Rachell Denoyer places a ring on a post in May of 1999 as part of the physical therapy component of her hippotherapy with her dad, Joe, looking on. Rachell was the center’s first client. L&T file photo/Darren Whitley
Crossroads Center continues its positive effect on lives
By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Nearly 15 years ago, the Crossroads Center at 17230 Bluebell Road in Liberal began with one client, one horse, one instructor and two parents. Today, Crossroads has expanded to the point where there are 38 different clients at the center weekly, and there’s even a waiting list.
Joe Denoyer, who co-founded the center, said the inspiration for the center came from his experiences with his daughter, Rachell, dealing with her cerebral palsy, which she was diagnosed with at the age of 2.
“We went to the cerebral palsy clinic in Wichita and the therapist there said everything we were doing was right on track with what she needed to continue that progress,” Joe said. “And we asked, as parents, ‘is there anything more we can do to help her?...and his response was ‘there’s a new therapy out called hippotherapy, which is horse therapy – if you know anyone with horses, get her on a horse as quick as you can.’”
The Denoyers were old friends of Rena Cross – another co-founder of Crossroads – who happened to have horses. Denoyer said his wife Donna encountered Cross one day during her job at the post office and inquired whether or not she had them. Cross said yes and after Donna explained Rachell’s situation and diagnosis, Cross agreed to help.
“Tears welled up in Rena’s eyes and she started crying and Donna asked what was the matter and Rena said ‘this has been my dream – to start a therapeutic riding center but I didn’t think there was a need for it,’” Joe said. “She also told her ‘I’ve actually put my house on the market, we were moving to OKC to start something like this.’ Within days, her house was off the market and Crossroads was born.”
Crossroads Center offers a therapy known as hippotherapy for its clients. Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which a therapist uses the movements of a horse to provide motor and sensory input. The clients are placed on the back of a horse and then they’re taken into the arena where they ride.
“While they’re riding, they’re also performing some fine and gross motor skills like catching a ball…you know, vision therapy, where they have to find an object,” Joe explained. “The motion of the horse, the gait of the horse, mimics a person’s walk so for the children who can’t walk or the adults who have trouble walking, the gait of the horse stimulates the nerve endings in the base of the spine, which gets things flowing and gets blood and oxygen to those deficient areas.”
Joe said currently, the center’s main clientele is children from ages 2 and older. However, there have also been adult clients at the center in the past, including a 62-year-old woman. Seeing their reactions and expressions as they make progress on the back of the horse is the biggest reward, Joe said.
“It’s something they never would have gotten to do if there wasn’t a Crossroads. It’s just the excitement and then to see the parents as they see their child progress and how they react to what Crossroads is doing,” Joe said. “I would say it is the joy of knowing you’re helping individuals and families and making a better life for their family members.”
Indeed, the feeling of riding the horse and that joy is what was so helpful for Rachell, who is now 18.
“I always thought the horses, when I was on them, I felt freedom – I always did because it made me feel happy inside and it really helped me get my nerves calmed down and stuff like that,” Rachell said. “When I’m on the horse it’s my pride and joy. It helps a lot.”
“Yeah, and now she has a horse of her own she has to take care of,” Joe joked.
Crossroads is also in need of volunteers and extra staff. Signing up to volunteer is an easy process – those who are interested in volunteering need only contact Rena Cross at the center at 624-3133 or at
. Every year in the spring before opening, there are volunteer training sessions, but throughout the year, those training sessions can be done one-on-one, as there are some things volunteers must know concerning the safety of the clients, which is a priority.
“Just come out one time. Just come one time and you’ll be hooked. It’s just a small portion – if you can just give an hour, I guarantee you you’ll be hooked if you come and see what all goes on out there. You’ll definitely want to volunteer,” Joe said.