By Ukee Washington

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In partnership with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a non-profit in Chester County matches a child with a horse, a new friend who joins them in their journey, step by step.

Every week, 14-year-old Luke Birkhead gets a little better with Ben the horse.

“He’s very easy to tell him where to go, when to stop,” Luke said. “It gives me time to just forget about everything else in treatment.”

Yes, he said “in treatment.” Luke has been diagnosed with leukemia twice, first when he was 4, then again 3 years ago. He’s back on chemo.

His father, Tucker Birkhead, said, “The drugs kind of made him unable to do things he hadn’t done in the past and here was something that he really excelled at.”

The “something” is  Horse Power for Life. At a farm in Glenmoore, young cancer patients such as Ben get 16 weeks of horse lessons free.  Luke’s sister can ride for free too.

“And it’s their time, you know. They get my undivided attention and my volunteers’ undivided attention,” Smith said.

Horse Power for Life has helped 52 children ages 4 to 17 in five years.

Luke will be done with treatment in October, and he can carry these lessons with him.

“Yeah, I think he’s proud of himself,” Tucker Birkhead said.

Parents see the changes in their children. Her’s what one mother told instructor Becca Smith:  “She said this is wonderful because this is the first time that he has felt a sense of control.”

That’s a powerful gift from a horse to a child.

Horse Power for Life’s lessons are either low-cost or free, depending on ability to pay. They also offer lessons for adults fighting cancer.

If you’d like to help as a volunteer or know someone who could use this program, you can find out more at

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