TherAplay client’s legacy to ‘live on’ through shed donated in her memory


Ava Tolliver always looked forward to her weekly trip to Children’s TherAplay.

She started visiting the Carmel barn as a toddler for hippotherapy services, which uses horseback riding as therapeutic treatment. Unable to crawl or sit unassisted when she began the sessions, by the time of her last visit approximately five years later she had learned to do those things and more, helping her reach new levels of independence.

To honor Ava, who died in August 2021 at age 7, Children’s TherAplay held a ceremony May 5 between rain showers to dedicate its new outdoor shed in her memory.

“Ava was the world to me, so it means a lot,” said her mother, Danyelle Barker. “Her legacy will be able to live on.”

Family members and guests at the ceremony described Ava as a hard worker, big spirited and someone who had never met a stranger.

“I was very blessed to get to know Ava and her parents during her time here,” Children’s TherAplay Executive Director Kathy Pelletier said during the ceremony. “I loved Ava’s spicy spirit. She always had an opinion, and she was not afraid to use it.”

Because of the addition of the shed, Children’s TherAplay can open space in its barn to add a horse, as one of its stalls was previously used for storage.

“We need as much horsepower as we can provide to serve these kids,” said Teresa Keathley, a therapist who worked with Ava during much of her time at TherAplay.

Funds for the shed were provided by GEICO, an insurance company that employs Barker.

“GEICO’s Indianapolis office greatly thanks TherAplay for the amazingly beneficial work they do in our community, and we thank Danyelle for being an inspiration to our offices,” stated Emily Shakin, a manager at GEICO’s Carmel campus.

Barker, an Indianapolis resident, said she is appreciative of TherAplay’s efforts to remember her daughter.

“Now, Ava’s story will still live on at her favorite place,” she said.