach will now offer comfort to each camper, regardless of their challenges.
At The Agnes Varis Jazz-n-Jets Splash Zone, all campers, including those with temperature regulation issues, will enjoy cooling down on the splash pad. The splash pad will include multi-directional spray jets, bubblers, shade structures and a sound system.
The third component of the grant is the Agnes Varis Hope & Healing Fund, which will help families fund camp retreats.
The WHRF offers special needs children and their families rustic, ranch-style camp and retreats with programs designed to foster interactions between campers and animals at the ranch.
Most of the animals at Whispering Hope were born with physical issues or suffered injury, abuse or were abandoned before arriving at the ranch.
For more information on WHRF, call (602) 266-2216 or visit www.whisperinghoperanch.org.