Carousel Ranch holds annual Heart of the West fundraiser for children’s therapy program

For Tiffany Chairez, right, riding horses is a dream come true. A fan of shows and cinema featuring horses, from "Mr. Ed" to "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," she stands by her horse Annabelle after taking part in the demonstration at Heart of the West. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

Several hundred guests attended the 22nd annual Heart of the West fundraiser at Carousel Ranch on Saturday evening.

The sold-out event featured dinner catered by Salt Creek Grille, live and silent auctions, other chances to win prizes and horse-riding demonstrations from children at the ranch. Each child in the demonstration was given a blue ribbon for their rides before an audience.

Children involved with the demonstrations included Christopher Ochoa, Luc King, Andrew and David Thompson and Tiffany Chairez.

“He is happy and he loves the ranch, he loves coming every week,” said Ashley King, whose son Luc was one of the young riders. “He even wants to clean up horse poop. That’s how much fun he just has.”

From “Star Wars” toys, bottles of wine and artwork featuring western actor John Wayne, those at Heart of the West had the chance to take part in a silent auction. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

Carousel Ranch offers therapy sessions and vocational training for children with special needs. Luc has an uncommon neuromuscular movement disorder, causing him to fall frequently and have motor weaknesses, King said. After speaking with Denise Richmond, executive director of Carousel Ranch, King decided to put her son on the waitlist until he started riding in January.

“The other therapies we’ve done with him, we don’t seem to get as much out of it not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally for him, where this kind of works, the whole circuit,” she said.

This year, Carouses Ranch gave its Heroes of Hope award to the Crawford family for their dedication and support for over a decade. Guests could walk by booths, sign in their names for the silent auction and win prizes through sponsor and presenter Princess Cruises Community Foundation.

A major resource to directly help Carousel Ranch was through its “general store.”

“At the general store, we’re giving people to sponsor a horse, to sponsor things that the horses need like buy a bag of carrots for $20 or other things they need, like shots or fly spray, all these kinds of things,” said volunteer Jason Hendrickson. “Or the best option, I think, is to sponsor the kids themselves and help out families. It can be an expensive program and so it’s really a good opportunity to help families who can use it.”

Auctioneer Mark Drilling rang through item after item for guests to choose from, including baseball tickets, antique firearms, Elton John concert tickets and puppies for sale. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

Not only does the community help out with the children and horses but also toward Ready to Work!, a transitional program which gives younger adults a chance to be prepared for the workplace and have the support they need for success, Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson smiled at people’s generosity toward the event and its cause.

“There are people that come to this thing year after year after year because they just really believe in the program,” Hendrickson said. “They come out and have a really great night, have some great food and be with friends and just enjoy different entertainment and things that they’ve got later on tonight.”

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