Laurie Stober remembers the day her life changed forever. It was in March 1989, and she was working at the Cincinnati Zoo. She gingerly held a grape out to a polar bear, which grabbed her fingers, then her arm, eventually biting all the way through.
The event started a spiral of bad times—she lost her arm, there was a bitter lawsuit and settlement, there was a divorce. But in the midst of it all, there was also something else: a spiritual awakening. During her rehabilitation, she came to the realization that she couldn’t go on being angry about losing her arm. So, motivated by the spirituality she discovered during her recovery, she found herself enrolling at Xavier with a fresh attitude and a new goal: to earn master’s degrees in theology and education. She reached that goal in May. “I did my thesis on the idea that we can cope with life, but to transcend trauma there has to be a sense of one’s spirit or spirituality, that there’s something beyond our realm of reality,” she says.
Her new goal, she says, is to combine her love of animals with her new knowledge and help at-risk teenagers. In July, she took a step toward that goal by opening a business that brings foster children from a local service agency to the farm she shares with her 8-year-old son, Luke. The farm, just north of Cincinnati, is home to six horses that are used to help the troubled kids, all of whom need to learn the importance of caring for others. Some are able to ride, adding an element of control to their tangled lives. For some, experiencing the freedom of a farm and exposure to animals is therapy enough.
The name of the business: Full Circle. It refers as much to Stober’s goals for the kids as it does to her own recovery.