UK Equine Science Class Assists Equine Therapy Program

As the semester draws to a close and students reflect on what they learned, some students in the University of Kentucky's (UK) Equine Science and Management undergraduate degree program are also reflecting on what they gave.

Each year, students in the UK College of Agriculture's equine career preparation class choose a service partnership with a local nonprofit. In doing so, they are given the opportunity to give back to the community and invest in Kentucky's equine industry, while also gaining project management, event planning and communications experience, said Elizabeth LaBonty, lecturer and internship coordinator within the equine degree program.

This year, the class chose Angel Heart Farm, a Kentucky organization that uses equine-assisted therapy for children and their families facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses. The farm works with patients from Kentucky Children's Hospital and has established connections with Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Over the course of the semester, the students held two restaurant promotional events at Lexington, Ky. restaurants Mellow Mushroom and Hugh Jass Burgers, where a portion of the restaurants' proceeds on that day were donated to Angel Heart Farm. The class also held a Halloween event, in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Hearts at Halloween was specially tailored to Angel Heart Farm's clients, with activities that included trick or treating, pumpkin painting, jump decorating, and horses in costumes. Two local restaurants, Red State BBQ and Rafferty's, donated food.

Students raised more than $700 for Angel Heart Farm. They also helped raise awareness about an organization new to the area and created a memorable Halloween event for these children.

"Angel Heart Farm is very honored to have had such a great group of young horse people plan this special event for the farm," said farm owner Tracy Kujawa. "Their hearts and talents played a major part of the success of the event. The students of UK are making a big difference in the lives of some very fragile children who share the same love and joy of being with horses and ponies."

"I am really proud of the students in this class," LaBonty said. "They were creative, hard-working and optimistic. It was such a great experience to get to partner with Angel Heart Farm and Kentucky Children's Hospital."

When asked what they learned from the project, student Irene Kaar said, "I learned that even though some kids have a hard road ahead, they are still optimistic, which is incredibly inspiring."

Other students said they learned some invaluable skills while working for a great cause.

Sean Paul Ryan said for him it was, "the satisfaction of being able to give back and volunteer to help sick kids and donate to a good organization."

Natalie Heitz and Kaylin Corvett said this project taught them the importance of effective planning, teamwork, setting and meeting deadlines, and what it takes to get people excited about attending.

Kaylin Corvett added that the project gave her "a sense of pride in knowing I was helping that farm and those kids."

"I have a great appreciation for Tracy and what she does for these kids," Lindsey Precious said.

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