By Shelby Stewart
Brianna Kreft has wanted to work with horses since she was little.
On April 26, Kreft was one of about 100 youth that were recognized at the annual Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance Youth Recognition Night on April 26 at the Brandon High School cafeteria.
The youth being honored all are school-age residents within the Brandon School District boundaries. Nominees were selected on the basis of voluntary services and/or exceptional personal efforts in 2017, and were nominated in one of several categories, including exceptional service to others; achievement by an individual who has overcome personal challenges and/or set an example for others; heroism/outstanding humanitarian act; and exceptional act by an individual within a club or organization.
Kreft won the Gold Star award at the awards for the work she has done at OATS, 4920 Groveland Road.
OATS or Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles provides children and teens with special needs therapy programs geared toward horse-back riding.
“I go there, I groom and tack, and the riders come in, I help them get their horses out and just talk to them,” said Kreft, a Brandon High School student. “I either assist in teaching , help with mounting, engaging in obstacle courses. Whatever they need me to do.”
Kreft said that when she started at OATS, the original owner Nancy Heussner told her she would start with the horses, but that she would want to be with the riders before long. Kreft was skeptical at first.
“The parents are amazing,” she said. “I see no difference now. They [the riders] get to be normal here.”
Kreft has been volunteering with OATS for six years, and she is excited to start teaching when she is 18.
“I hope to become a therapeutic riding instructor. I want to teach, get involved with planning and events,” said Kreft. “I want to make sure I can continue Nancy’s legacy.”
Though she is in school, Kreft goes to OATS whenever she can. She loves assisting on class days. She enjoys seeing the riders who come in and just smile while they ride the horses. She calls them the stars of those classes.
“I want to change a life one rider at a time,” she said. “I never really thought I’d be recognized for it, I’m just happy to make a difference.”
Students who were nominated for awards through the BGYA were young people in the community who went above and beyond, and like Kreft, were recognized for their efforts, both in school and in the community.
The theme was ‘Help Us Soar’, and to go along with that theme, each table had a birdhouse centerpiece, made by Jeannie and Mike McCreery, which were then sold for a minimum donation of $10. Parents and other members of the community bought all of them, raising $320. That money is enough to pay for one child to go to summer camp in July.
Guest speaker Kristy Spann, Brandon School District executive director of educational services, gave a speech about the importance of striving for excellence, not perfection. The message was that perfection means no mistakes, but excellence means you have learned from your mistakes.
BGYA awarded their students and youth of excellence from the schools, local programs such as the Ortonville Historical Society and Rocking and Raking, and for their work, such as Essays through the VFW.