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Across The Country

Domestic Abuse Awareness Rides Into Jamestown

Brittney Geise, Jacquelyn Sasso, Caylee Shelters, Abby Whisner and Crystal Duffy of the Salvation Army pictured with Meredith Cherry and Apollo the horse. Cherry has traveled through 29 states so far, spreading domestic abuse awareness. P-J photos by Carly Gould

“Domestic violence has always been a personal issue for me,” said Meredith Cherry, who has been on a three-year pilgrimage across the country with her horse Apollo.

Since 2017, Cherry and Apollo have traveled over 7,500 miles and across 29 states, spreading awareness of domestic abuse. The pair started in California and came through Jamestown on Thursday, a day ahead of schedule, where they visited the Salvation Army.

“We are so excited to have her,” said Jacquelyn Sasso, prevention educator coordinator for the Salvation Army. “What she does to help domestic violence awareness is amazing.”

Cherry herself has experienced domestic violence. Now, Cherry stops at different domestic violence shelters, women’s shelters, schools and community centers, sharing her stories about domestic abuse, and receiving stories in return. She and Apollo then take those new stories to the next town.

“Horses have always been a passion of mine,” Cherry said, “so it made sense to me to travel by horse and see the country.”

Cherry makes sure to take pictures every day of the places she’s visited, chronicling her journey through Facebook, Instagram and her blog, centauride.org. She and Apollo have stayed with countless strangers, some offering her a place to stay in advance.

They’ve had their ups and downs on their journey, including rain, snow and foggy weather, but the two of them keep soldiering on.

The pair’s journey will end in 2020, once they’ve traveled across all 48 states.

Cherry knows that she and Apollo are up to the challenge. She talked about how amazing her journey has been and the sights they have seen along the way.

“We’ve managed to spread so much awareness,” Cherry said. “I hope people will continue to support us.”

Apollo, an 11 year old mustang-Peruvian Paso palomino mix, has been with Cherry for six years now, and the two are inseparable. Cherry said that she couldn’t do it without him.

“I’ve been riding horses for 20 years and have a bachelor’s in Equine Science from Colorado State University,” Cherry said. “Apollo is the first horse I’ve owned. I was raised as a city girl and moved to the country as soon as I could.”

Many people made sure to visit Cherry and Apollo when they arrived in town, and many more stopped to watch as they continued along Main Street. The Salvation Army made sure to offer their own stories to add to Cherry’s collection, and many agree that she’s making a difference.

“One in four women and one in nine men are victims of domestic abuse,” Sasso said. “We want them to know that there are places out there where they can get help and they will be heard.”

From Jamestown, Cherry traveled to Gerry to spend the night at the Heritage Homestead Stables. There she met Heritage employee April Johnson whose daughter, Shari Robbins, lost her life to domestic violence in 2016.

Heritage officials said they were proud to host Cherry.

“Domestic violence is a systemic problem that impacts many individuals in our community,” said David Smeltzer, Heritage president and CEO. “As one of the largest employers in Chautauqua County, we know that at any given time we might have employees living in an abusive situation. Of course this issue hit home when one of our own employees was killed by her estranged husband just a few years ago.”

“Since then, we have made it our mission to educate all of our staff about the warning signs of domestic abuse situations, and we have established policies which provide very tangible support for any of our staff members who find themselves in these situations. We are grateful for the efforts being made by Meredith Chery and her horse Apollo to shed more light on the realities of domestic violence. We consider it an honor to have boarded her horse and provided her with housing and meals as she seeks to accomplish her goal of riding through all 48 contiguous states.”

Along with the websites, Cherry also has a Twitter account, and an email, MsMeredithCherry@gmail.com. Apollo also has his own email account at LetterToApollo@gmail.com. Cherry’s blog includes stories from the places she’s been so far and the route she’s taking, along with information about domestic abuse and what can be done to help.

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