August 31, 2009

A WindWalkers Weekend

As a local not for profit, WindWalkers gets involved in a number of local events. This past summer we volunteered at the rodeo, as well as various festivals and farmer's markets. I try to teach my children that it is important to give back to the community in whatever way possible, and for us it is by volunteering. So as it turned out, Courtney, Alex and I we were able to help out on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday's event was a stint at the Aspen Farmer's market helping to face paint. The idea here is that we can raise a little money - but mostly create more awareness in the valley about WindWalkers and therapeutic riding. We feel the more we can educate others about the benefits of therapeutic riding, the more children we can help, the more volunteers we can engage, and of course, the more funds we can raise. As they say - it is a win - win for all of us. And of course, we socialize and have fun.

Alex and I stood in front of our booth - my face painting skills are non existent - and spoke to people as they walked by. Courtney is our family artist and kid magnet - so she stayed in the booth. The plan was that Alex was supposed to say "hi" to folks (the bait) while I closed in and asked if they would like to learn more about WindWalkers. This didn't work too successfully as when Alex said "hi" -they smiled and walked on. I really do not blame them - it was a beautiful day and there were so many vendors and so many people it really was hard to stop and chat.

However, the next day was dramatically different. It was a screening of The Horse Boy a very powerful documentary about an autistic boy named Rowan and his family who went to Mongolia in search of healing. The met with the holiest of shamans and participated in a some healing ceremonies. Although the jury is still out - and I am sure will be out for a long, long time Rowan has made some progress and some big steps forward.

Horses are central to this story - horses on the family ranch, horses in Mongolia and the travels through the Mongolian mountains by horseback. The narrator of the story - Rowan's father -describes the relationship between Rowan and the horses. He attributes much of Rowan's improvements to his ability to interact with the horse. As I said yesterday, this is something I have learned to believe in the last three years. It is gratifying to see this portrayed by such a powerful tool.

WindWalkers was invited to have a booth at the screening and answer questions of the film attendees. Our Executive Director spoke before and after the film, and we all spoke with the people as they came out of the theater. Alex again walked around, and told folks she was a "rider" but this time we had a much more captive audience. She engaged in conversations and was really able to "strut her stuff". Much, much, more about how Alex shines when she is the center of attention later...

To be able to talk to people after they have seen such a powerful movie is very rewarding. Our booth was overflowing with interested and concerned people. We ran out of our flyers and our sign up sheet was over a page long. It was a big success for WindWalkers and dare I say - the community?

WindWalkers is feeling the pain of the slow economy - as are most not for profit organizations. Our donations and grants are down - and our balance sheet is suffering. Often, as a board, we fear for our future - and sometimes we even mention that "c" word - close. However, after a weekend such as last, I begin to hope there is a light somewhere. And as our Executive Director constantly reminds us - it is about the kids, and the more we can show that to the world, the better off we will be.

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