A short documentary about the trials of childhood disability, the love of family, and overcoming the odds.
When Julia was born, doctors gave her only months to live. She beat the odds and survived, but after two years in a medical facility she was still not eating, talking, or moving at all. In a drastic leap of faith, Marcelo and Milene took their daughter home and enrolled her in a unique therapy program at Special Strides that used horses in their practice. Despite their doubts, they hoped that this would be the key to bringing their precious Julia to life.
Special Strides is a non-profit organization devoted to improving the lives of individuals with special needs. With a unique combination of therapy, horses, and the natural environment, individuals achieve goals appropriate for therapy, recreation, and education. Special Strides provides all individuals an opportunity to “Improve their lives… one stride at a time” regardless of financial status.
Special Strides is all womxn run
female executive producers
childhood mental difference
Executive Producers Laurie Landy (OTR/L) and Susie Rehr (PT, HPCS) run the nonprofit Special Strides located on a farm in Monroe, NJ. The organization and its all womxn staff is devoted to improving the lives of individuals with special needs. With a unique combination of therapy, horses, and the natural environment, individuals achieve goals appropriate for therapy, recreation, and education. Special Strides provides all individuals an opportunity to “Improve their lives one stride at a time” regardless of financial status. Laurie Landy founded Special Strides in 1998 on her family farm. She has worked as an Occupational Therapist for JFK Rehabilitation, a variety of school systems, Early Intervention, private practice, and is NDT (Neruo-developmental treatment) certified. Susie Rehr is a Physical Therapist and a Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist. She has served as the President of HRH of New Jersey, the Vice President for the American Hippotherapy Association, Inc., and the editor of Hippotherarpy Magazine. Both Laurie and Susie mentor interns and therapy students that complete their clinical experiences at Special Strides.
HELLO TO JULIA was produced over a four month period, but in truth it was many years in the making. Since being introduced to Special Strides Therapeutic Riding Center in 2012, I have worked closely with the nonprofit organization to create a significant collection content.
The more I experienced the incredible nature of Special Strides, the more I felt a powerful unnamable energy there. I was deeply moved by the exchanges between the therapists and parents. The spirit of the therapists, the families, and the environment of the farm itself was contagious even to an outside observer. I could feel the deep soulful healing that was taking place before my eyes, for both the children AND their families. Beyond the physical support was an energetic nurturing and sense of acceptance that seemed to further propel the already heartwarming transformations. Faced with chronic health challenges myself, I knew how imperative this was for healing and also how rare it was to find. I thought if only I could capture this essence in a film, it could subsequently support the viewers’ very own healing journeys.
Making this film raised my spirits and propelled my own personal healing in ways I can hardly begin to describe. I came away with a bigger heart, an even deeper sense empathy, and greater appreciation of familial love. In pandemic times, it was a reprieve from the surrounding heaviness and a much needed restoration of hope. I hope that viewers come away with a refreshed inner smile and a renewed lightness that nourishes their hearts.