Leaving law for kids with special needs

Jefferson Award-winner Jackie Sloan
LOS ANGELES Jackie Sloan is a lawyer. Her husband, Ben, is a composer. When the two met 20 years ago, they never dreamed they'd one day be feeding chickens and tending to a ranch.

"We met back in college and have been through various incarnations," said Ben. "She might not have told you, but she's also a singer."

This singer, lawyer and mother of two is now a rancher in Atwater village, a tiny equestrian area between Glendale and Los Feliz. It's there that Jackie began a new chapter in her life, opening "The Children's Ranch" to help children with special needs. The inspiration comes from her daughter Addie, who as a baby was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy.

Addie, now 12, is thriving. For much of her young life, she was unable to communicate. But through animals - especially horses - she's had a breakthrough.

"I think she has an incredible sense of self-worth. She has made so much progress in that area," said Jackie.

Jackie devotes countless hours and energy to The Children's Ranch, offering kids of all income levels the opportunity to have a unique form of therapy.

"The idea is that the ranch is really a part of your life," explains Jackie. "We have kids who come multiple times a week, we encourage the whole family to come and hang out together. We have a psychotherapist on our staff, on our team, so we welcome you to come and let it all hang out."

Her ranch has been a godsend for Devon Gonzalez, whose 5-year-old special needs daughter, Katherine, is making remarkable progress through horseback riding.

"I've known Jackie for quite a while, and she's just perfect," said Devon. "She's got a wonderful personality, and she's so full of life and she cares so much about the kids and that really makes me feel good. It's important."

Jackie says she is touched to have been nominated by her husband.

"I just felt so happy that he was so proud," said Jackie. "That's probably what meant most about winning this award, just imagining him writing in the ward -- that was really touching."

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