It was the year 2012 when the seed for this adventure was planted, in a hay field. It started with a simple phone call to the local Valley Feed Store. Deb and Jane gave Sam our number for his hay baling needs. (Here in the country, if you have a question about farming or animals, you might just call the feed store! Deb usually knows the answer, or knows someone who does.) During the course of what seemed to be an ordinary trip to view a hay meadow, my husband and I encountered an extraordinary man. Sam, the CEO of Runnin WJ Ranch in Texarkana, not only showed us a hay meadow that we could cut and bale, but he introduced us to the ranch and his passion. We talked about the kiddos, saw the ranch and the horses and felt Sam’s passion, first hand. I was instantly drawn to this amazing ministry. Sam told me right before we left, “You will do this someday”. I replied, “Absolutely not. I could never do anything like this”.
But the thought would not leave my mind for very long. I felt the Lord was leading me to use my 30 years of nursing (primarily pediatrics, specifically special needs) and my love of horses, to work for Him. I had helped with Handicapable Rodeos in the past and truly enjoyed the events. I would take my horse and help the kiddos with rides. It was the times that I held a little one, in my arms in the saddle, and let them ride around the arena, that convinced me to start Hooves and Halos. My heart would overflow with love for these special angels. Their smiles and giggles warmed my heart like no other experience in my life. They are fascinated with the feel of the horse moving across the arena with them on their back. Many of these children can’t walk, so, the horse walks for them. It is a thrill for the child that no wheelchair or any other mobile equipment can give them.
So, in the year 2014, I said yes to this adventure. We, the Hooves and Halos team, held our first event in the Spring. It was not a huge success, about 15 kiddos and 100 volunteers. Most of these people were from the church that we attended. I was so amazed at the incredible volunteers from the church and the community, and their willingness to try all this chaos again. We started planning for the Fall immediately, and have never looked back. I've found that once someone has been to an event, they either run or wouldn’t dare miss it!
Our adventure has grown and expanded to the point that we have moved from a small church arena to the Mt. Pleasant Civic Center Ag Pavilion, and now to the City Park and Rodeo Arena in Winnsboro, TX. We utilize almost every area of the park. During the event, you will see horses in the arena, hayrides over the entire park, dining in the Civic Center or at the picnic tables under one of the pavilions or tents, mini horse cart rides in the mini’s arena, games, face painting... and so much more. The City of Winnsboro has so graciously opened up the entire beautiful park for us to use!! (We had over 70 groups at one playday. I have no idea how many buses that was. But, that’s a lot of parking space!)
Everything that we do, everything that we give, everything that we are, is made possible by someone's generosity. We operate solely on donations of time, supplies, love, and money of course. We have no big corporate sponsors. We have Mamas and Grandmas that make cookies and deserts. Small churches donate most of the Bibles, books and DVD’s. Stuffed animals are collected all year long by precious volunteers from thrift shops, dollar stores and anywhere that they can find them. Most of the food is donated by businesses, individuals, and a few of the guest’s group homes. You see, it doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference. If you feel led to make some cookies or donate your time or resources, we appreciate all donations. We are a 501c3 non profit organization, public charity, so your donations are tax deductible. We have no paid employees. All donations go toward the Playdays, our guests, and what it takes to get this event organized.
Thank you for taking the time to read this adventure story. I do hope something in this has touched your heart and you come join us on this amazing ride.