LOCKPORT, Ill. (WLS) -- A ranch in Lockport was dedicated to a former ABC 7 Chicago producer on Saturday.
Anne Swaney, ABC 7 Chicago's executive producer of online operations, was found dead at 39 while on a horseback riding trip in Belize in January 2016.
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Swaney's biggest passion was horses. She so strongly believed in the gentle giants' healing power that her best friend, Sandi Moleski, decided not just to begin a foundation in her honor but to build the Legacy Ranch, a therapeutic facility where children and adults with special needs can come and receive horse-assisted therapy.
"Anne was a huge believer in the therapeutic power of horses. She found her therapy with horses in her childhood as well as in her adulthood. She had goals in retirement to work at a therapeutic facility like this one and so we made it happen for her, in her name, because this place embodies her spirit," Moleski said.
The ranch opened earlier this year but was not formally dedicated until Saturday, what would have been Swaney's 43rd birthday. They offer everything from occupational therapy to physical therapy and therapeutic riding.
Emily Tichacek, who is on the autism spectrum, was the ranch's very first client. The 13-year-old has trouble relating to others but has found the ranch to be a safe place.
"Horses are just big, giant teddy bears and they just calm me down when I'm stressed, when school is hard, when girls are rude and when I need to get away from that," she said. "They're just my everything and I want to do that for the rest of my life."
Emily's mom Kelly said the ranch has been "wonderful" for her daughter.
"It's just been something that makes her feel like she fits in a world that's cruel," she said.
The dedication Saturday also served as a fundraiser for the Anne Elizabeth McComb Swaney Foundation, which provides financial assistance for those wanting to come to the ranch for therapy.
Anne Swaney's legacy honored with therapeutic facility at Lockport ranch
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