Marie Bruns, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has achieved the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can achieve, by enhancing the adaptive horseback riding experience for children with autism.
“Children with autism can feel out of place in our constantly moving world. It can be extremely hard for them to create bonds and express their emotions,” says Bruns. “An amazing way to achieve this is through adaptive horseback riding. When they create a bond with the horse it allows them to make great strides in all aspects of their life. Riding gives them more confidence as well as improving skills such as fine motor skills and balance.”
The Gold Award Girl Scout chose to create structures to assist with adaptive horseback riding because she has close friends and family members with disabilities. She knows first-hand the healing that horseback riding can offer and wanted to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to connect with horses.
“People with special needs are constantly overlooked, especially in parts of the world that do not have the ability or resources to deal with their adaptive needs. My project offers a space for these individuals to go where they can grow their skills and experiences through adaptive horseback riding and sensory stations,” Bruns says. “At Inspiration Stables, they will not be overlooked, but instead are having a project tailored to benefit them immensely.”
People with autism enjoy activities that use senses like smell, touch, sight, and sound. The stations she created are portable and create a trail where riders can use all of their senses but taste. With the sensory trail, children riding at Inspiration Stables will interact with the world around them that they do not typically get to experience.
How long have you been a Girl Scout?
As long as I can remember! I believe 13 years to be exact.
What inspired your Gold Award project?
I have always loved working with kids and being around animals, so I knew I wanted my project to somehow combine the two. I spent hours and hours googling trying to find the right thing, and then I stumbled upon adaptive horseback riding. I read the website of the first center I clicked on and I instantly knew that was what I wanted to do.
What do you love about Girl Scouting?
I love how Girl Scouts pushes you out of your comfort zone. Growing up, I was incredibly shy. When I asked to join Girl Scouts, my parents jumped at the opportunity to try to get me more involved with other kids my age. Girl Scouts gave me numerous opportunities to explore new activities and engage with others in new ways. One example is the summer camp program. I vividly remember going camping with my troop and climbing a rock wall tower. I was terrified and never in a million years did I think I would even be able to make it half way. When I reached the top of the tower, my whole body shaking from nerves, I knew that I could do anything I set my mind to. My mom and I were talking the other day about how shocked she was when I asked to go to camp, and then kept going back, as a young girl and then through my high school years. We both agreed that the choice to go to camp truly was an integral part of me becoming who I am today. Girl Scouts truly does build girls of courage, confidence, and character.
What role has Girl Scouts played in your life?
Aside from pushing me out of my comfort zone, Girl Scouts is where I have met some of my closest friends and how I developed a lot of my vital life skills. From working on badges and journeys in elementary school to finishing my Gold Award during my first semester of college, I learned that through hard work and perseverance you can achieve anything you set your mind to. I also was very involved with Girl Scout camp and went for almost 10 years! Camp was, and still is, my second home. I even met my best friend at camp! We met at a camp session in middle school and are still best friends today (with both of us going to college in different states!). I have met some amazing people and been given countless opportunities I otherwise would not have had without being involved in Girl Scouts.
What is your next step after earning your Gold Award?
Currently, I have just wrapped up my first semester at Iowa State University as a biology major. Long-term, my goal is to graduate college and go into a career that somehow involves working with and helping people.
Learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award and the steps to achieve this distinguished honor.