Carousel Ranch honors Crawford family contribution

Members of the Crawford family were honored with the naming of the Crawford Family Arena at Carousel Ranch this week. Carousel Ranch held its Heart of the West fundraiser Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, which raised more than $400,000.

Carousel Ranch, a nonprofit that offers a variety of services for special needs children, honored the members of a family who have made that work possible, during a special ceremony this week.

The Crawford family was honored during Carousel Ranch’s Heart of the West fundraiser over the weekend, which is the nonprofit’s biggest event of the year.

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

Because equine therapy is the foundational service for the ranch, naming the riding area the Crawford Family Arena, which took place Monday, is the highest honor Carousel Ranch could bestow.

“We were honoring (the Crawfords) as a family — so Wayne, Dianne, Jeanna, Kyle and Eric and Jackie Stroh,” said Denise Redmond, executive director of Carousel Ranch. “The whole family has been involved with us for over 16 years, and when we look at everything we are today and we realize none of it, not the work we’re doing, not the increased programming, not the beautiful home that we have, nothing that you see would be here without this family.”

Carousel Ranch is a nonprofit organization that provides therapeutic horseback riding for special needs children, improving the quality of their lives, according to the organization’s website. The ranch also offers programs such as Ready to Work!, which helps prepare young adults with special needs for life after high school.

Wayne Crawford, owner of Santa Clarita Concrete, recalled how he felt when he first saw the operation about 18 years ago, and how it made an impact on the lives of young people with special needs.  

“It’s just something that kind of gets to you, when you see what they do, the first time when you see one of the (horseback riding) demonstrations,” Wayne Crawford said, describing the equine therapy demonstrations that take place at the ranch and at Heart of the West. “It’s just kind of something that grabs you.”

The Crawfords are involved in a number of nonprofits, but Carousel Ranch holds a special place.

“I’ve kind of done whatever I could to help them become what they are today,” he said.   

Several hundred guests attended the annual Heart of the West fundraiser at Carousel Ranch on Saturday evening, an event started by another member of the Crawford family, Jeanna Crawford. Jeanna Crawford has been involved with the ranch for years, and has developed a very personal relationship with the nonprofit in part because of how the program has helped her 6-year-old son Caynen, who’s been riding at the ranch for three years.

Jeanna Crawford and her son Caynen

“Carousel Ranch truly always felt like God’s work to me,” Jeanna Crawford said. “From the moment I saw what they’re doing, I just wanted to be a part of it, and my contribution was Heart of the West.”

She never imagined she would have become a client through her son when she first started volunteering and supporting the organization more than 16 years ago, she said. “Now my son receives this tremendous form of therapy that you can get at no other place.”

The event brought in $400,000 for the organization, Crawford said, adding the event has raised about $4 million in total over the last 15 years.

“The cumulative effect of (the Crawfords’ giving) is what made Carousel Ranch what it is today,” Redmond said. “Every dream (Program Director) Becky Graham and I ever had, this family, I think, has made true.”

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.”

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 Redmond, King decided to put her son on the waitlist until he started riding in January.

Anthony Faggioli gives an equstrian demonstration at the 21st Annual Heart of the West Fundraiser at Carousel Ranch in Agua Dulce on Saturday, August 26, 2017. Chrsitian Monterrosa/ The Signal

“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,” she said, “where this kind of works the whole circuit.”

Guests could walk by booths, sign in their names for the silent auction and win prizes through sponsor and presenter Princess Cruises Community Foundation.

During the ceremony over the weekend, Carousel Ranch gave its Heroes of Hope award to the Crawford family for their dedication and support.

But Monday’s small, private ceremony really meant something, Wayne Crawford said.

“When we saw the sign, it’s pretty much a tear-jerker when you see that big arena, and you see that name on it,” he said. “It’s kind of humbling.”

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