‘Be brave:’ Nonprofit relies on motto after fire

13 horses killed in fire at The Barn for Equine Learning near Lowell

The Barn for Equine Learning, memorial
A memorial outside The Barn for Equine Learning in Lowell Township after a fire killed 13 therapy horses. (April 9, 2017)


LOWELL TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A day after a devastating fire killed 13 therapy horses, The Barn for Equine Learning near Lowell said it has seen nonstop support from family, friends and strangers.

Sunday, a small memorial sat outside the barn, located on Timpson Avenue in Lowell Township, southwest of the city of Lowell.

The Barn for Equine Learning
A memorial outside The Barn for Equine Learning in Lowell Township after a fire killed 13 therapy horses. (Courtesy photo – April 9, 2017)

The barn was more than a home for the horses; it was also a safe haven for kids and teens. The horses were a source of healing for kids overcoming trauma and abuse.

“The horses made me feel like I could do anything. They made me trust people again and I love them so much. Sorry for your loss, Miss Kat. I know you loved them, too. I hope you’re OK,” read a letter from a teen staying at D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s Home, which serves children who are victims of abuse and neglect.

“I often don’t know where we would be with some of our kids therapeutically if we didn’t have (The Barn) as an option for them,” St. John’s Home Clinical Manager Renee Orr told 24 Hour News 8. “A lot of our kids, they can come out here and it’s less threatening, it’s less intimidating and they open up in ways they never thought they could before.”

Taylor Bazen, a freshman in college, is a testament to the lasting impact of The Barn. She met director Kat Welton about six years ago when The Barn was still a dream and horses were transported via trailer to different properties for therapy.

The Barn for Equine Learning
Undated courtesy photos from The Barn for Equine Learning.

In 2014, Welton and her husband B.J. built The Barn with the help of family and friends. The next year, the project it gained 501(c)(3) status and Welton and co-director Shana McGovern continued their passion of offering equine therapy on a much larger scale.

After benefiting from the therapy, Bazen went on to create a youth committee for The Barn. A group of eight girls and young women volunteered to help keep the facility clean while strengthening their bond with the horses.

The Barn for Equine Learning
Undated courtesy photos from The Barn for Equine Learning.

“Coming to the barn changed me from what could I get out of it to what can I put back into it and making a difference in these people’s lives has meant the world to me. It’s what I would say is my greatest accomplishment yet,” Bazen told 24 Hour News 8. “We have a saying around the barn, ‘Be brave,’ and so we are just trying to put our head down and work and rebuild this haven.”

The Weltons say the outpouring of support and rewarding memories they share at The Barn will help them on their journey to rebuild.

“From people we don’t know and people that we’ve worked with, it just means so much. It’s going to give us the courage and strength to continue on,” Kat Welton said.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help The Barn rebuild.

The Barn for Enquine Learning, located at 3203 Timpson Avenue SE in Lowell Township, after a fire on Saturday, April 8, 2017.

Investigators are calling the fire, which broke out early Saturday, suspicious and a criminal investigation is underway. Welton said the barn was somehow locked from the inside.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.