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Coaching with HEART & SOUL


Welcome to the 1st post of our new blog at SOUL Harbour Ranch! While you might know me as the Founder and President of the SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program, I am also a Nurse Coach. What does that mean and how does that pertain to what we do at SOUL Harbour Ranch, where it's all about SOUL: Sharing of Unconditional Love? Keep reading!

As a registered nurse for 35+ years, I am inherently a person of compassion, gratitude, appreciation, empathy and love. I LOVE helping people! Being a nurse, an animal lover, a mother and a wife has given me so many life skills. I am so grateful for the loving family I grew up in, as well as my loving family of my husband, my 3 sons, wives/girlfriends, and now grandson! The unconditional love within our family is something that I am so appreciative of and grateful for.

A bit more about me before I get to the coaching part: I grew up in Arlington Hts IL and went to Wheeling High School (go Wildcats!). I still have many wonderful childhood friends in my rare! I received my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing Degree from The University of Iowa (Go Hawkeyes!) and my Master's Degree in Business Administration from Northern Illinois University (go Huskies!). My love for learning never stops. Little did I know that when I pursued my MBA that the knowledge related to the business world would help me form not one but 2 nonprofits.

A bit about my work history: I started out working the night shift as a new nurse at Highland Park Hospital back the Spring of 1986. I still remember interviewing for the job that day, but mostly I remember listening to the radio on my way to the interview. The Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off, and then exploded. A day of sadness for so many, but of happiness for me as I was offered my first job. As a new nurse, I cried a lot after working this difficult med-surg floor. I wasn't sure that nursing was for me, especially after my first patient died (he was very sick). I changed jobs shortly after that and worked in a doctor's office downtown in Chicago. After several months, I realized that was not fulfilling either. I walked over to Northwestern Memorial Hospital on a lunch break and was hired. I was "home!" I spent 22+ years at Northwestern working in a variety of specialties, including otolaryngology (ENT) oncology and neurosurgery, but the majority of my nursing career at Northwestern was in maternal health. I worked as an OB nurse in Labor & Delivery (with fabulous MD and RN friends), directed the curriculum development of the birthing program "Great Expectations,"and taught CPR and baby classes. In 2006 I transferred to the Emergency Department to learn a new specialty (thank you Kasia Giza for being my mentor!). I was also teaching a "Healthcare Law & Ethics" course at William Rainey Harper Jr. College and was hoping to transition to legal nurse consulting at law firms.

In January 2009 I started my legal nurse consulting career and was hired into Clifford Law Offices and then Cogan & Power. In 2020 I started working at Kaveny + Kroll law firm in Chicago, which I LOVE! This small boutique firm seeks justice for those involved with medical malpractice or personal injury.

Now, onward to the NonProfit World...

I wanted to be a part of animal-assisted dog therapy for as long as I can remember, yet the childhood dog "Trigger" my kids grew up with was a biter. Since he was a rescue, we do not know his exact background but he was unpredictable. Obviously, not a good therapy dog but he was OUR dog, so we committed to him. Once Trigger was nearing the end of his life at age 12, we welcomed "Buffett in Paradise" (yes, I'm a Jimmy Buffett fan). He was a cream golden retriever, an absolute love and my first therapy animal (in 2020 he became one of our Angels). While I didn't know this yet, he was also the beginning of SOUL Harbour Ranch! We started obedience and therapy training and at 19 months old, we started as a therapy animal team at Northwest Community Hospital in 2010. Dudley followed the next year, and on February 1, 2012 was when our trio of mini therapy horses (Mystery, Turnabout and Lunar) arrived in my life!

2012 was a year of learning curves. I founded the nonprofit Mane in Heaven with my dream of having mini therapy horses visit others in need. I wrote every policy, bylaws, incorporated the nonprofit, developed the was a whirlwind getting it off the ground. The foundation of my vision was to ensure the highest level of therapy animal training and registering with Pet Partners, the gold standard in the therapy animal world. I wanted others to experience the love and joy of animal-assisted therapy, and since many don't have their own animals to do that with, I had the perfect option...use MY trained therapy animals! The weekends were filling with therapy training for the trio of mini therapy horses. They became registered therapy animals with Pet Partners, our volunteer numbers grew, our herd size grew, and we were helping people with out vision inspired so much love. Meanwhile, I was still LOVING visiting with Buffett and Dudley at Northwest Community Hospital (over 7000 hospital visits with both of them).

We met our friends and mentors, Carol & Gary Swinford from Shades of Blue Ranch. Our mini therapy horses LOVED being a part of the SOBR family. Jenella (sadly she is one of our Angels too), Charmer and CinderBella were added to the herd, as well as Faith and Grace. We were on numerous TV segments (even The Steve Harvey Show) and my goal of visiting at hospitals materialized! We partnered with Rush University Medical Center and our story was covered through Rush by the Associated Press. The story went internationally viral and I was soon fielding emails from other countries hoping to do what we were doing.

In 2016 Jerry and I moved to our home on a gorgeous and peace-filled 5 acre property in unincorporated Barrington, now SOUL Harbour Ranch. You can actually FEEL the peacefulness and healing power of our land. Nature has a way of seeping into your SOUL and filling you with harmony and serenity.

In 2017, the 4 mini donkeys arrived, SO fun! They are a funny and very bonded little herd. EVERYONE loves the donks!

Life changed in 2017. At the time it was very painful but when you step back, isn't it funny how life has a way of putting people on our path for a short while but then also making sure that they aren't in your life going forward, to allow more growth? It actually was the change for the future inspiration of the SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program with INCREDIBLE growth...exactly what I had imagined and hoped for from my initial vision at the end of 2011.

In January 2018, the HEART and SOUL of SOUL Harbour Ranch, the VERY best handlers that had been working with our mini therapy horses since 2013, joined together to become the 501c3 SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program. The very best people who believed in the professionalism of the foundation that was originally started in 2013 became the SOUL Family. Yes, we are Family. (So much so, that my cousin Susan Nastasi started SOUL Haven Ranch in Winter Garden Florida. She also introduced me to Kim Purnell of Adaptive Marketing Group, LLC, who redesigned our website and told me I HAD to write a blog!)

Fast forward to now..JUST WOW. Since January 2018, we now have 10 mini horses that are all registered through Pet Partners. Our 2 big horses Garth & Stitch share their tricks at every visit. Our 4 mini donkeys are "therapy donkeys" in every sense of the world...they make us laugh out loud, they are leaners, and their antics are hysterical...not to mention their VERY loud bray! We have welcomed new volunteers to work with our animals AND volunteers who have their own therapy dogs and yes, even a registered therapy cat. (I would really like a therapy pig but we'll save that for another blog). We offer numerous SOUL Programs helping numerous demographics. We host both off-site AND on-site visits. We've had such generosity through our SOUL Partners, with incredible donations and grants to sustain our program. Our community reach and impact has grown SO much more through our SOUL we understand why the journey took us through twists and was so that we could be exactly where we are today, doing SO much more, helping SO many more, loving it SO much more!

The SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program is proud to be the Barrington area’s most experienced and comprehensive animal therapy program. Our mission is to enrich lives by promoting the unconditional love and healing of the human-animal bond while advocating for animal therapy standards of excellence. When you see miniature therapy horses visiting in the Barrington and Chicagoland area, know that my dream and my vision of helping others through animal-assisted therapy with registered miniature therapy horses, therapy dogs, even a therapy all started through my HEART and SOUL.

Can you detect my enthusiasm and passion for our team of special people who help special animals help special people? There is nothing that inspires me more (other than my family) than watching the joy, love, laughter and smiles at every visit with our experienced and registered mini therapy horses, therapy dogs, therapy cat (and don't forget our sweet mini donkeys!) ...that is the true healing. As a nurse, it's what I do. I help others heal. It's a whole lot more fun when we get to help others heal through animals! Animals can do something for people that we can't do for one another. It truly is an animal's SOUL, that Sharing of Unconditional Love, that reaches us in our deepest core. For all of you animal lovers out there, you know what I'm talking about. It can't be explained in words but you FEEL the power of the human-animal bond.

So that brings me full circle...what is nurse coaching? Well, I have essentially used nurse coaching my entire life, helping others individually or in groups to improve their lives. Since 2010, I've helped others through animal-assisted therapy. Yes, I'm a nurse, and I am surrounded by amazing animals and amazing volunteers, but what would help me to best help others at SOUL Harbour Ranch, to communicate better, to listen better, to understand better?

In September of 2020 through May 2021, I became a member of the International Nurse Coach Association (INCA), the global leaders in nurse coach education. I took classes through their Integrative Nurse Coach Academy. From understanding nurse coaching theory, lifestyle change, transformative health practice, awareness practices...Nurse Coaches are at the forefront of of Healthcare Transformation! Today's busy lives often lead to burnout, distress, grief and suffering. How can we help you to focus on the positive, the "mindful moment," that moment where you go inward and focus on all of the good in this world? Is that hard to see? Let me help you, let our animals help you, let the peace and serenity of SOUL Harbour Ranch help you. (Don't you LOVE that we have a new SOUL Path around our property?)

My new coaching practice is called "Coaching with HEART & SOUL."

The SOUL part is easy to explain. For those of you that know me, you know I LOVE acronyms. We are ALL about SOUL: Sharing Of Unconditional Love at SOUL Harbour Ranch. We all know animals are great for our HEART and SOUL!

So what does HEART stand for in the nurse coaching world? As coaches, we listen with our heart to facilitate HEALING, ENERGY, AWARENESS, RESILIENCY and TRANSFORMATION. *More on HEART at the upcoming blogs!

Through this blog I hope to share experiences and healing methods, whether through our in-person SOUL Programs, our SOUL Path, our SOUL Virtual Programs (don't miss out on our weekly Facebook Friday Live at 5!) or simply through this blog.

To all of you, my husband Jerry, my family, our supporters, our incredible volunteers who make SOUL Harbour Ranch a true SOUL Family...thanks for taking this SOUL Journey with me!

With all of my HEART & SOUL,


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1 Comment

Kim Purnell
Kim Purnell
Oct 12, 2021

Nice and very impressive.😎

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