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    Knights Secure Small Miracles for the Disabled

    Council’s grant helps fund faith-based therapeutic equestrian center.


    In keeping with the traditional Knights of Columbus mission of helping people with intellectual or physical disabilities, Aldo Zazzi Council 6992 in Kingsport, Tenn., has secured an $8,000 grant on behalf a local nonprofit organization that provides equine-assisted therapy services.

    Small Miracles Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Inc., recipient of the grant from the Tennessee MR Foundation, is a Christian-based nonprofit corporation located in Kingsport. Founded in 1995, it seeks to enhance “the physical, social-emotional, cognitive and behavioral growth of individuals with special needs and disabilities through equine-assisted activities and therapies,” said GK David Huber.

    Sherri Russell, executive director of Small Miracles, described the purpose and methods of the equestrian center.

    “Our vision is to enhance the lives of individuals with special needs/disabilities and empower them to engage in life to the fullest by becoming as self-sufficient as possible within their family and larger community,” Russell said. “Helping all program participants realize that they are accepted, unconditionally loved, validated and have an important role within their family and community with a future full of promise is our passion.”

    Therapeutic horsemanship helps special-needs persons improve physical strength, fine/gross motor skills, and sensory integration, she explained further. Cognitive, educational, and self-determination skills are gained through multi-stepped, sequential activities such as horsemanship patterns that promote critical thinking, problem-solving and literacy, while social-emotional development occurs during interaction with the horse, volunteers and staff.

    Some members of Council 6992 are intimately involved with Small Miracles. Brian Elpers is a board member, and Dan Herlihy has volunteered several hours a week at the equestrian center for a number of years.

    The Tennessee MR Foundation is a charitable organization sponsored by the Knights of Columbus councils within the state to disburse grants to nonprofits that offer assistance to persons with intellectual or mental disabilities. The Aldo Zazzi Council has supported the foundation in part through the proceeds from its annual smoked meats sales spearheaded by David Gostomski each fall. The council takes orders for pork butts and pork loins for four consecutive weekends beginning in late September, and on the fifth weekend the meats are purchased, prepared and smoked in the St. Dominic Parish Life Center. Last year’s profits were just shy of $1,000.

    Herlihy and fellow council member John Graham handled the grant request, and the MR Foundation approved the $8,000 grant for Small Miracles last April.

    The funds were dearly needed to continue the work of the equestrian center, Russell indicated.

    “This year has been one of tremendous growth in the number of individuals with special needs/disabilities we serve— despite a participant’s’ ability to pay for services,” she explained. “This growth has necessitated the expansion of our equine herd with reciprocal program cost.”

    The Knights of Columbus grant “has enabled Small Miracles to provide additional security and 24/7 surveillance of our Miracles Herd, who are truly the ‘muscle behind the miracles,’” she added. “We could not have completed this very important facility project without your generosity.”



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