Gentle Carousel, Florida Nonprofit, Brought Mini Horse Therapy to Sandy Hook Survivors
|The Ridge Equestrian Center|
|Catherine riding Peanut. (How can anyone look at this picture and still believe that guns are good?)|
Gentle Carousel is a Florida-based nonprofit organization that brings miniature therapy horses to visit and cheer up people in need -- such as elderly people in hospices or nursing homes or kids sick with cancer or other terminal illnesses or at-risk kids who need a little incentive to learn how to read. As far as owner Debbie Garcia-Bengochea knows, there's no other similar organization operating at a scope like this -- with 32 horses, that runs 100 percent on a volunteer basis, that never turns down a request, and that serves 18,000 people a year.
Two days ago, Garcia-Bengochean and her team returned from the horses' first trip to see snow -- in Newtown, Connecticut.
Typically, the animals don't leave the state. They would need special trailers, accommodations, and stables. Fundraising began. Adults and children from all over the world sent money to help cover expenses for the trip. "One girl sent a dollar. She said, 'I'm sending you my whole allowance!'" Garcia-Bengochea says.
In Newtown, the team visited a gymnasium, where all the survivors from Sandy Hook families were invited. Garcia-Bengochea says she was amazed that 600 people showed up.
Kids were allowed to talk to and pet the animals. Even if temporary, there was happiness in a place where happiness has been way too scarce. But it was also heartbreaking.
At one moment, Garcia-Bengochea says, the kids were asked, "Do you want to hear a story?" And a girl asked, "Does anyone die in it?"
One of the families had lost a little girl with a full head of red hair and blue eyes and freckles on her nose. Catherine Hubbard. A little girl who loved to ride horses.