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Look what you did (the Hoe-Down results are in!)

Posted 7:53 PM by

Because of YOU we’re able to share these words which, for a small nonprofit organization, are downright thrilling (especially because we can now say them for the third year in a row!):

You helped create the most successful Children’s TherAplay Hoe-Down. Ever. 

Why does that matter?

Because instead of trying to come up with ways to pay our bills, we can keep focusing on what we do best: helping children grow stronger and more independent through equine-assisted physical and occupational therapies. That’s huge!

What does that mean for kiddos with special needs?

Find out from kiddo Joan and his family in this brief video. It’s 160 seconds of heart.

Event highlights and resultsNew Life Skills treatment area | Are you in the 2017 Hoe-Down photo gallery? | Hats off to our sponsors! | Why do we put so much time and effort into the Hoe-Down each year?

What did you help create?

  • 650+ guests kicked up their heels to Corey Cox, sipped fine craft bourbon, bid to win in the live and silent auctions, and attempted to wrangle that mechanical bull.

  • Nearly all of our therapy horses -- all except half the sponsorship for Padre, our resident comedian -- have been funded for the year. (Let us know if you'd like be part of his funding family, to the tune of $3,900. Padre would be delighted!)

  • By covering all the Hoe-Down expenses (for the second consecutive year!) Intercontinental Real Estate’s title sponsorship ensured that all funds raised through the Hoe-Down go directly towards programs and services for the kiddos. In other words, your donation goes even further!
  • And, because of you and your great big hearts, nearly three-fourths of the Life Skills treatment area , which will help the kiddos take even greater steps towards independence, has been funded. Want to help make this area a reality for the kiddos? Pitch in today. (Be sure to note that your contribution is for the Life Skills area!)

All told, you helped raise more than $325,000 in funds + so many generous in-kind contributions, all of which will go towards helping children with special needs reach for their goals and dreams. Thank you for the huge difference you're making for these kiddos and their families.

Ever wonder why we put so much time and energy into the Hoe-Down each year?

Because equine-assisted physical and occupational therapies can be truly life-changing, and these leading-edge treatments come with a significant price tag.

To be specific, each hour of treatment costs Children’s TherAplay $225 but the average health insurance reimbursement is only $92. Contributions through the Hoe-Down help cover nearly half of that annual per-treatment funding gap so, together, we can continue to help Central Indiana children with special needs grow stronger and more independent.

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Way to go Kiddo Nikko!

Posted 9:09 PM by
You might not realize it but play is hugely important for children. In fact, it’s their #1 occupation as well as how they understand their world; develop cognitive skills like vocabulary, colors, and counting; and learn to interact with peers. Fortunately, for kiddos who need help developing these skills, occupational therapy can make a world of difference.
Just look at how far kiddo Niko has come! When he first began receiving occupational therapy, his play skills were limited to banging and throwing. So, Miss Leah began to help Niko generalize those behaviors into functional skills. Together she and Nikko would “trot” toy horses by banging them along. Niko’s propensity to throw things was shaped into putting those same horses into their barn. Slowly Leah and Niko began transferring these skills into other multi-step play sequences like stacking blocks and working puzzles.
And now the child who only played by himself is beginning to engage in social play. Niko’s whole world is opening up. Keep up the great work you two. It only gets better from here. #KudosForKiddos
(Photo: During the clinic-based portion of Niko’s occupational therapy treatment Miss Leah uses the physio ball to provide proprioceptive and vestibular input, which helps improve Niko’s self-regulation and gets his brain organized for learning.)

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7 things you need to know before the Hoe-Down starts

Posted 4:10 PM by

Howdy pardner!

Are you ready to kick up your heels and have a good time Saturday night? Glad to hear it! These seven reminders will help make your evening that much better:

  1. The good times start at 7 p.m. this Saturday. Unless you’re a VIP ticketholder. In that case, come on over at 6 p.m. for the VIP pre-party. (No early birds, ya’ll. VIP admission starts at 5:50 p.m., general admission at 6:50 p.m.)
  2. It doesn’t matter if you walk, trot, or canter to College Park Church (2606 West 96th Street), but you gotta stop there first to catch the only allowable shuttle service on our grounds. Why's that? Because we’ve worked closely with those drivers to plan out the smoothest possible flow of traffic in and out of the event.
  3. When you arrive at the Hoe-Down, give the folks at registration the name of the person who purchased your tickets and you’ll get checked in in a jiffy.
  4. Don your favorite jeans or western wear but leave your high heels at home ‘cause they sink right into the arena footing. Accessibility concerns? Send us a message or call (317) 872-4166 and ask for Breinne.
  5. Bring your fully-charged smartphone for easy in-person bidding – you did know that the silent auction is online and live now, right? – or to score yourself some top-notch bourbon, among other things.
  6. Remember: Though we’re all about the kiddos, the Hoe-Down is just for folks ages 21 and up.
  7. This one goes without saying: Have yourself a mighty fine time, ya’ll. See you Saturday!

Dream trip previews | Silent auction sneak peek | Why do your Hoe-Down ticket and your support matter? | What do a sink, a kitchen, and a restroom have to do with therapy?

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The silent auction starts online NOW!

Posted 6:57 PM by

And we’re off! The silent auction for the September 23 Hoe-Down is online and live. Here are a few favorites that you can bid on right now!

Update: The auction has concluded and all related auction links have been removed. 

Silent auction tab
Bidding on these items ends Saturday, Sept. 23 at 9 p.m.

  • Item #113: Samsung Virtual Reality headgear with cinematic wide view and immersive 360-degree experience.
  • Item #129: One-week stay at a luxurious two-bedroom Beach House in Los Chonchos Eco Villiage, Mexico.
  • Item #174: Heirloom-quality portrait of your family by award-winning photographer Thomas Fallon.
  • Item #120: Four-hour ride-along with a Carmel Police Officer!

Ready, set, bid!

Instabuy tab
These items work a little differently. Marked at 20% off the standard price, these gift cards may be purchased immediately. Buy now because when they’re gone, they’re gone!

  • Item #527: A full-sized salad each month for 12 months at any Panera Bread – buy it now for $92
  • Item #525: A $100 gift certificate for Prime 47 in Carmel at Clay Terrace  – buy it now for $80
  • Item #704: Two passes (one adult, one youth) for the Children's Museum of Indianapolis  – buy it now for $34
  • Item #714: Two, one-hour jump passes at Sky Zone in Fishers – buy it now for $24

They're all online here.

Dream trips
While most silent auction items can be bid on in person at the event and online, these Dream Trips are available for bidding exclusively at Saturday’s Hoe-Down.

Take a look at what’s coming!

  • San Francisco Wine Country: Jet to the “City by the Bay” for an incredible escape to Northern California.  You'll explore the quaint streets of San Francisco and the rolling hills of the Napa Valley.
  • Alaska – The Call of the Wild: Sailing the Inside Passage, you’ll discover what life is like at the edge of our vast northern wilderness. 
  • Relax in Heavenly Hawaii: It will be swaying palm trees, cool cocktails, glistening turquoise waves lapping at the shore… all the finest for our auction winners! 

  • Italy’s Amalfi Coast: The tiny coastal towns of Amalfi, Positano and Ravello will entrance you with their spectacular views!  On the breathtaking Isle of Capri you will spend a glorious time drinking in the beauty and glamour of the island surrounded by the sparkling crystal clear blue Mediterranean! 
  • Castles of Ireland: Fields of clover, legends of leprechauns, quaint pubs where playing darts is “serious” business, and living like Kings and Queens … all this will be yours while you stay in grand Castles and elegant Manor Homes during your magical escape to emerald green Ireland. 
  • Golf at St. Andrews: Go to the place where the game of golf was born… St Andrews, Scotland.  Play the famous courses and enjoy bragging rights for the rest of your life!
  • The Wine, Wonder and Romance of France: This exciting trip for two has it all… the excitement and beauty of Paris and the romantic chateaux and vineyards of the finest wine region of France!

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What do a sink, a kitchen, and a restroom have to do with therapy?

Posted 6:53 PM by

To use them, a child must have basic skills that most folks take for granted. For example:  

  • The sensory regulation, upper extremity strength, coordination, and fine motor control required to wash their hands.
  • The core strength, pressure grading, visual motor skills, and sequencing to be able to step up on a stool, open a cabinet, pull out a cup, and fill it with water.
  • The balance, motor-planning, sequencing, body awareness, and grip strength to manage their clothing so they can use the restroom.

The majority of the children we serve rely on physical or occupational therapy at Children’s TherAplay to help them develop these skills (and more!) so they can wash their hands at school, pour themselves a glass of water at home, use the restroom wherever they are, or take any of a thousand steps towards independence.

Life Skills Treatment Area

That’s why, during the Fund-A-Need portion of the Sept. 23 Children’s TherAplay Hoe-Down – the time during this signature fundraiser when we ask our guests to help create new possibilities for the kiddos – we’ll be asking attendees to dig deep in their hearts and their wallets to help fund the new Life Skills Treatment Area.

Housed in the newly-renovated clinic, on which construction is expected to begin in 2018, the Life Skills area will allow kiddos to address during therapy the functional skills they need for life: brushing their teeth, using a fork, dressing and undressing, safely navigating their environment, using the restroom, and more.

Stay tuned for more details. With this treatment area, we can help the kiddos take even greater steps towards independence. Together.

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Oh yes, kiddo Connor can!

Posted 4:22 PM by

You probably don’t think about it when you need to bend down and pick something up. But that’s not the case for many of the kiddos we treat.

In this video with physical therapist Jackie, kiddo Connor begins by motor planning his foot position for proper balance; then making sure he’s working his leg muscles rather than his ligaments, which would, in time, object to improper use; and, finally, engaging his core and maintaining his balance while he leans forward, extends his arm, and scoops up his cane.

And that’s just moving into a squat! Imagine everything that goes into standing again.

But Connor, like so many of our kiddos, has learned to do it successfully, which brings him that much closer to navigating his environment safely and independently.

If you watch all the way to the end of the video, you’ll hear Connor let out a “HA!” – as in “Oh yes I did!” – as he completes this challenging task. We’re celebrating right along with you, buddy!

#neuromusculareducation #kiddoscan #physicaltherapy

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What Mayor Brainard wrote to “equine citizens” Gideon and FairyTale

Posted 3:39 PM by

We had remarks ready to share about Gideon and FairyTale’s 25 combined years of service at Children’s TherAplay, but then we read Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard’s letter to the two therapy horses. And, as you can see for yourself (below), he said it all. Beautifully.

So instead of sharing our remarks at Gideon and Fairy’s horsiversary ceremony, which was part of the August Show & Tail Fundraising Lunch, we handed the microphone over to Nancy Heck, Director of Community Relations and Economic Development for the City of Carmel, and asked her to read Mayor Brainard’s letter.

Then, one by one, members of the community stepped forward with certificates of merit and gifts of appreciation for these two horses who, together, have been a part of more than 13,500 equine-assisted physical and occupational therapy treatments for kiddos with special needs. That’s quite a legacy, and Gideon and FairyTale are still going strong.

Megan McVicker from the City of Carmel, captured, with one click of her phone, the sweetness of the day: Kiddo Charlotte as she steps forward with her occupational therapist to present Gideon with a ribbon signed by all the kiddos. Gideon’s soft expression and perked ears as he stretches out his nose towards his little friend. The glow in everyone’s eyes (and hearts) as they bear witness to something that happens many times each day here at Children’s TherAplay and yet still takes our breath away: the connection between these horses and kiddos.

"It's amazing what these horses do"

As The Current in Carmel notes, in their article about the event:

Most children love horse rides, but for the children who attend Children’s TherAplay, the therapy rides that Gideon and FairyTale provide can change lives.

Stryder was born with spina bifida, his mother Becca said.

“Because of Children’s TherAplay, Stryder has been taking his first independent steps, and to be perfectly honest, (his father and I) didn’t think this may happen,” Becca said. “It’s amazing what these horses do, and it can’t be replicated in other therapy. It builds up his core, and he can’t wait to go to therapy.”

The Current story continues, along with additional photos, here

Pictured above, left to right:

  • Hillary McCarley, Executive Director of The Children’s TherAplay Foundation
  • Dave O’Brien and Casey Vallier (behind Dave) of Country 97.1 HANK FM’s Mornings with Dave O’Brien show
  • Jeff Craig, President of the Children’s TherAplay Foundation Board of Directors
  • Honored therapy horse FairyTale and (in navy and white dress) Teneen Dobbs
  • Kelly Samson, Chairperson for the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Disability
  • Craig Dobbs, Founder and board member, with honored therapy horse Gideon
  • Kiddo Charlotte, accompanied by occupational therapist Arin Andrews, with a ribbon for Gideon
  • Chelsea Haring-Cozzi (behind Arin), Community Impact Manager for United Way of Central Indiana
  • Nancy Heck, Director of Community Relations and Economic Development for the City of Carmel

See what else is happening at Children's TherAplay

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Celebrating the life of therapy horse Nikki

Posted 5:26 PM by

Dear friends,

We are so sad to be sharing this news. Beloved therapy horse Nikki, who has been part of the Children’s TherAplay family for a remarkable 13 years, passed away September 1, surrounded by loved ones and with the gentleness and grace that were her hallmarks.

Although Nikki was able to work through various medical challenges over the years, she let us know, in her own way, that this most recent hurdle could not be overcome and that she was ready to let go.

We know you will find just as much comfort as we have from the beautiful tribute below, written by our equine program manager Jenny, to the loving horse who “taught children whose bodies might look different than their peers that different can be joyful and inclusive.”

Many of you have shared how physical therapist assistant Miss Jen, who passed away in November, has made her presence known in your life through the yellow butterflies that appear here and there. A few days before Nikki’s passing, some of our staff had walked outside with Nikki to enjoy the sunshine and clover. Perhaps we should not have been surprised by all the butterflies that appeared, especially the yellow one that swooped over Nikki’s back and then circled her front left leg. It’s good to know that Miss Jen, who had such a huge place in her heart for our horses, is looking after this one.

If you would like to create a tribute of your own, we have placed hearts, Nikki stickers, and coloring pages in the waiting room and in the stable. You are invited to write a note or color a picture of sweet Nikki and take it home with you or post it on her stall. The stickers are yours to enjoy.

And of course your fond memories and best wishes are always welcome in the Comments section below.

Thank you for loving our girl.

[Parents of current and discharged kiddos: A special email was sent to you Friday, September 1. If the message is not in your Inbox or hiding in your Spam folder, your email address may not be on file with us. If you reach out to us at, we will be happy to get this email to you.]


A different kind of teacher

From Equine Program Manager Jenny Clark

It is time to say goodbye to sweet Nikki. After a month-long struggle with an ulcerated cornea that failed to heal, complicated by her history and her 31 years of age, we had to make the heartbreaking decision to take Nikki’s pain away with humane euthanasia on September 1.  

It has been a pleasure to care for Nikki for the past five years, and I know her caretakers throughout her life have loved her just as much as the Children’s TherAplay staff and I have loved her. Nikki was by far the sweetest mare I have ever met. She was gentle and endlessly patient with her kiddos, and the stable team knew that if we needed to bring in our quietest, most unshakeable horse, that was Nikki.

In her long service as a therapy horse Nikki touched the lives of countless children, and she profoundly impacted scores of adults as well. She was a consistent favorite of volunteers, staff, and visitors alike. Nikki was one of my favorite horses for teaching new horse handlers how to ground drive, because she was sensitive and kind. This could present a challenge because if she felt any uncertainty from the handler, she would simply slow to a stop and wait until they asked her the right way. Some horses pull “pony tricks” and take advantage of people who are learning, but Nikki was a different kind of teacher. Nikki’s 2011 recovery from losing her left eye was remarkable, and allowed her to teach us all that challenges are to be faced with patience and an open heart. She taught children whose bodies might look different than their peers that different can be joyful and inclusive.

I cannot overstate how precious Nikki is to those who love her, and how much she will be missed. We love you, good girl.


A tribute from the mother of one of Nikki's kiddos

Shared in honor of Nikki's 10-year horsiversary

My daughter is probably nearing the end of her time at TherAplay as she meets more of her goals each week. While it will be sad to leave such a great place, it is the ultimate goal. As a parent, I observe each session when my daughter rides. On Fridays, Nikki approaches me from the angle where I see her scar. Nikki and my daughter ride together with scars that prove challenges can be faced, fought, and overcome.

Read the full tribute here: A scar is a place of healing

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UWCI Simulcast, here we come!

Posted 5:20 PM by

Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 7:30 p.m., all local television stations will donating their commercial breaks to highlight the difference United Way agencies are making in Central Indiana. And we are deeply honored to’ve been chosen as one of the featured stories airing on FOX59(!).

The backstory

Back in July, when we received an email from United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) asking whether we had a "hand-raiser" or "game-changer" to nominate for their 2017 Simulcast, the answer was an automatic Yes!

So we sent in our nomination, waited (mostly) patiently to hear back, and promptly let out a whoop of joy when we learned that Children's TherAplay game-changer, board member and spokesperson Anders Krohn, would be featured during the sumulcast.

Here's how UWCI describes the resulting video:

Anders Krohn has been fighting for our neighbors in need alongside Children’s TherAplay for nearly two and a half years – But his impact will continue to be felt for years to come! FOX59 sat down with Anders to hear about how he been raising funds and awareness at Children’s TherAplay through the Children’s TherAplay #Horsepower500. This event puts kids with special needs – those who often don’t get to attend birthday parties or overnights like their peers – front and center with IndyCar drivers like James Hinchcliffe, Conor Daly, Pippa Mann and more. Tune in to Fox59 to see this game changer’s story!

So pop some popcorn and settle in to watch for our story featuring Anders as well as kiddo Austin, who receives physical and occupational therapy with us, and his mom Laura.

Learn more about the UWCI 2017 simulcast.

Update: Watch the video here!

Didn't get a chance to tune in for the United Way simulcast? No worries. You can enjoy the video here.

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Posted 8:15 PM by

Sometimes people are so generous that we don’t even know what to say.

  • The huge-hearted Trends International team members, who are already so generous with their graphic design work, have once again named Children’s TherAplay one of the beneficiaries of their August 19 CharitiBOWL. Over the past several years, their CharitiBOWL contributions have funded *more than 500* (!) equine-assisted PT and OT treatments for our kiddos.
  • Our friends Dave O’Brien and Casey Valliers from Country 97.1 HANK FM (shown here with Corey Cox) not only served as celebrity sidewalkers at Gideon and FairyTale’s horsiversary, they’ve also added a post to their Facebook page encouraging folks to volunteer and donate.

  • The folks at Altar’d State at Clay Terrace are holding a month-long fundraiser where, each Monday this August, 10% of your purchase price will go towards Children’s TherAplay. They’re doubling down on August 14 with a shopping event featuring refreshments, face-painting, prizes, and a visit from service dog AJ.
  • And Corey Cox and his band, who were such a hit at last year’s Hoe-Down that we immediately booked them for this year, are in the process of filling a reserved table at the Sept. 23 Hoe-Down. That’s a $2,500 contribution, and their manager is using his Facebook page to raise more funds.

It’s at once humbling, encouraging, and inspiring to see these people – and we know there are so many others! – stepping up to say, “I want to be a part of this,” and then doing what they can, in a way that works for them, to help the kiddos.

Thank you friends. We are so thankful to be part of this community with you and your very big hearts. 

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