The Cherry Fest will serve up a lot of help for local veterans this year

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Whitehouse (WTVG) - The Cherry Fest is one of the biggest celebrations of the summer season. It attracts thousands of people to Whitehouse. A number of charities have benefited from the community event through the years.
Kicking it all off this year is a special reception to provide much needed help to organizations that work with veterans.

You may wonder what horses have to do with Cherry Fest. Healing Of Our Veterans Equine Services or H.O.O.V.E.S. is a program that connects rescued horses with veterans who are battling PTSD, "The program provides 3-day workshops to help veterans. Horses are very intuitive. What they do is read the body language of the person in front of them and project back to the person what they are putting out. It's helpful because often times people do not realize what they are projecting. The horse gives us a safe platform to work through whatever our struggle may be."

Aggie Alt is the Cherry Fest planner, "The Cherry Fest is a wonderful community event. Last year we had about 10,000 people in attendance. It's great for the community, small businesses and non-profits."

Since 2009 the H.O.O.V.E.S. program has helped dozens of veterans and their family members through equine assisted learning. Amanda Held is the founder,"We get a lot of people who come in and say I'm afraid of horses.However, within minutes they are calm and relaxed."

Amanda serves in the Air National Guard and a longtime horse owner. The program allows her to combine her talents and her passion to help others, "In order to heal you have to get vulnerable. The horses provide a really safe space to allow people to be who they are, and that's critical when you talk about the healing process. Not only are the vets in this program finding the healing they've been searching for, but they have a purpose again. They now have a community and a support system."

Veterans Matter also provides a support system. Ken Leslie is the founder, "We started here in Toledo to help house 35 homeless veterans.We've now housed 2,100 vets in 18 states nationwide. One of the coolest things about The Cherry Fest is the partnerships. We can come together and build a community. Community has been proven to be one of the most important things when it comes to rebuilding your life. That's a mission we all have. "

Leslie says the Toledo-based program provides deposit money for housing and it's a national partnership with the US Department of Veterans Affairs, "If there's a vet in need, the VA lets us know and we send a check for the deposit directly to the landlord. Every dollar we deploy goes directly to getting the veteran housed, and it's through a long-term VA program that has a 91% success rate of keeping them housed."

If you're interested in helping H.O.O.V.E.S. or Veterans Matter during The Cherry Fest, there's a special reception on Thursday, June 7th.
It runs from 6-10 pm. You can buy tickets for $25 each or two for $40.
Your business or organization can also buy a display table for $250.
The money raised will be split between the two organizations.

We've posted links if you would like to learn more. 13abc is proud to be a sponsor of this year's Cherry Fest.