Mini Joys, a charitable organization whose purpose is to promote joy, hope and healing through programs using compassionate miniature horses for those facing physical, mental or emotional challenges, has been a long-time supporter of the WCA. We had a chat with Founder and Executive Director, Laurie Bell, to learn more about all things Mini Joys!
Q) Why have you chosen to support the nonprofit world by sharing the Mini Joys with children & adults alike?
A) I (Laurie Bell) have been a horse-girl my entire life, and have always loved sharing these magnificent animals with others. I was an elementary teacher for many years, and during the summers I offered Horse Camps using my regular-sized horses. Over the years, I had a growing desire to use horses to bring joy and hope, to build confidence, and to encourage those who were struggling. Whether they faced learning obstacles, health challenges, or emotional scars – I knew that time spent with horses and caring volunteers could be extremely healing.
We started our non-profit, Mini Joys, in 2009 using miniature horses to impact the lives of those facing challenges. We immediately wanted to reach out to other local non-profits to offer programs free of charge to those they served. This would include a wide variety of special populations, a large age range, and an array of tough life challenges that they were facing.
We loved the model that our donors could support the Mini Joys program outreach so that a multitude of other area non-profits and their clients could benefit. While their (other non-profits) donors were supporting their day-to-day operations, our donors could provide these extra programs to their very deserving clients or students, without added financial burden on these area non-profits. We call it “the gift that keeps on giving” and we are honored to work with such amazing organizations in our community!
Q) What is your philosophy of the essential work and essence of Mini Joys?
A) Although we serve all ages, and all types of challenges, our programs fall into two main categories:
- Programs to simply bring JOY and HOPE such as visits to Assisted Living Centers and Memory Care centers, connecting with little patients at the Children’s Hospital, time with senior Veterans, or being special guests at area non-profits special events, etc.
- Teaching Programs, where the miniature horses are used to help the students learn important life lessons. Most of our programs include this teaching component. Our curriculum includes Friendship, an Anti-Bullying lesson (with a different approach as it is told by the bully himself), Being the best version of YOU, Caring for Animals, Being Trustworthy, How to be an Every Day Hero, Basic Horsemanship and Safety, Growing in Character, Finding JOY, and more.
The special connections and bonds that have grown over the years has been amazing. There are so many stories to tell…we still keep in touch with a sweet mom (who now lives out of state) that we met at the WCA years ago and she and her horse-loving daughter continued to visit the ranch several times after leaving the shelter.
We have built beautiful bonds with several children who lost their battles with cancer, but their families stay in touch, visit the ranch, and two of them even became volunteers because of the impact the connections had on their sweet little ones. These folks are our heroes. Those who come through the toughest of times, and turn to walk along with another who is in the battle -because they truly understand the heartache.
At-risk teens have stayed in touch and been encouraged by our crew through the years. It’s been a joy to see them become young adults.
So many children in wheelchairs or using walkers have graced the property with their contagious joy and laughter and touched the hearts of our volunteers in huge ways. Many super memories have been made together up in the wheelchair-accessible treehouse and with the horses!
Q) What are some of the non-profit organizations that you work with?
A) Mini Joys has been so blessed to work with many of the finest non-profit outreaches in the Treasure Valley. These include the WCA, the West Ada and the Boise School Districts, the St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital, The Boise Public Libraries, area Boys & Girls Clubs, The Salvation Army Youth Center in Nampa, the Idaho State Veterans Home, Shinecology – outreach to pediatric cancer families, Rays For Rare – outreach to families with children battling rare diseases, Saturday Best Club for visually impaired students and families, Foster Family programs, Autism Society Treasure Valley, and the Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Assoc.
Q) Are there any future projects in the works for the Mini Joys that you would like to share?
A) It’s been a full and fabulous summer of programs and we’re hopeful for a great fall season. With these recent rising Covid numbers, our crew is unsure if we will be able to carry out the usual busy fall special needs classroom visits, but we are prepared to deliver programs in whatever way is needed. Last year, during the worst of the Pandemic, virtual programs were offered including storytime videos and even drive-by visits with the horses and masked volunteers. We will continue to bring JOY and HOPE and important life lessons, as they’re more needed than ever when the virus threatens to disconnect and isolate those who are hurting. Our Mini Joys team is ready to do whatever we can do to lift spirits and connect those who feel alone.
Q) Can you tell us more about the Mini Joys books you have for purchase/sponsorship?
A) Amongst our variety of teaching topics, three books have also been written and are available to those we serve, and all children in our area. They are hardbound, beautiful full-page photography, life-lesson stories that star the Mini Joys animals, and others. The lessons are extra impactful when the children get to meet the real-life characters in the stories.
Many of our books are given free to those students and area outreaches we work with thanks to the generosity of book sponsors who donate specifically to allow us to get the books into the hands of children facing adversity. We were just able to leave one of each book in the family room of the Serena House for all to enjoy following the program there in July.
The books are also available for purchase at two D & B Supply Store locations – on Glenwood, and in Meridian on Fairview. 100% of the proceeds go toward providing programs free of charge! Thank you!
For more information on the Mini Joys, please visit minijoys.org. Here you will find the books, the cute little herd and can check out the beautiful Mini Ranch located in the NW Boise foothills. You can also follow Mini Joys on Facebook! Questions? Email email@example.com or call 208-830-3227