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Healing Hearts helps others recover with animal therapy

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 11:03 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 11:06 p.m. CDT

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HARVARD – Nobody saw her struggles.

Not friends. Not family.

Ten months since Traci Moyer’s death, maybe that’s why her nephew keeps pushing to be part of the solution.

Mark Schuring had been creeping along on a project to create a sanctuary for survivors of domestic violence. His vision was for something quiet – just recovering people and animals, many who were themselves rescued from broken homes.

The idea for Healing Hearts with Hooves and Hounds was born more than two years ago, but it took time to bring things together. When Moyer – who’d been planning to help with the program – was found dead in her husband’s Janesville home on Dec. 8, plans accelerated.

“When we lost Traci, it all became very real,” said Mark Schuring, who took classes with his aunt at Harvard High School and said the two were raised “like siblings.”

Moyer’s husband later pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Moyer, 46, had recently filed for divorce, according to Janesville news reports.

With a team of enthusiastic volunteers coming out of the woodwork to help since the incident, Schuring in the spring landed nonprofit status for Healing Hearts.

In the past eight weeks, the group has been working toward a benefit event this Saturday.

Starting at 5 p.m., the dinner, dance and silent auction will feature a speech from former Green Bay Packers player Blaise Winter. It takes place at the Stratford banquet hall, 21007 McGuire Road, Harvard.

In addition to raising money for the animals and to eventually get a permanent home, organizers have called for the event to serve as a celebration of the life of Moyer – whom family members have chosen to once again refer to as Traci Schuring.

Animal therapy has been shown to promote emotional well-being in patients struggling with things such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

“They’re a natural stress reliever, the horses are,” Schuring said. “If you have a bad day, you can just go out in the middle of that pasture and within 20 minutes, you’re relaxed.”

The farm has several horses and chickens. One of their two miniature horses is expected to give birth any day. Things are still taking shape, but they’ve been having a few survivors come out on weekends.

So far, Healing Hearts has mainly been getting referrals through word of mouth. The organization is located for the time being at the residence of Kim Hegge, a friend of the Schurings.

But Schuring is expecting the operation to continue to expand.

“It’s moving in a positive direction,” he said.

The efforts toward that end by Healing Hearts have impressed Winter. The defensive end turned motivational speaker – who retired in 1994 after playing with the Colts, Chargers and Packers – said he sensed genuine motivations when he spoke with Schuring and others at Healing Hearts.

“You just want to make sure that the people that are doing these things, and have these titles and these allowances by the government are using their power in the right way,” he said.

And the cause itself is one that is dear to Winter’s heart.

He was himself a victim of violence as a young boy with a cleft palate, and he now spends time sharing a message of compassion.

“I want to march with you,” Winter said. “I know how painful it is to be abused by the people who love you the most.”

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