Isabella McCleaf does not remember much of her first experience at Camp Hebron. Isabella, better known as “Bella,” was just two years old in 2005 when her family attended a summer Family Camp. Her parents believe that she enjoyed her time at camp and received her fair share of attention and care from her camp counselors. During this camp, her family connected with the leaders of Camp Hebron’s horsemanship program, Dean and Susan Berger.
Prior to attending Family Camp, Bella’s family had been planning to sell their house in Carlisle. After attending Camp Hebron, however, they became attracted to the peaceful rural setting of the Halifax community. They immediately sold their house and within two months Bella’s family relocated to the Halifax area.
Fast-forwarding a few years, Bella developed a strong love of and interest in horses, mainly through reading books. This interest developed into a desire to take horseback riding lessons. Her parents remembered Camp Hebron and the Bergers, and Bella began taking riding lessons in 2013.
Bella cherishes every moment that she has to ride on and be with the horses. After asking Susan if she could help out around Meadowview Stables, Bella began volunteering in 2014, helping out a few hours during the week after her schoolwork is completed. Her tasks include feeding and grooming the horses and cleaning stalls. Volunteering has also enabled Bella to spend more time with the horses and with Dean and Susan.
During the summer of 2015, Bella participated in the week-long Wrangler-in-Training (WIT) camp. At "WIT Week" she began developing the skills that she will need to eventually become a wrangler. Her biggest challenge during the camp was preparing and performing her “demo,” where she instructs riders on the proper care and use of the horses and equipment. After successfully completing this week of training, Bella officially became a WIT, which enabled her to have more responsibilities such as leading trail rides and helping with mounting and dismounting of riders. After WIT camp, Bella volunteered during several of the other summer camps, including Saddle Straddle II and Colts and Fillies.
Bella’s experiences at camp and the stables have helped improve her confidence and public speaking skills. Being around the horses and camp has been healing therapy for her, too, especially after suffering the sudden tragic loss of her older brother Isaac in 2011. She is able to connect with God, nature, and other people, including Camp Hebron staff, through her experiences and through the peaceful, majestic quality of the horses.
After seeing the positive influence that camp has had on Bella, her family has become involved in supporting the horsemanship program and participating in other camp activities. Recently, Bella and her mom attended the mother-daughter slumber party weekend at Camp Hebron. They experienced a peaceful time connecting with each other and other women. They were encouraged in their walk as ladies in Christ and to speak words of life to others. It was a beautiful time of fellowship without the daily life distractions, and a blessing to both Bella and her mom.
Bella is looking forward to continuing to participate in the horsemanship program and other activities at Camp Hebron. She will continue to volunteer at the stables and help with the Yellow Breeches program. Through these activities, Bella will share with other children the peace and healing that she has experienced through one of God’s amazing creatures: horses.
These are some of the great things that happen at Camp Hebron. You can make a tremendous impact for campers like Bella by making a donation today.