Our Story

 

Gary, Sandy and Laurie Weatherwax

LoveWay Projects, Inc. was founded by Gary and Sandy Weatherwax in 1973 in memory of their 16 year old daughter, Laurie. While in high school, Laurie had taken a school trip to Augusta, Michigan to visit the Cheff Center. At that time, Cheff Center was the only therapeutic riding center in the United States.

It was from this visit that Laurie’s dream to help others with physical, mental or emotional disabilities was borne. Much of this was born of her desire to help individuals like her father who, after suffering from a broken back in a car accident, was left a paraplegic. Laurie was very interested in bringing a program of therapeutic riding to Northern Indiana due to the fact that her father required a wheelchair, and could be able to ride again. 

Soon after her visit to Cheff, Laurie would take a missions trip to Africa where unbeknownst to her parents she had contracted a fatal virus. Soon following her passing, Sandy and Gary founded LoveWay Projects, Inc. 

They began by giving lessons in their driveway with the help of specially selected horses and volunteers. In 1990, the name was officially changed from LoveWay Projects, Inc. to LoveWay, Inc. 

In 2014, Sandy Weatherwax wrote a book, “Dancing In The Wind” which gives a very real look into the lives of she, Gary and Laurie. The book is filled with joy, laughter, sadness and grief. Their “story” is a true adventure where you also learn “L” and “W” are their daughter’s initials. 

In her book Sandy states, “When harsh winds blow and you are not hanging on to God, he is hanging on to you. My heart and soul have been lifted through the years by the wonder and courage of the many beautiful students coming to LoveWay’s therapeutic horseback riding school. They are glorious examples of the true and simple joys of life. Walking up the hill to the LoveWay fields and arena, you know God is there. To participate in the miracles of challenged riders and faithful steeds, you know God is there”.

He is still here and more than 40 years later, LoveWay continues its mission with the help of more than 160 volunteers serving more than 300 riders each year. In total, more than 9,500 volunteer hours are given by this amazing community to assist individuals with special needs. 

Buildings, People, Horses and Giving

LoveWay was incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization Sept. 24, 1974. The first board of directors was comprised of Mr. & Mrs. Weatherwax and Jykla Wiegand. Ms. Wiegand was the center’s first instructor and received her therapeutic instructor training at The Cheff Center, Augusta MI. The first lessons for special needs children were provided in the Weatherwax driveway with specially selected and trained horses. A volunteer training program was established and many community-minded volunteers began donating their time to assist with students. Local resident Agnes Riegsecker was the organizations’ first volunteer.

Fund raising was a community wide effort and $50,000 was raised to build the first indoor arena in 1979. Stacy Stearly, a fourteen year old student from Jimtown High School, conducted a 65 mile trail ride and raised over $4,000 in pledges to help with the arena project.

The Welcome Center was constructed in 1996 under the leadership of board president Wayne Campbell. Shortly thereafter a strategic planning session provided the plan to hire an Executive Director. In the fall of 2000 the board hired Sandra Carbone of Shipshewana as the first Executive Director.

In April of 2003 under the guidance of board president Karen Thomson, a capital campaign completed the new 80′ x 104′ NIBCO Riding Arena with a lead gift from the Rex & Alice A. Martin Foundation. With funds provided by three anonymous donors, the 60′ x 80′ Equipment and Hay barn was completed in the fall of 2004. In 2006 paving of the driveway and parking lot for handicapped accessibility was provided by the Goshen Rotary Club and Rieth Riley, Inc.

 

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It fans the fire in my heart,
softly laughs across my skin.
Listening to your gentle song
I’m dancing in the wind.

Winds shift, blow hard and strong
to push me into sin;
I turn my face toward your flame,
I’m dancing in the wind.

Dear God, I feel your covering winds
lift me from within;
Your rhythm deep lives in my soul,
I’m dancing in the wind.

– Sandy Weatherwax

A poem from Dancing In the Wind

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