As a co-founder of Minis & Friends, I am so proud and grateful for what our organization has become. Almost 11 years ago, we couldn't even imagine the impact our minis and the faithful volunteers have on those we serve in the Austin area.
We are all volunteers and we depend upon donations to help us in our mission to visit children & adults who need that special touch our minis provide. A favorite moment for me was when the minis were out in public and met an autistic boy who didn't interact much with the world around him. He was fascinated by the minis and asked if he could touch one. By the end of this encounter, he was standing next to the horses,asking us to take his picture. We all got a bit misty eyed and his father was holding back tears, saying how amazing it was.
Our tagline "Little Horses, Big Hearts" says it perfectly!
Since the day we sat around a kitchen table in late 2006, Minis & Friends has grown beyond anything we could have imagined that day. The minis continue to travel around Austin and surrounding area to visit those who need their gentle touch. Special needs schools, Alzheimer's facilities, children's hospitals and shelters and rehab units are among the various places we go. From our humble beginnings, Minis & Friends has grown into an organization with a big impact. We were named one of the Five Who Care by KVUE TV for Outstanding Community Service!
My daughter Danielle and I have been with Minis &Friends for over 2 years now. What started out as a volunteering opportunity search has now become my volunteer passion. It is amazing how little miniature therapy horses can bring such joy to so many people throughout the community including myself. If you are looking for an organization that can help change your life and others in a positive way, then Minis and Friends would be that organization. The love that the mini owners shows their mini horses and their volunteer team is remarkable. Thanks Minis and Friends for all that you do.
I started volunteering with Minis and Friends in August 2017 as part of my social work program at UT Austin. I fell in love with the work they do and decided to continue working with this amazing group of people and minis even after my service learning hours were completed. I was moved by the minis wonderful ability to bring smiles and moments of pure joy to both the residents and the volunteers. Each mini has his or her own personality but they all have a unique ability to connect with those that need it the most. It is truly a beautiful moment to witness when a resident that hasn't left her room in months, comes out into the hallway to spend a few minutes with a mini.
The amazing things I have seen working with Minis and Friends in just the short amount of time I have volunteered with this group doesn't even touch the surface of what they can do. I believe one of the greatest gift one can give is the gift of time and this group of amazing people use their time to provide a wonderful services for those in need through equestrian therapy. I am truly blessed to be a part of this group. There are no words to describe the difference these folks and their minis make to the people we visit. My heart has never felt so much joy working with the people and the minis, what I see when the minis interact with the people is truly something special, you feel such kindness, beauty and love we so often miss in this world. The looks on the people and children’s faces, their emotions and their reactions is like nothing else anywhere, it’s truly a special and wonderful feeling for both myself and to see in the folks we help.
I have been a part of Minis and Friends for a several years and have so many memories to share. We are not a cure for Cancer or any other disease or illness out there. What we do is try to put a smile on a face and help those that are going through a tough time forget their worries if not for just a little while. Some people have no idea how much putting a smile on a face can help. God bless the people we visit and god bless our little horse for their patience and kindness they show while out in the community.
Minis and Friends has been an extraordinary non-profit to volunteer with. These horses bring such joy to children and other special populations through their gentle demeanor and warmth. And, they help the humans who work with them to more directly connect with the people we serve. Minis and Friends allows us to bring a very special kind of love to those in need, physically and emotionally, and everyone gains from the experience. My time with the horses and those who contribute their time, enriches my own life and all those who interact with us. It is something very special.
I have volunteered with Minis and Friends since 2007. Watching what the magical mini horses and volunteers bring to those with special needs. Is so wonderful and seeing smiling faces on those they visit is magical. The little minis bring out the best in all they meet. Old people show joyful reaction they have not had in a long time.And the children seeing them smile is a reward in itself. This organization brings so much to so many in the central Texas area.
I have volunteered with this organization since 2007. I have seen the wonderful results from the young children to the old. The smiles the little magical miniature horse bring to all is heart warming. The volunteers with this group are well trained, dedicated, and give freely of there time on weekends, holidays, and weekdays. They provide those with special needs a special kind of visit. The miniature horses are well trained and provide a service that only they can give.
Suffering from my own auto-immune issues, and walking with the assistance of a cane, "My health had me at a crossroads of my identity in life, then I saw them, these incredible little creatures." It was a Minis and friends volunteer training session. In an instant, I had been transformed, forgetting about my pain, tossing the cane aside, and interjected myself , jogging with a mini, into the class. I was hooked and began my incredible journey volunteering with this organization. I, now along beside my husband, own four wonderful therapeutic miniature horses. I've witnessed, first hand, the amazing ability and social impact these horses have in our community and the health and wellness of all they encounter. The vast ability these horses have to diversify and transform their therapeutic interventions to specifically target exactly what one needs from them is remarkable and uncanning. This volunteer endeavor, has allowed my husband and I, to share our love of horses and people, and has extended our understanding of the animal to human connection and helped us develop a deep compassion for loving and serving others.
I have volunteered with this organization since 2009. I have been truly blessed to witness unique and amazing experiences as we visit facilities throughout Austin. These incredible Minis, possess an intuitive therapeutic ability, which our volunteers, who are extensively trained to handle a minature horse, interact with patients and clients, who may be suffering physically, mentally, or emotionally. This magic happens, each and every visit, as the Minis and volunteers bring smiles and lift spirits. The animal to human connection can not be overlooked or underestimated.
My daughter and I have been volunteering with Minis and Friends for about 3 years. I'm so fortunate to have the opportunity to do something so meaningful with my daughter. The minis' owners are so kind and caring. No matter where we take the minis, it's such a delight to see the sparkle in people's eyes when they get to pet and hug the minis. This is a wonderful organization with awesome volunteers. I can't say enough great things about Minis and Friends!
My daughter and I have been volunteering with Minis and Friends since last June. It's a very heart-warming experience to see the smiles on the faces of all the people we have the privilege of visiting with the mini horses. Our visits mean as much to those we visit as they do to me and my daughter.
Love that this is even an opportunity that i found. The founders are kind hearted and fun to work with and the people who we visit truly appreciate and find joy in the work.
It’s always amusing when you tell one of the kids at Dell’s children’s hospital that the minis are full grown.
Thank you for letting me see the sparkling smiles of the young and the young at heart.
This organization is insanely beautiful in terms of how big of a difference their efforts make. Thank you for making it possible for me to be a part of such a lovely thing.
Minis and Friends is in its 11th year! We have had so many magical moments with the little horse therapists. This is why we do as we do, almost every Saturday weather permitting. Recently, a mother came to us and shared her testimony and gave us permission to use it on social media. It is just beautiful and sad.
This is Heather Keiler-Green, and I am Phoenix’s mother. I spoke with your team on Saturday at Dell Children’s Hospital at the St. Baldrick’s Fair about the impact that your mini horses had on Phoenix.
Phoenix was diagnosed in January of 2016 at the age of 17 months with Stage 4 High-Risk Neuroblastoma. He spent 19 months in treatment (mostly at Dell Children’s), and fought courageously and joyously before passing away in August of 2017, just 6 days shy of his 3rd birthday. Phoenix was in the hospital at least one week out of every 3 weeks for scheduled treatment (chemotherapy and immunotherapy), and was often hospitalized in between those scheduled times for infections and other emergency treatment. Due to his treatment protocol, he was often too immunocompromised to attend events and have experiences outside of the hospital setting.
Because of this, and because of the fact that the majority of his short childhood was spent in the hospital, we are forever grateful for the special events that occurred at Dell Children’s. Two of those special events included visits from the Minis and Friends teams.
On one occasion, the mini horses came on a Saturday and were set up down in the healing garden. Phoenix’s favorite room was 419 which had a perfect view of the garden. We would spend hours looking out the window and talking about everything happening down below. On this particular day, Phoenix was set to discharge but it was taking a very long time due to a needed blood transfusion, and needing to get his port de-accessed. We waiting and watched the mini horses down in the garden, and Phoenix was so excited to get to go down and visit them. That would be his first time being around horses, and he was so excited. It took so long for his blood transfusion to finish, that we were sadly watching the horses get packed up and it seemed that we would miss the event.
The wonderful nursing staff on 4 North quickly helped Phoenix finish his transfusion and de-accessed his port and ushered us downstairs. You were all ready to leave, but when you saw Phoenix coming- all of the staff and horses stayed and let him pet the horses and enjoy his time with the sweet animals. Phoenix was so happy and talked about this for a long time.
I thank you so much for the wonderful experiences that you gave my sweet boy, and I truly hope that you will be able to continue bringing happiness to other children at Dell Children’s Hospital for years to come.
Thank you again, Heather - (Phoenix’s Mom)
PS- The 3rd photo is of Phoenix and his sister, Shiloh at 2017 St. Baldrick's Day.
As a board member and Co-Founder of Minis and Friends, my passion for the work of the little horses and Lewis (the mini donkey) continues to advance upward. We have 4 main core mini-horse families (Gil & Sally Iwanski; Kim Sullivan; Paul & Sherry Montoya; and Cathy, Cliff & Colton Howard) that have been with us over the years and share the same passion. As a weekend only working non-profit because most of us work full time or attend college/school - we have very dedicated volunteers (about 25 currently) and we usually have volunteer training monthly. We have very blessed this year with social media help from the Texas Tower PR student team, UT Journalism students doing a documentary on us and a new website design coming soon (donated from DazzleMedia).
We also have filled our May Mini Boot Camp (teaching others to go home and open EGI (Equine Guided Interactions) non-profits too) and will have another one in October this year. Since 2007, 9 non-profits and several folks who just take minis out and about, that have attended our Mini Boot Camp are still operating and doing wonderful by bringing these big smiles to people with special needs by the little horses and donkeys. We have sister organizations from Calgary, AB, Canada and 8 states.
We always say "once you have your moment" you are hooked. And I have had many, many moments - that keeps me continually wanting to reach out more to other organizations and facilities to bring to them the magical little horse/donkey therapists that bring unconditional trust, love, hope, healing and BIG SMILES to the many people we meet along the way.
Give Minis and Friends a try or sponsor us - you'll love it! As we do!
I have been working with Minis and Friends since I moved to the Austin area last year, and it has been positively wonderful. The people in leadership positions are present, active, and genuinely care about everyone involved (horses included!) Everyone who interacts with these minis gets to feel the benefits of equine therapy, from the youngest child at Dell Children's Hospital to the oldest of our volunteers. When I was looking for an organization that combined my love of animals with my desire to help my community, I couldn't have imagined that I would find such a perfect fit.
I can't even begin to describe what this group means to me and what we give back to the community. We take the mini therapy horses to Dell Children's Medical Center, nursing homes, Alzheimer's facilities, shelters for abused kids, etc. It is hands down the most satisfying volunteer job I have ever had. There is no better feeling than seeing the smiles on people's faces when we bring these tiny horses to them. We lift their spirits, make them happy, and let them forget about their troubles for a while. The horses have an amazing effect on Alzheimer's patients - they often become lucid and present when we bring the minis in. The patients' families and care givers are always stunned, and they are so grateful for what our group does. I can't think of a better way of giving back to my community.
I have been with Minis and Friends for about 2 1/2 years. Joining the group was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I was looking online for more volunteer opportunities when I came across their page. When I saw I could help people AND work with tiny horses, I was ecstatic! I signed up right away, and went through the volunteer orientation. Minis & Friends does amazing work in the community. We visit Dell Children's Medical Center, shelters for abused children, nursing homes, Alzheimer's facilities, and even a women's correctional facility. The effect these little horses have on people is nothing short of amazing! People light up when they see the minis, and are just tickled when they get to pet them, groom them, and walk them. The minis get LOTS of hugs and lots of smiles. We bring happiness to the people who need it most!
What a great nonprofit! We love all the volunteers and mini horses. Sally and friends have been coming to our Family Day at the Center for Child Protection for many years bringing their mini horses and it's what everyone is always waiting for... so grateful for their kindness and generosity - the work they do is remarkable. Thank you so much to Sally, all the volunteers and Minis and Friends for everything! -Anne West, Volunteer Services Manager at CCP
I have been with Minis and Friends about four years. I believe that in the presence of these little therapy minis, one forgets all else for a while and is firmly in the moment. That's when there is joy.
I have five therapy minis and I believe they are for sharing!!! We all get as much out of the visits as those whom we visit. Our 'smile muscles' hurt, there are tears sometimes and it is our mission to show we care. The mini therapy ambassadors are so amazing. They know when they are working and are gentle and patient. They pull you right into their heart circle. There's no escaping it!!!
There are enough stories to fill a book. After a five minute visit with a woman in a wheelchair at a nursing home, I thanked the woman for the visit and said that we needed to move on down the hall. She had been hugging and petting the mini. As we walked away, she turned to the woman beside her and said, "Such a nice dog!!!".
Another time a patient hugged the mini and sobbed for 15 minutes as the mini stood patiently with his head resting on her lap.
All the volunteers have their 'ah-ha' stores. The minis provide a starting point for the interaction. We talk to residents in nursing homes and ask if they ever had horses. We have some really great conversations. Many people have not had the opportunity to be around an animal bigger than a dog since they moved into the nursing home. There are many who rode a horse to school or did ranch work with their horses. Many memories shared with us.
Once, as we walked up to a man in a wheelchair, the staff stood behind him and mouthed the words that this gentleman HATES animals. They were shocked as he hugged the mini and talked to him.
I'll stop now, but I could go on...
It is a very unique experience and one that you won't soon forget! Join us, if you think your smile muscles can take it.
Minis and Friends is a 501c3 organization that serves children, youth, adults and seniors in the greater Austin area who have mental, physical and emotional challenges and disabilities. There is a magical connection between people and the tiny horse ambassadors. I feel that they plant you firmly in the 'here and now', a space that leaves no room for anxiety and worry for the past, present and future. Whether you are in a nursing home, a special education class or in your wheelchair in the Healing Garden at the Dell Children's Hospital, when a tiny horse puts their head in your lap, they create a place of total focus on the relationship. It's you and a horse. They nuzzle and get close to you. They'll put their head right on the bed in a nursing home or step right along the side of a wheelchair for hugs. It is virtually impossible not to be drawn into the moment. We hear people say, "Oh, they have made my day", "Could you leave them here with us?", "I used to have a horse", "I could hug them all day!" and "I have never seen a horse indoors". (They wear dog booties to walk on indoor surfaces)
We have witnessed someone talking to a horse having not spoken for over a year. There are Alzheimer patients who remember the horses' names, cerebral palsy patients who move to touch the horses and special needs children so filled with excitement that you can barely stand it. And those are the people we visit. The truth is that the 'trickle down' effect touches not only our target audience, but the nurses, the parents and families, teachers, nursing home staff and, in a huge way, the volunteers.
The volunteers go to visits week after week and they keep coming back for more. The experience of presenting the minis where smiles are needed, provides us with something deeply satisfying. When you visit from room to room you show, for this little visit, I am here, I brought you a four legged friend and we care. And then the mini magic happens!
The minis are tiny and travel in my Volvo station wagon. I am a board member, volunteer and mini owner of Wiggins, Fiona and Jooney Belle. Three little magic makers.
Minis and Friends is a family of volunteers. It is simply, the best!
Our organization has worked with Minis & Friends for several years and each experience we have is beyond delightful.
I think everyone can agree that interacting with the Minis is good for the soul. We always enjoy having the Minis out; the interaction with the Minis and the rest of the team is always exceptional.
The work Sally, Sherry and their team do is unbelievable! It's amazing the care they have for their mini horses, and the way they deliver the mini horse experience to children and adults.
They have the best attitude, and they have created an amazingly effective system. Hard to believe!
I have volunteered with Minis and friends for about 6 months now! I can not say enough great things about all those who are involved with this group! The volunteer training was well thought out and I felt very prepared to go out with the mini's to the community! The events that I helped with are the highlight of my weeks! To see the pure JOY on the children's and the parents faces is something I will never forget! There is AWE in the kids faces when they see and interact with the mini's! They get to "decorate" the mini's with flowers, hats, beads ,etc! They sometimes even get to take selfies with them! My only regret is that I don't have more time in my schedule to attend every event!
We recently volunteered to serve with this amazing group. We have seen the joy and smiles of the elderly and the children brought by these little horses and the loving volunteers that share their love and time. This is an incredible organization that can reach out to those that are hurting and just need a little nuzzle or to softly touch a cute mini that can unconditionally give love in the most gentle way. To see the eyes light up and hear the excitement in their voices are the most rewarding blessings a volunteer can experience. LOVE THOSE MINIS AND THIS INCREDIBLE TEAM.
It is amazing to get to see the smiles and happiness that these little horses bring to people. Minis and Friends has been great to volunteer with because there are clear expectations of what is required of me and everyone involved is always so welcoming.