Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
Laughter and smiles were everywhere at the fairgrounds in Jackson, Mississippi for the 34th annual Horses for Handicapped event. It was especially meaningful for Ammon Lunceford and his sister Ann.
“This event is unbelievable. I never expected strangers to show this kind of caring to my brother. I just can’t thank them enough or tell them how much this means to me,” said Ann.
Ammon couldn’t wait for his turn. He was so excited and nervous to ride a horse for only the second time in his life. Ammon said that he made sure this morning he wore his cowboy boots because he was going be a cowboy while riding a horse. Ammon suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and was one of the many special needs children and adults to enjoy riding horses, inflatable jump houses, games and face painting.
Lynn Harper of Richland, Mississippi has been volunteering at the event for over 10 years and is amazed at all the support and community involvement.
“It’s just so special to see all the smiles on the kids’ faces, and as long as they keep smiling I will keep coming back,” said Harper.
Every year during the third week of April, horse owners and volunteers from all over the state come to the state fairgrounds, including Steve Goodbolt of Jackson.
“I just want to give something back for those who can’t do for themselves;plus to give something to the parents who care so much,” said Goodbolt.
President of Horses for Handicapped Sharon Perry of Walnut Grove, Mississippi has been involved in the event for the last 10 years. Perry saw a small ad in a publication asking people who had horses to come help out and she decided to give it a try.
Perry said, “After seeing the smiling faces on that the first day, I called my husband and told him; I won’t be coming home until end of the week.”
Horses for Handicapped sends flyers all over the state inviting children from schools and adult assisted- living facilities to ride horses. This year alone, more than 2,000 children and adults were able to ride horses. The organizations is funded entirely through donations and receives no money from any other agency.
Perry says the group is already looking forward to planning next year’s event.