Tag Archives: Isabella

Bella’s Camp Story | Camp Hebron

Below is an article that was published on Camp Hebron’s Website in November 2015.  This describes more of Bella’s experience at camp and Meadowview Stables.

Source: Bella’s Camp Story | Camp Hebron

Isabella McCleaf does not remember much of her first experience at Camp Hebron. Isabella, better known as “Bella,” was just two years old in 2005 when her family attended a summer Family Camp. Her parents believe that she enjoyed her time at camp and received her fair share of attention and care from her camp counselors. During this camp, her family connected with the leaders of Camp Hebron’s horsemanship program, Dean and Susan Berger.

Prior to attending Family Camp, Bella’s family had been planning to sell their house in Carlisle. After attending Camp Hebron, however, they became attracted to the peaceful rural setting of the Halifax community. They immediately sold their house and within two months Bella’s family relocated to the Halifax area.

Fast-forwarding a few years, Bella developed a strong love of and interest in horses, mainly through reading books. This interest developed into a desire to take horseback riding lessons. Her parents remembered Camp Hebron and the Bergers, and Bella began taking riding lessons in 2013.

Bella cherishes every moment that she has to ride on and be with the horses. After asking Susan if she could help out around Meadowview Stables, Bella began volunteering in 2014, helping out a few hours during the week after her schoolwork is completed. Her tasks include feeding and grooming the horses and cleaning stalls. Volunteering has also enabled Bella to spend more time with the horses and with Dean and Susan.

During the summer of 2015, Bella participated in the week-long Wrangler-in-Training (WIT) camp. At “WIT Week” she began developing the skills that she will need to eventually become a wrangler. Her biggest challenge during the camp was preparing and performing her “demo,” where she instructs riders on the proper care and use of the horses and equipment. After successfully completing this week of training, Bella officially became a WIT, which enabled her to have more responsibilities such as leading trail rides and helping with mounting and dismounting of riders. After WIT camp, Bella volunteered during several of the other summer camps, including Saddle Straddle II and Colts and Fillies.

Bella’s experiences at camp and the stables have helped improve her confidence and public speaking skills. Being around the horses and camp has been healing therapy for her, too, especially after suffering the sudden tragic loss of her older brother Isaac in 2011.  She is able to connect with God, nature, and other people, including Camp Hebron staff, through her experiences and through the peaceful, majestic quality of the horses.

After seeing the positive influence that camp has had on Bella, her family has become involved in supporting the horsemanship program and participating in other camp activities. Recently, Bella and her mom attended the mother-daughter slumber party weekend at Camp Hebron.  They experienced a peaceful time connecting with each other and other women. They were encouraged in their walk as ladies in Christ and to speak words of life to others. It was a beautiful time of fellowship without the daily life distractions, and a blessing to both Bella and her mom.

Bella is looking forward to continuing to participate in the horsemanship program and other activities at Camp Hebron. She will continue to volunteer at the stables and help with the Yellow Breeches program. Through these activities, Bella will share with other children the peace and healing that she has experienced through one of God’s amazing creatures: horses.

These are some of the great things that happen at Camp Hebron. You can make a tremendous impact for campers like Bella by making a donation today.

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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Family Updates


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Our “Caped Crusader”

We are excited to share some good news with you about our oldest daughter!  Thanks to a nomination from Camp Hebron, Isabella (who goes by Bella) was recently recognized as the “Caped Crusader” in March’s Central Penn Parent publication.  The article below is reposted from Halifax teen uses horses to help others | Central Penn Parent.  Congratulations Bella and thank you Camp Hebron!  To God be the glory…

Halifax teen uses horses to help others

March 16, 2016

Bella McCleaf has always loved horses.

She first grew to love the animal by reading about them in books. From there, she eventually took riding lessons.

Today, the 13-year-old’s work with horses has turned into much more. Bella now volunteers at Camp Hebron in Halifax, helping take care of the horses that aided her through her tough time.

In fact, Bella volunteers at least five times more than anyone else there, according to the camp.

“Her dedication and drive are beyond her years,” said Tammy Briggs, communications director at Camp Hebron. “She’s got great leadership qualities already at a younger age.”

Perhaps the biggest mark Bella has made at Camp Hebron has been left through the camp’s Yellow Breeches program. As part of a joint effort with the Yellow Breeches Educational Center, Camp Hebron has helped special needs and at-risk youth with hands-on learning through its horsemanship program, and Bella has worked closely with some of those children involved.

“There are just so many stories you hear during Yellow Breaches with all these kids coming from so many different backgrounds and lives,” Bella said. “Some of them are really sad, so it’s great to help them out.”

Bella began taking riding lessons at Camp Hebron in 2013. At the time, her older brother had just passed away and she just wanted to take part in something that could help ease her mind.

While the lessons were difficult at first, she said she loved it from the start as it proved to be a great healing mechanism.

“It was a lot to get used to because the only time I had been on a horse was for a pony ride, so it was a lot different being in control of my own horse,” said Bella, daughter of Andrew and Brenda McCleaf.

After about a year of learning to ride, Bella decided that she couldn’t get enough of the horses through just lessons. She first approached Susan Berger, the leader of Camp Hebron’s horsemanship program, about volunteering.

Her volunteer work started as a few hours a week, feeding and grooming the horses and cleaning the stalls after her daily home-school sessions.

It didn’t take long for her role to expand.

It was during her first summer helping at Camp Hebron that Bella was first introduced to the Wrangler-in-Training program. Too young to partake in the program, Bella helped out behind the scenes, ensuring the program ran smoothly for all the WITs at work. Her efforts were noticed and a year later, Bella was a WIT herself.

“That first year, everyone just assumed I would be joining the program next year,” Bella said. “So when WIT week rolled around this year, we got a text asking if I was in. I said, ‘Of course.’”

Through the WIT training, Bella learned all the skills to one day become a horse wrangler. She was also able to develop more responsibilities at camp, which included leading trail rides and helping with the mounting and dismounting of riders.

Bella took advantage of the situation by volunteering even more, helping out with several summer camps, in addition to the Yellow Breeches program.

For now, Bella plans to continue volunteering with Camp Hebron and taking lessons with her favorite horse, Benjie. She hopes to one day work with horses as a career.

“They’re just awesome,” Bella said about the horses she works with every day. “They’re just great at helping you heal.”

Christopher Hopkins is assistant editor/web of Central Penn Parent.


Posted by on March 25, 2016 in Family Updates


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Apple Pie, Baseball, and… Mexico?

Last Friday evening, we decided to travel to Mexico – which meant we had Mexican food for dinner and watched a Mexican-themed movie (more on that later).  For our Mexican-themed dinner, we ate taco salad.

For dessert, Isabella decided to make an apple pie from a recipe she found in her Nature Friend magazine.  This recipe included mixing sour cream with the sliced apples and a crumb topping.

The crust is ready.  Now time to slice the apples.

The crust is ready. Now time to slice the apples.

Slicing the apples.

Slicing the apples.


The apples are sliced.  We are getting closer to baking time!

The apples are sliced. We are getting closer to baking time!

Now time to make the topping.

Now time to make the topping.

The finished product, ready to slice and eat with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

The finished product, ready to slice and eat with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!

The apple pie tasted very good, especially with a side scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.  Look out Aunt Ann, you have some competition. 🙂

Obviously, apple pie is an American staple.  So how does this fit into our Mexican theme for the evening?  Well, we decided to tie the two together by watching a movie about a Little League® Mexican baseball team, thus making it a “Mex-American” themed evening.

The Perfect Game is a movie based on the true story of the 1957 Monterrey, Mexico Little League® baseball team.  The team was composed of a group of boys who believed, with child-like faith, that God wanted them to play baseball.  One of the boys recruited the coaching services of a down-and-out former clubhouse attendant for the St. Louis Cardinals.  The team overcame several obstacles, with some apparently Divine help, to become the first team from outside the United States to win the Little League® World Series in Williamsport, PA.

3_800x600This inspirational movie portrays the classic underdog story.  It deals with the themes of racial and sexual discrimination in a way suitable for young children to view.  The movie also touches upon the difficulties of dealing with the death of a child, as portrayed by an angry and alcoholic father (a few intense scenes) and a broken-hearted mother and brother.  We recommend this family friendly movie for inspiration, enjoyment, and a real-life example of child-like faith.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. (Luk 18:16-17)


Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Family Updates


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The Void

Last night I was looking at some pictures on our computer and also watched the two videos that I had compiled from photos of Isaac.  It has been several months since I’ve strolled through those memories.  As I reopened my memory closet, I was reminded of how much I really miss our son.

Isaac left quite an impression wherever he went.  The boy could be loud and he really enjoyed a hearty laugh.  If there was fun involved, Isaac wanted to participate.  He was also a leader – he liked to take charge of a situation.  I remember how determined he was to rescue Patches the cat out of a tree for his sister, Isabella.  Because Isaac left such an impression on our lives, a very large void remains after his departure.  As I was telling someone recently, it feels like there is a hole in the middle of our family.  Though God has helped us tremendously to feel as one when we’re together, I still feel incomplete.  I don’t know if I will ever feel complete as a family this side of Heaven.

I anxiously anticipate the day to be reunited with Isaac in Heaven.  I don’t know what the nature of our relationship will be, but I imagine it will be even more glorious than what it was here on earth.  After all, we will be in the presence of God the Father and God the Son!  Jesus said:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. (John 14:1-4)

I believe that Isaac is seeing that place that Jesus is preparing or has prepared for us.  Being the leader that he is, I imagine that he will want to give us a guided tour himself.

Knowing that I have an eternal destiny waiting for me in Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, this time here serves to prepare me for that destiny and perfect my faith.  What I do here and now will determine what rewards I receive in Heaven (note that salvation is not a reward, it is a free gift to those who believe in the Son).  Even so, I walk this earthly journey sensing that a great void is always with me.  Yet, even with this void caused by the departure of my son, I cling to my God for:

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. (Psa 147:3)

I leave you today with this quote from A. W. Tozer that has graced my eyes on several occasions recently:  “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”

Tozer also writes:

The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined.

(Tozer, A. W.  The Root of the Righteous.  As quoted on:, accessed February 7, 2013.)

Have you been hurt deeply in your life?  Has that hurt left a void in your heart?  Do you blame God for what happened?  Do you blame Him because He is sovereign and, even though He may not have caused the hurt, He didn’t prevent it?  Whatever the hurt or the void, He alone can permanently and completely heal and fill them.  He has greater purposes for them than we can ever imagine, if we would just have faith.  Sometimes I just need to remind myself of these truths – that is one of my purposes for writing.


Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional


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Another Reason to Celebrate

As we turn the page to a new year, we also turn the page on another birthday celebration.  Today, at 12:05 AM, Ms. Isabella Faith turned ten years old!

Happy birthday my dear daughter.  I am so pleased with you.  You have shown tremendous maturity for someone your age, especially with the testing and heartache that you’ve endured.  Your faith is an inspiration to me.  I was so blessed this last year to stand beside you when you were baptized and publicly declared your faith in Jesus Christ.  May God bless you and guide you this coming year as you seek His face.

Love always,


Isabella with Dad (left) and Pastor (right) coming up out of the water after her baptism

Isabella with Dad (left) and Pastor (right) coming up out of the water after her baptism

Isabella (center) with Mom (right) and kindred spirit, Leigha (left)

"Belle" at one year and with one tooth

“Belle” at one year and with one tooth


Sibling fun from Spring 2012

Best buddies Isabella and Isaac - January 2010

Best buddies Isabella and Isaac – January 2010


Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Family Updates


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Happy Birthday Isabella!

Nine years ago – on January 1, 2003 at 12:05 AM – our first daughter was born into this world.  Just hours earlier we were planning to spend New Year’s Eve with our friends (sorry sweetie that you didn’t taste that first lobster :-)).  But, things started happening and we hurried to the hospital as friends came over to stay with Isaac until my parents arrived.  I still remember the fireworks going off in the background as Isabella made her grand entrance.  The nurses were yelling down the hallway “oh-five, oh-five” (meaning 12:05 AM) as they called the other local hospitals.  Yes, she was the first baby born in 2003 in the greater Harrisburg, PA area!  New Year’s Day was a whirlwind of media coverage.  Yet, Isabella slept through almost all of it!  Then, we rushed home on January 2 to beat a significant snowstorm that had arrived in the area.

Picture from local newspaper (Isaac was very tired)

Isabella – Your have matured into such a beautiful, strong and sweet young girl.  Your faith and simple trust that you’ve shown over this past year have inspired your mom and me.  You are a good big sister to David and Gracia and a great helper to both mom and me.  You have spunk and determination like Laura Ingalls and imagination, optimism, stubbornness and exuberance like Anne Shirley (“If you only knew the things I want to say and don’t!”).  Most of all, you have a heart to love and trust God, even when you don’t feel like doing the right thing :-).  I know you long to see your brother Isaac again.  Hold on to those special memories you have in your heart and remember the special reassurance that God has given you.  You are enduring this trial as well as any young girl could as far as I’m concerned.  May God bless you and lead you over this coming year.  Love always, Dad.

Happy 9th birthday Isabella!

"Belle" at one year

January 2011 - Celebrating #8 with her brothers

12/31/2011 - An early birthday treat!


Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Family Updates



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