If you saw the Facebook or Instagram post about the #Horsepower500 Team Monster earlier in the week then you already know that Monster Mash is the newest member of our equine family.
But there’s more to learn – and so much to love! – about him. Here’s the scoop from his mom Lauren, via the bio she wrote for our website.
Monster Mash 28-year-old Thoroughbred
Monster Mash has a bright personality and an incredible love for children. Monster’s first career was as a racehorse, before becoming a competitive jumper who showed in the Indiana Hunter/Jumper circuit. After retiring from jumping, his favorite time of year was summer horse camp, when he proudly acted as a demo horse, teaching kiddos to groom and tack. At Children’s TherAplay, he still thrives on all the attention he gets from staff and kiddos alike. Monster is owned by Equine Program Manager Lauren Copenhaver, who is delighted to be able to see and work with him every day.
Fun Fact: Monster Mash has many different names! As a young racehorse, his registered name was “Bricks Roadrunner.” When Lauren bought him in October of 2004, she thought it would be appropriate to give him a Halloween-themed name. Monster became his barn name, and she showed him in the IHJA circuit under the name “The Pumpkin King.” Concerned that his name might be scary for the kiddos, Lauren was open to renaming him when he came to Children’s TherAplay. However, the name Monster Mash has been a hit since day one!
Bonus Fun Fact: Lauren’s mom co-owns Monster, and she proudly calls herself his “Grandma.” She loves to visit Children’s TherAplay to watch Monster work with our kiddos. Monster (and the rest of the herd) can always count on her to come bearing treats and love!
Thank you Lauren and Monster for being part of the Children’s TherAplay family. We're so glad you're here.
What’s more fun than planning a game of Ultra Dash during the clinic-based portion of your treatment? Challenging your occupational therapist to a friendly competition – and then cackling with glee while she scrambles around the clinic trying to beat your time!
If you attended last year's Children's TherAplay #Horsepower500, you may remember the first moment everyone had to dive for their Kleenex. It was when kiddo Garrett sang the national anthem. His rendition was barely above a whisper … and it was *beautiful!*
This year, as a special way to celebrate the kiddos and families who’ve graduated from Children’s TherAplay, we're inviting our graduates to sing!
So graduate families: Would one of your kiddos -- or perhaps even a grown-up -- be excited to sing the national anthem or "Back home again in Indiana" individually or as part of a group for the INDYCAR drivers including James Hinchcliffe, Conor Daly, Scott Dixon, Jay Howard, Stefan Wilson, Jack Harvey, Spencer Pigot, Zack Veach, and Robert Wickens?
Looking for a little something to get your week off to a good start?
Over the past few months, folks have been surprising us with birthday gifts. No, not gifts for our birthday – theirs! Really! Through Facebook fundraisers and piggy banks alike, they’ve turned their birthdays into a way to help the kiddos here at Children’s TherAplay … to the tune of more than $5,500.
Did your mouth fall open? Ours did too! Because each of these fundraisers was a total surprise to us.
So first off, thank you to Marlo McGregor, Anders Krohn, Jason Imel, and our young friend Charlie (pictured) for sharing your birthdays.
And to everyone who donated through these birthdays, as much as we would love to send a thank-you note to each one of you, we don’t have your contact information. So please accept this heartfelt THANK YOU.
If you’ve ever thought that small people can only do small things, think again. Through his birthday, Charlie donated more than enough to fund a child’s treatment. He was so proud to present it, with a little help from dad, to therapy horse Thor. And we were so honored to receive it.)
It’s one thing to hold the “puppy dog” posture (also known as “quadruped”) on a stable surface but when you’re on your hands and knees on a horse, like kiddo Rylie during her physical therapy treatment, this simple strengthening exercise becomes much more challenging.
Why? Because the three-dimensional movement of the horse intensifies every activity, which means that Rylie’s trunk, shoulders, arms, coordination, and proprioception are getting quite the workout!
This is a big step forward for our friend who, when she first started receiving equine-assisted PT and OT, didn’t have the strength to hold quadruped for any amount of time. And now here she is doing a full lap around the arena and smiling all the way.
Kannon, like many of the kiddos we serve, currently speaks only a handful of words: yes, no, and mama among them. But your heartfelt and handmade valentines set the stage for something completely unexpected.
This Valentine's Day Kannon surprised us all by saying – all on his own! – a new very sweet word. It melted the hearts of everyone present, especially the Indy 500 driver Kannon said it to.
What makes Kannon's new word even more remarkable?
We do not offer speech therapy. But the equine-assisted physical and occupational therapies Kannon receive at Children’s TherAplay improve his stability, body awareness, and alertness, which primes Kannon for interaction and learning.
Now back to Kannon’s sweet new word.
It started with your valentines
We asked and you answered, to the tune of 400+ valentines that poured in from friends at JC Hart, Natural Beginnings Childcare, Hull & Knarr, Pleasant View Elementary School in Zionsville, NAMI, our volunteers, our current and past patient families, and so many other wonderful folks. (Thank you for showing such heart and helping make this Valentine’s Day an extra-special one for the kiddos and their families.)
When you have such special valentines for such special kiddos, you’ve got to have someone special to hand them out. So Jay Howard, who raced in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Children’s TherAplay #Horsepower500 last year, and his wife Courtney, a former 500 Festival princess(!), joined us to hand out the valentines you so lovingly created.
Photo courtesy Robert Scheer / Indy Star
Kannon had something to say about it
The Howards also joined the kiddos for their physical and occupational therapy treatments. That’s when Jay and Kannon met – and proceeded to smile and giggle and outright laugh their way through on-the-horse treatment time together.
With the equine-assisted portion of his therapy complete, Kannon and physical therapist Miss Sue headed over to the gym to practice some climbing skills. Jay stood a few feet away, just out of Kannon’s line of sight. Until Kannon had something to say about it.
This young child, who says so few words, stopped on the second rung of the ladder, slowly swiveled his head to the left, and whispered – unprompted and all on his own – that new word: Jay.
Kannon may not have realized that the gentleman to his left was one of the few drivers in the world to’ve competed in the Indianapolis 500, but he certainly recognized a new friend when he saw one. And Kannon wanted that friend to come play.
Needless to say, Jay sped right over and, at Sue’s suggestion, up to the top of the climbing tower to cheer Kannon on in his work. Our therapists often tell people that the horse is a motivating factor when it comes to pediatric physical and occupational therapies. To which we will add: so are the INDYCAR drivers.
Thank you Jay and Courtney – and all those who sent in Valentines! – for sharing your heart with these kiddos.
By the way, did you see the photos from this special day in the Indy Star?
So many folks called and emailed to say how much they enjoyed the photos and write-up by Indy Star photojournalist Robert Scheer!
How can a single paver make the sensory garden more accessible for the kiddos?
Kannon's "monster steps" to Jay in physical therapy
Unmute the video to hear Kannon's giggles!
After lots of hard work, Kannon is so close to being able to walk independently. Those monster steps help him shift his weight and increase his ability to swing his legs further ahead of him. #OneStepAtATimeKiddo
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re calling out FOLKS WE LOVE!
Dave and Casey, of Mornings With Dave O'Brien on 97.1 HANK FM, who have sidewalked with the kiddos (and made a glorious video about it), presented therapy horse Gideon with the HANK IT UP award for his 15th horsiversary and, this Valentine’s Day at about 7:45 a.m., will be interviewing our very special INDYCAR cupid.
Everyone who made, sent in, or helped get the word out about valentines for the kiddos (and – because there are so many valentines – their parents and siblings too!). There is SO MUCH LOVE in these hearts.
When you have such special valentines for such special kiddos, you’ve got to have someone special to hand them out, right? Our very own #IndycarCupids, Jay Howard and Courtney Howard, will be here during the 10 and 11 a.m. therapy sessions to #sharethelove with the kiddos. Jay will be back to defend his #Horsepower500 title on May 8 but first he and Courtney are going to make some kiddos very, very happy (because how often do you receive a valentine from an Indy 500 driver and a former 500 Festival Princess?!?)!
YOU. Every day we work with children who are told by well-meaning doctors, teachers, and therapists about the can’ts – the things they’ll supposedly never be able to do. Yet, so very often, through equine-assisted physical and occupational therapies, we see those can’ts transform into exuberant shouts of “I did it!” Your support makes that possible. And we are ever so thankful for it.
That’s why, on Valentine’s Day, this heart’s for all of you: ❤. *Thank you.*
If you’ve ever been through physical or occupational therapy yourself, you can appreciate how very hard the kiddos work during their treatments in the clinic and on the horse.
That’s why, this Valentine’s Day, we’d like to do a little something extra to cheer them on: give each child we serve a hand-colored valentine filled with love and good wishes!
About 200 valentines
Will you help? It’s a fun and easy. And all it takes is a few minutes and a stamp!
Just download the simple valentine template, print a few pages, snip the valentines apart (there are four per page), and fill them with love! You can color to your heart’s content, affix stickers, write a message – be as creative as you like.
We all know that medical care comes with a price tag. Our particular case, because of the difference between the actual cost to provide treatment and what insurance reimburses, results in a funding gap of $133 per treatment. Multiply that by 650+ physical and occupational therapy treatments per month and you can understand why we celebrate every contribution.
Here are three that had us jumping for joy recently:
A fourth-grade boy scout pack, led by den leader and occupational therapist Rachel Beauchamp (who completed her clinical rotation with us several years ago!), put the words from their scout oath (“a scout is helpful”) into action by raising $400. Kids these days!
A friend said, “I’d like to raise some money for you guys,” and nominated us as a charity partner for her employer’s monthly parking program which, for a donation of only $5, enters Ingram Micro employees in a drawing for a front-row parking spot for the month. The generosity of Ingram staff and wintry January weather combined to raise $530.
And longtime supporter Tony Stewart Foundation (TSF) selected Children’s TherAplay as one of only 40 grant partners across the country. To the tune of $10,000, the highest amount awarded.
Tony Stewart, in the video filmed at his home on TSF Media Day, gets right to the heart of hippotherapy:
“…That’s pretty impressive. I mean, to have all this science and technology and to think that a horse can be the key ingredient for changing a child’s life.”
We are so thankful to everyone -- therapy horses, volunteers, donors, staff, therapy horses, board of directors, those who cheer us on at a special event or share an encouraging comment on Facebook or Instagram -- everyone (and everyhorse) who makes it possible. ❤ #HeartsForHippotherapy