A young nonprofit in Carmel is working to connect teenagers who suffer from mental health disorders with the great outdoors as a form of non-medical treatment. Ben’s Ranch Foundation was launched before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the healthcare crisis highlighted the need for emotional support, especially among teenagers who were disconnected from normal school routines and friends.
The organization was founded by Carmel businessman Brose McVey, whose son Ben was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 14.
“One of the things we noticed, and his doctors mentioned along that path, was that when he spent time with horses or animals and outdoors, it was very therapeutic,” McVey explained to Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta. “They lamented that if we could only get kids out on a farm, and that stuck with me.”
McVey says he drove Ben to a remote ranch in Wyoming for what was supposed to be a summer stay. But noticing positive results in his son’s behavior, the visit lasted 18 months. “And it really reset his life,” said McVey.
A few years later Ben died and prompted McVey to create the foundation in his honor. Now, Brose McVey is using horse ranches and farms around Indiana to help put teens on a positive path.
“We searched in the wilderness scenes for a long time to figure out how to add value and how to understand this situation,” said McVey. “We knew where we wanted to go, which was to leverage the power of the farm, of nature, of jobs, of work and busy activity on mental health.”
The foundation now approaches farm and stable owners, who meet certain criteria, to allow the teenagers to work for them.
“We play a matchmaking role. And, we subsidize their wages because we really want this to be a job for them,” said McVey. “We think that creates the maximum therapeutic value, but also fills a need, build skills, and creates a win win.”
McVey says the organization wants to expand the program around the state. McVey stresses the program is not intended to replace medical intervention but to work in conjunction with medical experts as an additional tool in the treatment of mental health challenges.
Click here to learn more about Ben’s Ranch Foundation.