Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and his wife Suzanne Youngkin were in Batesville July 21 to present the third Spirit of Virginia Award to Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue and its founder Maya Proulx.
The Youngkins toured the farm, which lies along Castle Rock Road about 3 miles south of the village, with Proulx and volunteers, and met horses being cared for before the presentation ceremony.
Kyle Snow, operations manager for the farm, spoke first, addressing a crowd of about 80 guests and farm volunteers.
“Hope’s Legacy has, essentially, saved my life,” he said. Snow retired from the military after 20 years and felt emotional stress upon leaving. He credited working with traumatized horses as therapy for himself. “I depend on them as much as they depend on me. Maya gives such love and attention to the animals. This farm does embody the spirit of Virginia! We’re honored to be recognized.”
First Lady Suzanne Youngkin said she inaugurated the Spirit of Virginia Award “to celebrate the greatness of the Commonwealth and the goodness of its people. It’s also about the Holy Spirit.” Younghkin was unabashed about her Christianity. She also quoted the Psalms on man’s duty to care for animals as well as Ghandi’s observation that a nation’s moral condition could be told from the condition of its animals.
“Let me tell you as someone who has travelled all across Virginia, there is so much goodness and raw beauty being pumped into the veins of Virginia each and every day, and the Spirit of Virginia award was established to exemplify just that.
“I’m a horse lover and owner,’ she said. “I know what this [farm] represents [in work]. Horses contribute over $2 billion a year to Virginia’s economy.
‘The work that animal rescues, like Hope’s Legacy, provide to God’s creatures surely inspires. It has been an honor meeting Maya and witnessing her care of these beautiful animals and interacting with these beautiful animals. Your selfless work exemplifies the true Spirit of Virginia,” she said.
She said that her husband often says that his goal is “to make Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family. But I say my goal is to make Virginia the best place to live, work, raise a family, and be a horse!” About 30 volunteers on hand for the ceremony stood when she asked them to be recognized.
When his turn at the microphone came, Gov. Glenn Youngkin said, “We are honored to be here. Maya, thank you for your amazing vision. The Spirit of Virginia Award is envisioned to recognize the extraordinary contributions from ordinary people who don’t have ordinary hearts.”
Proulx’s husband Rich died two months ago, and for all the elation of the occasion, Proulx bore the burden of grief on her face as she accepted the award. Suzanne Youngkin acknowledged it by making a point of specifically honoring Rich for his work to bring the farm into the condition it now has. She also gave Maya a heartfelt hug.
Proulx accepted the crystal bowl bearing the award’s logo etched in it.
“On behalf of the volunteers, donors and foster families who have supported this organization, I want to express my gratitude for this recognition,” she said. “Hope’s Legacy is dedicated to changing the lives of equines coming from difficult situations, and we know that our work will continue for many years to come.
“It’s been 14 years to get to this point,” Proulx said. “We started very slow. In the first year that we were in operation, we only took in one horse. In the second year, we took in three. This year we’ve taken in 54 so far. So, to have reached this point, and then to get the recognition for all of the volunteers and the hard work that all of them have put into creating this, it’s just great.”
The non-profit organization has two full-time and two part-time employees along with over 80 volunteers.
The first Spirit of Virginia award went to the National Center for Healthy Veterans in Altavista in March. Founded to address veteran suicide rates, the 12-month, faith-based program at Valor Farm that is designed to overcome trauma and return vets to dignified work.
In May, the second award went to Jill’s House, a Christian nonprofit in Vienna that assists families with children with intellectual disabilities by offering overnight respite care.
Three more awards are slated to be given this year.