Horses were on hand to give Foster kids and Adoptive children, their families and caregivers the BEST Christmas party ever at the Christmas Extravaganza held recently at Grace Bible Church in Arroyo Grande. Mindy Smith brought several of her Rocky Mountain horses and a few dogs simply to delight kids who have difficult life situations.
Horse Cart Rides and Horseback Rides for Local Adoptive and Foster Kids
Imagine the delight for children who had never even ridden a horse before; now they were riding a unicorn!
Maine V’s Shadrach is Mindy’s Rocky Mountain stallion who pulls her Meadowbrook Cart. “The children love the cart. They call it the chariot!!” expressed Mindy. While Shadrach was giving rides in the cart Mindy’s white Rocky Mountain horse, Ace (dressed as a unicorn), provided horseback rides. Imagine the delight for children who had never even ridden a horse before; now they were riding a unicorn! Her miniature horse Mandy presented an approachable alternative to the larger horses and was ridden by the little people. Three of Mindy’s dogs hung out for petting and playing, adding furry fun to the experience.
“It was amazing to me how many of the children at the Christmas Extravaganza had never ridden on a horse or in a cart pulled by a horse. Some of them had never even petted one. As a country girl this is shocking and devastating to me!!” exclaimed Mindy.
Lots of Help from Mindy’s Work Crew
Several hands helped lead the rides and get children into the cart. A route in the parking lot served as the riding venue as Mindy describes: “A section of the parking lot was blocked off so we could circle around. The riding horses only went around once, but with the cart I walked around once and then again so I could gait the stallion. This way each child could experience a faster pace. At times I just had one child, but I could take up to three at a time.” There was indeed a lot of walking to do and Mindy appreciates the help of her crew: Brandon Wayment, Rebecca Lisberg and Revin Thomas.
Sharing Horses and Healing Children
“It has been very rewarding to see how the horses help heal the children and give them confidence,” expressed Mindy regarding her involvement with the Foster Care Network here in San Luis Obispo county. She opens her ranch up for private events for Foster kids and public events for other families several times a year. She calls them Kid’s Days. “The children can ride a horse, pet the dogs and cats, chase a chicken, and just get dirty!! I recruit people to help walk the kids around on horses,” explains Mindy.
“I do this for free because I am very blessed, and I want to “pay it forward.” I encourage the children to do something nice for someone else as part of my pay it forward campaign,” says Mindy.
Vision Behind the Christmas Extravaganza for Foster Kids and Their Caregivers
Kathy Curtis, founder of the Foster/Adopt Ministry at Grace Bible Church says, “I just love Mindy and her horses. Seeing the children respond to the animals and be amazed at touching them, some for the first time, is really a joy.” Kathy was the visionary behind this Christmas Extravaganza. She organized and ran the whole event along with Michelle Wolstenholm and a host of volunteers. “We wanted to give our Foster/Adoptive youth, Foster Families and Caregivers one of the BEST days of their lives in a SAFE and stress free environment,” explained Kathy.
The horses were just part of the myriad of event activities all designed to give each person of any age a truly extravagant day. Face painting, balloon artistry, cookie decorating, corn husk doll/angel creating, Christmas card designing, ornament making, games, prizes, bounce houses, special raffles, lunch, hot chocolate, popcorn, cotton candy a huge Doc Bernstein ice cream sandwich, Christmas stockings for every child, Smokey the Bear giving tours of his fire truck, the Sheriff’s Station giving away new bikes with a special raffle, a live band and bubbles were all part of the very special and fun-filled day.
Amazing Central Coast Community
“Our Central Coast Community is so amazing and we knew once the word was out everybody would come together and WRAP around these families going through difficult times by giving them love, support, encouragement and showing gratitude to the Foster Families who’ve stepped up to help the orphan children,” was what Kathy envisioned and executed.
“It was simply outstanding to say the least seeing everybody from Grace Bible Church and community members with HUGE smiles on their faces, welcoming everybody and being UNITED… Taking off their ‘Professional Hats’ and doing what we’re supposed to do: ‘Live and Love Like Jesus’. No judging… just loving the day that God allowed us to be a part of,” Kathy heartily expressed her joy in the outcome of the Christmas Extravaganza.
A Very Special Moment
When asked to describe her favorite event moment, Kathy could think so many, but the most memorable was this: “One boy who was 11 won the raffle and he was given a bike, when he realized what he won his eyes were HUGE, then dinosaur tears formed and he said, ‘I’ve never had my own bike! Thank you so much!!’ To see a child be given something that most of us take for granted was chilling and made most of us cry around him. He was so excited words just can’t do it justice.”
Surprise From Santa
These moments pretty much sum up the whole Christmas Extravaganza as many were delighted, loved on and encouraged. If you’d like to be part of the movement focused on serving Foster/Adopt families here in SLO County there are several ways to get involved. See Kathy and Mindy’s info following.
History of the Foster/Adoption Ministry at Grace Bible Church
Kathy tells us how this mission began, “I started the Foster/Adoption & CSEC Ministry about two years ago after sitting down with Pastor Jason of Grace Bible Church and telling him the need for support of our Foster Families and Foster Homes for the youth. We have about 375 kids in SLO County Department of Social Services system and only about 175 Foster Families. The system is in crisis countywide and also nationwide. We’ve been working alongside of the Department of Social Services and other agencies as a crutch to help in any way we can. The Social Workers have so many cases and are overwhelmed, so whatever we can do to assist we do. In addition, we support Foster Families which there’s a HUGE need to say the least. We’re rolling out an amazing program in 2019 for adults who want to help but can’t take kids into their homes… so if you would like to be part of something amazing contact me.
If it wasn’t for Pastor Jason responding to my email because he’s too busy or just didn’t want to respond for whatever reason… this would never have come to be such an amazing ministry that has now spread county, state and nationwide. I’ve had churches contact me to help them start what we’ve started here at Grace Bible Church from all around the state and other states… There’s no way this would be happening if God wasn’t in control! When you realize and learn to “Let Go, and Let God” things just start falling into place. God is GREAT!”
Questions, Comments, Connect:
GBC’s Foster/Adoption & CSEC Ministry PHONE #: 805-440-8641
Website: www.gracebibleag.com (Connect, Other Ministries, Foster/Adopt Ministries) Find us on Facebook: Foster/Adoption Resource Family & CSEC Community
Hoofprints for the Soul
Mindy Smith recently started a non-profit called Hoofprints for the Soul. She is hoping to be able to open up her doors to Veterans, First Responders, Sex trafficking victims and much more. She will be doing another Kid’s Day at her ranch during Christmas Break. If anyone wants to come help or bring their family. Like her Facebook page Mindy Smith Rockies for upcoming Kid’s Days at her ranch.
Not All On Her Own – Kathy is Thankful for Volunteers and Sponsors
The execution of the vision could not have been pulled off by one or even a handful of people, it took many dedicated and generous community folks. Kathy is forever grateful to this long list of sponsors: Grace Bible Church, Grace SLO Church, Faith in Motion from County Churches, Journey Church, SLO County Nurses, Templeton FFA, Together We Rise, Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab, Central Coast Party Factory, Mindy Smith’s Rocky Mountain Horse Ranch, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Shea Homes, Miss Darlin’s Boutique, Pismo Beach/ Five Cities Rotary Club, Tin Soldier Safety Latches, Family Care Network, Kinship Center, Amy Collins; Certiﬁed Event Coordinator, Steve & Kacie Bordeleau Photography, Fort Hope – The Loomis Family, Native Trails Designs, Melody the Clown, Walmart, SLO County Department of Social Services, Foster Parent Association, SLO COUNTY Forest Services, SLO County Sheriff, Kristin Hunstad- Hustad Realty, Mr. Putters Miniature Golf, Galaxy Theaters, Starbucks, Khols, Jordanos, Novo Restaurant Lounge, Costco, Ralphs, Spencer’s Market, The Warehouse, Pioneer Vally High School, The Slice, Stylist Kathy Audrey Binggeli, United Academy of Martial Arts, Performance Athletics, The Melodrama, The Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum, Dr. Stout Pediatric Dentist, Dr. Patel, Rebecca & Andy Michaud- LuLaRoe, Freedom Calling, Tami Carlisle, Tammy Gallagher, Ben & Shelly Wagner, Julie Peters, Alissa Parks, Connie & Brent Mooney, Donna Brunett, and the many other wonderful individuals for their donations, time, and effort!
Cover Photo: KSBY all others courtsey of Kathy Curtis