staff, December 22, 2014

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During football and basketball games, BTN LiveBIG will spotlight notable examples of research, innovation and community service from around the conference. In-Game stories will provide more background on these features, and the opportunity to view the videos again.

It?s one of life?s harsh truths: The most innocent and vulnerable people are also among the most mistreated and neglected.

Fortunately, it?s also true that there are numerous individuals and organizations out there that offer support and show love for the downtrodden and defenseless. A shining example of this is University of Minnesota alumna Cece Terlouw, executive director of the Heartland Girls? Ranch, which helps young girls recover from severe physical and emotional abuse via intensive, hands-on experiences with horses.

Terlouw has been involved with the ranch, located in western Minnesota, since it started in 1992. But her devotion to charitable service dates back to her days as a Golden Gopher.

?I was one of the first Title IX recipients of a full track-and-field scholarship,? she said. ?And it was a wonderful thing to, as a woman, be able to compete at the University of Minnesota. That gave me a drive to help other women accomplish their dreams.?

After graduating from Minnesota in 1979 with a bachelor?s in therapeutic recreation, Terlouw immediately began pursuing a career that would help women overcome incredible obstacles.

?From there, I chose to work with female victims in an area that most people don?t want to talk about or think about: sexual exploitation,? she said. ?It?s a serious problem that ruins lives because it destroys the girls? sense of trust and sense of self.?

Terlouw acknowledged that exposure to horses might seem like an unusual way to reestablish young victims? trust and self-confidence, but it?s something she swears by.

[btn-post-package]?Horses are able to read people better than we are able to [read] ourselves,? she explained. ?They pick up on every emotion and feeling that a girl has and mirrors that back to them. The girls learn about themselves and become capable leaders of their horse. Our program helps our girls to discover who they are as an individual, and we use their strengths and abilities to help them build that back up and become full, whole people.?

Seeing those transformations take place at the ranch give Terlouw a great deal of personal satisfaction and pride.

?Working at the Heartland Girl?s Ranch is a powerful experience,? he said. ?There?s nothing greater than being able to work in their lives and see healing and restoration come about. That?s what gets me going every day.?

By Brian Summerfield