ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Rockford Park District will soon start construction on a groundbreaking project.

The hope is to connect young people with horses. The Blazer Foundation presented the park district with a $500,000 check to get the indoor equine project up and running.

It is all in an effort to give children struggling a place to belong.

“This gift says that anyone who walks or rolls through those doors will have the opportunity to find refuge, peace, safety, hope,” one person said.

A multi-million-dollar indoor equestrian facility is coming to Rockford’s Lockwood Park. The goal is to give kids and opportunity to be themselves and work through any mental hardships that they might be facing.

“Our young adults, our youth, are under a different kind of stress than we’ve ever seen before,” said Kevin Polky, founder and executive director of KP Counseling. “You know, one aspect of it is coming out of the pandemic and how that impacted them academically and then affected their confidence, and then also from a social emotional standpoint.”

“So, that we’re not doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” added Lori Berkes-Nelson, director of the Rockford Park District. “We have to try something different. This is different. The power of the force will bring hope and healing to the kids in this community. I can’t, we can’t build it fast enough, as far as I’m concerned.”

The indoor equine center will cost more than $7 million. The Blazer Foundation, longtime partner of the park district, contributed $500,000 on Tuesday, putting the project over the finish line.

The foundation’s mission is to help people, and kids, that are dealing with disabilities enjoy life.

“So, we established a fund to support many of the therapeutic rec projects at the park district, and along the way got to know the park district even better, and are confident in how they can do a project and build collaborations,” said Jim Keeling, chairman of the Blazer Foundation.

“So, it will provide equine-assisted activities and learning in equine-assisted psychotherapy in partnership with a number of counseling groups in town,” Berkes-Nelson added.

Construction is expected to begin before summer, and hopes are to complete it by the end of the year.

More information on the center can be found on the Rockford Park District’s website.