Sunday, August 26, 2012

JACOB'S FUND :: Special Olympics :: Meet Tony, Sarah & Madison

Tony and Sarah celebrating their medals in true team fashion (2011)

AGE: 20
HORSE: All In (Ace)
DIVISION: Advanced I
CLASSES: Dressage Walk/Trot/Cantor, Equitation, Trail


If you’ve been keeping up with Jacob’s Fund on our blog, you’ve already met the young man pictured above with Sarah. Tony is a recent high school graduate with a high-functioning form of autism and is currently looking for work. His story touched us, and we’re proud that, with your donations, we’ve been able to help him continue the therapy he needs.

This is Tony’s third year of competition in the Equestrian Special Olympics, and his second year in the Advanced Division. 

Last year, just after the Special Olympics, Tony lost his mother to cancer. Though she was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, she insisted on coming to watch Tony participate in the heat of mid-August. Amidst the excitement of competition and the joy of success was a definite sadness for the riders and their families who knew that that this would be her last chance to watch him win. And win he did, bringing home his first gold medal! They shared priceless moments of joy in his amazing triumph.

Tony’s dad is currently out of work and seeking employment. It is only through the support of donors like you through Jacob's Fund that Tony can still receive therapy at McKenna Farms. For this we thank you and ask that you continue to support this fine young man as he enters this new chapter of his life as a high school graduate, a true feat!


Sarah and Hershey Kisses awaiting their results
in the Advanced Showmanship Halter Class (2011)

RIDER: Sarah
AGE: 12
HORSE: All In (Ace)
DIVISION: Intermediate IV
CLASSES: Dressage Walk/Trot, Equitation, Trail


Just after the photo above of Sarah and Hershey Kisses was taken and the results came in—a gold medal for them!—Sarah’s efforts in the 2011 Special Olympics came to an abrupt end. While warming up for her brightly colored and inspiring unified drill to Slumdog Millionaire’s “Jai Ho”, she fell off Hershey and broke her arm! After the cast was applied, she returned to the festivities to cheer on her teammates throughout the weekend. 

This year, Sarah is back, stronger than ever, and ready to compete. We look forward to news from McKenna Farms about this young lady's performance at the 2012 show.


Madison—so proud of her silver medal (2011) 
Madison accompanying the Cobb Country Mounted Patrol
during the opening ceremonies 

RIDER: Madison
AGE: 16
HORSE: Louie Armstrong
DIVISION: Intermediate IV
CLASSES: Dressage Walk/Trot, Equitation, Trail


Madison begins high school this year and is very excited about it. Outgoing and enthusiastic, she loves horses, police officers, NASCAR, and Alabama football.

At the 2010 Horse Show, Madison met and talked with Officer Rice of the Cobb County Mounted Patrol. He was so impressed with her that, a few weeks before the 2011 show, he asked if she would like to ride with the Patrol for the lighting of the torch in the opening ceremonies. That ride was a dream come true for Madison, a moment she will never forget.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

We need your vote!

Photo by Sonya Yencer
Today has been filled with updates on how Tropical Storm Isaac bounded through Haiti early this morning. Bringing heavy rains, flooding and mudslides, many lives have been affected, especially those 300,000+ still living in tents. (For the latest, check out CNN, Reuters and other reliable sources.) Fears of the storm reigniting the cholera epidemic are a reality for our Haitian friends. With the grim news spreading, we thought you could use some uplifting news. 

Residents of Cité Soleil wade through floodwaters 
from Tropical Storm Isaac (Photo from the Seattle Times)
Sonya, TRTP Vice President, entered a photography contest with 21 of our favorite photos from our travels to Haiti. She takes great care in her photography to capture the Haitian spirit in a meaningful, dignified way. We invite you to view her portfolio and vote. Many of these photos haven't been published on our blog or Facebook page, so be sure to take a look!

Voting closes in 3 short days. You can only vote once (not every day). At the top of the page, click on COLLECT ME (unusual choice of words, we know!). OneLife will ask for some simple info and, yes, it is a safe website. Please consider sharing her work with your friends.

What a great opportunity to share photos from The Red Thread Promise's work with the world!

A few of the images from her portfolio

Thursday, August 23, 2012

JACOB'S FUND :: Special Olympics :: Meet Lauren & David

Lauren during her gold medal performance atop Aka-San (Red)
Lauren getting a good luck high five from Kristen before her competition

RIDER: Lauren
AGE: 17 
HORSE: Pocket Full of Sunshine 
CLASSES: Dressage W/T/C, Equitation and Trail


Meet Lauren. This amazing young woman is such a beautiful rider that, when she is on a horse, you would never guess that she has a disability. We had the privilege of watching her ride during our trip to McKenna Farms last fall. So graceful!

Lauren was born with cerebral palsy and to this day has a noticeable hitch in her step. Whenever she dismounts her horse and begins to walk, people are always amazed at what she was able to accomplish on horseback. She is a straight A student, a senior in high school, and currently applying at colleges. Lauren has her driver's license, a thrill she thought she would never achieve.

Lauren has a true passion for the sport of dressage. She is very competitive in able-bodied shows throughout Georgia. She began riding at the age of 3 during hippotherapy at McKenna Farms and has been on a horse ever since! At the age of 11, she began riding with Kristen, one of the workers at the Farm, and fell in love with competitive riding. 

In the 2011 Special Olympics, Lauren rode Aka-San (Red) to win the gold medal in Dressage, Advanced II Division. This award is the highest level offered at the Special Olympics and involves tricky transitions and challenging maneuvers using the walk, trot and canter gaits.

Hershey Kisses before his ride with Lauren
When Hershey Kisses (pictured above) wasn't being flown by the phoenix in Candace's unified drill, he was transformed into Captain Jack Sparrow for Lauren's Pirates of the Caribbean routine. It was another gold medal moment for Lauren and her partner, Heather, in the advanced division.


David atop O'Possum flying through their equitation pattern
for the judges in 2011 Special Olympics

RIDER: David
AGE: 40 
HORSE: Aka-San (Red) 


Meet David. David had a tramautic brain injury as a child and also suffers through many physical ailments. Due to some recent surgeries, he is unable to ride at this year's show but is coming along as part of the McKenna Farms team to support everyone else! He has a strong, vivacious spirit and never lets anything get him down. 


Thanks to the financial support of people like you, more kids can receive the therapy they need that may allow them to one day compete in the Equestrian Special Olympics. The Red Thread Promise is currently supporting 3 boys at McKenna Farms: Cameron, Landon and Brandon. If you'd like to make a donation toward their hippotherapy and therapeutic riding, you can do so via check or PayPal (upper right in the side bar). 

Check back tomorrow to meet more of this year's competitors!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

JACOB'S FUND :: Special Olympics :: Meet Candace & Giselle

Giselle and Kristen (her aid from McKenna Farms)
at the 2011 Equestrian Special Olympics
Candace sharing a good luck kiss with O'Possum
before his turn in the ring 
With the Equestrian Special Olympics coming up this weekend, we wanted to introduce you to some of the riders who will be representing McKenna Farms. We've had the opportunity to meet several of the participants during our visits to the Farm over the past year and, in particular, one special young man who The Red Thread has supported. 


Candace preparing for the "Flight of Cassandra"

RIDER: Candace
AGE: 19 
HORSE: Hershey Kisses 
CLASSES: Dressage W/T/C, Equitation and Trail


Candace was born with Spina Bifida, has endured multiple surgeries and wears leg braces when she rides - but these challenges don't put a damper on this girl's enthusiasm for riding! She is a senior in high school who is eager to participate in the Special Olympic Horse Show for the 3rd year. Two thousand twelve marks her first time competing at the advanced level, which includes the canter in all its classes. She has also competed with Kristen, her aid from McKenna Farms, at some dressage and jumping able-bodied horse shows in the greater Atlanta area.

Last year, Candace won the Bronze medal in her custom Unified Drill Costume for the Transyberian Orchestra Song "Flight of Cassandra".

Mounted atop Hershey Kisses, Candace poses in her custom
fabricated wings for the entire crowd to see
Over the course of a month, her mom, Dana, hand-cut and sewed each individual feather to create the costume's spectacular wing span. The beautiful costume transformed her daughter into a golden angel as she dazzled onlookers with her performance at the 2011 show. 


Giselle sporting a proud smile as she shows off
her gold medal after Dressage (Intermediate IV level)


RIDER: Giselle

AGE: 12 

HORSE: Major League 


CLASSES: Dressage W/T, Equitation and Trail


Giselle has been receiving therapy at McKenna Farms since before she could walk. Now a bubbly middle-schooler, she is ready to compete at the Special Olympics again. The first year she attended the Special Olympics, she used her walker to move around the grounds. This strong pre-teen's hard work has certainly paid off: she no longer uses a walker or crutches. She is completely independent!

This will be Giselle's 4th time competing at the Special Olympics and her progress over the years is evident. Not only has she moved from Intermediate II to Intermediate IV, but this year she will be competing in the showmanship class for the first time—an unassisted class in which she will independently lead the horse through a pattern on foot. What an accomplishment for this lovely young lady.  

The therapy these kids have received at McKenna Farms has greatly impacted each child's life. We are proud to support these kids and invite you to join us in making sure that every child who needs this critical therapy receives it, regardless of their family's ability to pay. Donations can be made by check or PayPal (info at the top right in the sidebar). Please be sure to indicate "Jacob's Fund" or "hippotherapy" in the memo line so we allocate your donations as you wish.

What an exciting time for these riders as they continue to hone their skills in preparation for the competition this weekend. We wish Candace, Giselle and the other riders the best during the competition and look forward to hearing how they each fare at the Olympics.

Stay tuned to meet more riders tomorrow!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

CAMP JAKE / JULY 2012 :: Photo of the day

Amanda and Frenel, the little guy who was sick for most of camp
(photo by Howard Chen)

CAMP JAKE :: PT with Maille

Maille during one of her physical therapy sessions
with Jake (photo by Howard Chen)
CAMP JAKE / JULY 2012 :: Meet Maille, one of the sweetest girls at St. Vincent's. She is very caring, often more concerned about others than herself. She is talkative—communicating in Kreyol, English and sign language—with the most memorable smile and hugs to match. Maille is exceptionally bright and has great charisma and love for life, an amazing attitude for all that she has endured in her short life.

Abandoned at the gate of St. Vincent's at the age of 10, Maille is a permanent resident who remembers nothing of her days before joining the St. Vincent's family. She suffers from severe scoliosis and is also an earthquake survivor who suffered a traumatic head wound. Her injuries were so severe that a group of rescuers who had already gone through the debris at St. Vincent's left her for dead. Determined to save everyone, other St. Vincent's residents flagged down some people from the street to pull her out of the rubble. Maille was transported to a boat where her surgery was performed to close the wound on her head.

During camp, Jake McCrowell—a Physician's for Peace physical therapist—worked one-on-one with Maille, teaching her exercises that would build stability and control of her lower limbs. These physical therapy exercises should enhance her core and impact her daily life in significant ways by:
  • easing transfers from the wheelchair
  • improve her function while performing activities out of the wheelchair such as dressing and bathing
  • reducing the stress on her back by sitting more upright and extended
  • education of pressure relief for various body parts caused by prolonged wheelchair use
Maille smiled through the exercises and kept a positive attitude even when Jake pushed her out of her comfort zone. It is our hope that she continues these exercises and strengthens her body. We look forward to seeing Maille's progress during our visits to St. Vincent's throughout 2012 and next year at Camp Jake 2013.

Tom and his new buddy (photo by Howard Chen)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

CAMP JAKE :: Don't let the bedbugs bite!

CAMP JAKE / JULY 2012 :: We've been bitten by bedbugs; we've seen some mice, rats and lizards; dogs, goats, pigs and an occasional cow roam the streets and the gutters. But it's the scurrying critters that are the most memorable. They tend to cause the most spontaneous squeals from our group and cause fits of laughter later. 

There were multiple sized and colored lizards at every turn. Thankfully they eat mosquitos, harborers of malaria, so we welcomed them.

While taking night swims after the campers were in bed, a pair of bats would swoop down on the pool, startling counselors engaged in conversations about the day.

Following each of the torrential rains, we could hear the most horrific unidentifiable sounds, beginning softly, gaining volume to seemingly unreal decibels, creating quite a cacophony. About midway through the week, we found that a small species of frog was responsible. 

One morning, several counselors were chatting with Alen (one of the hotel managers) when he shrieked "Kill it!" and pointed to the ground. Walking across the pavement was a tarantula hawk wasp. An employee ran over, immediately stomped on the creature and swept it into the pond with his shoe. After the incident, Alen casually replied "You don't want to get stung by one of those. But they wont' kill you." 

Then there was the time that Shawn and Sonya met an ugly sand crab in the hallway right outside Sonya's door. With exposed toes in flip flops, Shawn courageously nudged him out of the hallway to the rocks.

Topping the list of creatures was a fist-sized tarantula! Some brave soul ousted the arachnid from the hallway it shared with the sand crab. Guess who began checking under their beds and in their bathrooms before retiring for sleep every night? That's right - the answer is EVERYONE! 

Thankfully, these creatures don't keep us from coming back to the wonderful kids we are there to serve. They just add colorful memories to our trips.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jacob's Fund / Brandon's scholarship in the news!

Brandon with one of the many horses at McKenna Farms
We are so pleased that Jacob's Fund has again been featured in the news! Our sponsorship of Brandon for the next 12 months was featured on Looking forward to providing updates on Brandon throughout the year.


DALLAS-HIRAMPATCH.COM / AUGUST 8, 2012: Jacob’s Fund, the United States program of The Red Thread Promise, announces a scholarship for local teen Brandon Cummins, providing therapeutic riding at McKenna Farms, in Dallas, Georgia, for a full year.
“We’re thrilled to announce that Jacob’s Fund will begin supporting Brandon. This is an outstanding opportunity and challenge for our donors” said Glenna Fisher, Director of Jacob’s Fund.
Jacob’s Fund was created in 2007 as a memorial following the death of Jacob Noah Beachy, three-year-old son of Josh and Sarah Beachy of Atlanta. Wishing that other children would have the experiences and growth that Jacob found at McKenna Farms, his family began sponsoring children’s therapy there.
Brandon, who is seventeen, found his forever family just two years ago. Dan and Tracy Cummins had begun to foster children after Dan saw and read of the plight of children in need of foster care. It was a carefully considered decision.
Dan, father of two boys, could not get the images of children who needed foster parents out of his mind. He was heartbroken because of the ill treatment some of them had endured, and he wanted to do something about it.
Tracy, his wife, was cautious. What would it do to the family to bring children into their home that had lived chaotic, unpredictable, sometimes painful lives?
They were asked to care for Brandon for a single weekend. He was 15 at the time.
“He was so polite, so well-behaved,” Tracy said. The polite, gentle boy impressed the family, including their two biological sons. They signed up to be his Secret Santa.
The thank-you note they received from Brandon was gracious, but he ended with “what I really want is a family.”
Within a few weeks, the teenager became eligible for adoption and their younger son said, “Well, let’s go get him.”
He’d been diagnosed with speech problems early, and had received help with speech at school for a while. Then it stopped. But Brandon’s problem didn’t go away.
Once the adoption was complete, it was time to look for speech therapy. Paulding County Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) suggested McKenna Farms, and Brandon began speech therapy in the summer of 2011, working in one of the therapy rooms at the Civil-War era farmhouse. Then, early this summer, McKenna Farms asked him to volunteer at the farm.
Working in the barn with the horses has been a turning point for this young man. Now his speech therapist comes to the barn for therapy sessions, where Brandon is happiest and at his best, surrounded by horses. Children arriving for riding appointments ask for Brandon to be their helper during therapy sessions.
“He volunteers and helps so much. The horses are helping him a lot, too. Therapeutic riding lessons will be awesome for him,” said Jessica Moore, Executive Director at McKenna Farms
Tracy, his mom, adds, “Brandon is proud of what he does. He helps others without asking anything in return. He has new confidence, and he’s learned that he can contribute. He’s thrilled to begin therapeutic riding sessions.”
Brandon’s glad to help others; now Jacob’s Fund can let him know that others want to help him, too.
For more information on Jacob’s Fund contact: 
Glenna Fisher Jacob’s Fund Director, The Red Thread Promise 

Kathy Korge Albergate President, The Red Thread Promise 
20 Brookfield Ave, Glen Rock, NJ 07452 

For more information about McKenna Farms contact: 
Jessica Moore Executive Director, McKenna Farms 
3044 Due West Road, Dallas, GA 30157