Jefferson Award Winner: Barb Knopf - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Jefferson Award Winner: Barb Knopf

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LA VALLE (WKOW) -- Barb Knopf spends her days at September Farms.

15 years ago she began the Luvs Morgan Horse Rescue in La Valle.

Since then, she's saved more than 350 horses from being euthanized and placed them in good homes.

But two years ago her mission grew.

Her son, Edward, a Marine Corps veteran like Barb, returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He encouraged her to start the nonprofit, Veterans Equine Trail Services, or V.E.T.S, to help others cope with the affects of war.

"These guys and gals have laid it all on the line and said whatever the cost for our freedom, so we owe it to them," says Barb.

The farm's open every day to veterans to train, ride and care for the horses.

"I love grooming them, I love being around them and I'm looking forward to a future with them. It's gonna be awesome," says Marine Corps veteran Toby Egoecks.

"After they've been here a while they lift their head up and they've got a smile on their face," says Army vet and farm volunteer James Miller.

It's a smile that comes from the relationships they build with the horses, and each other.

Barb says, "Sometimes we're the stop group. 'Hey, you're having a bad day? I know someone in Tomah or Madison who can help you through this. I'll go with you."

It's not only the vets Barb is helping.

She's also part of a program to help teens of all ages, whether they're troubled youth or suffering from a physical ailment.

It's called Inner City Slickers, and in that program the vets become the mentors.

"We ride, we have a bucking barrel set up for the kids. We learn to rope."

The vets work right alongside them.

"If I can help one mother's daughter, one mother's son, one neighbor, one nephew, someone who's put their life on the line for our freedoms, and help keep them from having one bad day, one bad month or thinking about committing suicide or returning back to their family with an open line of communication, I don't care if I eat beanie weenies for the rest of my life."

That's what makes Barb Knopf our Jefferson Award Winner for September.

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