SHERIDAN — Children, Horses and Adults in PartnerShip Equine Assisted Therapy recently obtained record-high financial support for client scholarships, operating costs and seed money for an endowment fund, checking off a major goal for the CHAPS 2018-2021 strategic plan.
Executive Director Kristen Marcus said in her five years with CHAPS, the organization is far ahead of any previous years as far as financial support. CHAPS is headed into the new year with operating funds in the bank, a savings account and $13,000 in endowment seed money, she said.
The scholarship funding will support CHAPS’ goal of increasing the number of clients served next year, Marcus said. One trimester scholarship is $1,000, which covers 11 weeks of 50-minute lessons and a helmet to keep.
CHAPS more than doubled the number of clients served between 2017 and 2018, but remained steady in 2019 due to weather, Marcus said.
The facility opened later in the year and closed earlier due to weather — there’s no heat in the CHAPS facility.
Another major goal for their strategic plan includes starting a capital campaign for a larger, heated facility that can operate year-round. Marcus said she hopes the facility would become a community center for a variety of equine activities and events.
Marcus attributes their success to more effective and efficient engagement with donors. Each potential donor has an open invitation to come out and see the work CHAPS does and witness the effectiveness of the program, she said. Photos of program sessions may look silly, but each aspect of experiential learning has benefit and intention, she said.
“It’s been great to see the people watch and see, you know, the skills that [clients] learn, the confidence that they have on or behind the horse, or with the horse, for the people who’ve been able to see a mental health session with the veterans — the epiphanies. We generally have two or three epiphanies every day,” Marcus said.
CHAPS is also celebrating three volunteers who were awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award for 2019. Sherry Buck, a CHAPS volunteer for the past nine years, was awarded the bronze medal in the adult category. Chelsea Adams took the silver medal for the young adult category. Buck and Adams helped with riding lessons, horse shows, Special Olympics and other events, Marcus said.
Eddie Paylor completed the CHAPS veteran program in 2018 and stayed with the organization afterwards, becoming Marcus’ “right hand man” for fundraising. Paylor was awarded the gold medal with more than 1,000 volunteer hours accumulated.
Paylor traveled to Pennsylvania to retrieve a donated wagon that is wheelchair accessible, Marcus said. He also traveled around the Wyoming region to promote CHAPS’ cash cow program, which Marcus said hasn’t “taken off” yet but she hopes it will start to feed the endowment.
Marcus said the cash cow program asks people to donate one cow from their herd that would remain with the herd. The owner would obtain a tax receipt for donating the cow, caring for the cow every year it’s in the herd, and for her calf. The calf would belong to CHAPS, supporting the endowment when it’s sold.
“We’re trying to be unique,” Marcus said. “Instead of just asking people to donate money, this is something that other people could possibly do.”
The first two calves were donated by a client this fall — which generated the first $1,000 for the endowment fund — but it wasn’t enough to start the fund on its own until combined with donations from the Johnson Foundation of the Rockies and proceeds from Giving Tuesday.