Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Perfect book for history and horse lovers April 20, 2017

PerfectHorsebookI’ve been addicted to fiction books lately, as it’s sometimes nice to escape to new worlds and other ‘people’s’ stories. But when I was walking through the library the other day, a nonfiction book cover caught my eye and made me pause in the aisle. Many of you know that I’m a major horse lover so when I saw the cover for “The Perfect Horse,” with the beautiful head of a white horse along with military troops, I was intrigued. I’m happy I was!

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If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy the book as it takes place during World War II. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy this book as it tells the story of a daring rescue mission to protect some of the world’s priceless, purebred horses from the Nazis.

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“The Perfect Horse” by Elizabeth Betts is a true story of how Hitler sought to breed the perfect military horse by gathering some of the world’s finest purebreds. The book tells the tale of U.S. Army troops who took huge risks to rescue these horses at the end of the war, before the Russians, refugees or others could slaughter these horses for food or other.

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I found the book fascinating from the start. You learn about the different horse farms in Germany, Poland and Austria that bred Arabians and Lippizzaners. I loved learning about the prestigious and historic Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which has practiced classical equitation for nearly 450 years. The book also shares the history of the U.S. cavalry and their role in military actions.

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As much as I’m a horse lover, it was also horrifying to read how the Nazis looked the other way as millions of people were murdered while horses were treated with kindness and warmth at farms not far from concentration camps. It’s sickening to read how the Germans wanted purebred horses as much as purebred humans and would stop at nothing to accomplish this. I also was fascinated by the loyalty and duty many of the veterinarians, grooms, riders and farm managers felt for these horses, as they considered the horses national treasures. The book chronicles the decisions and challenges the farm directors faced while the war raged around the farms and the Germans began to lose.

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The book shares the stories of the many American troops who played a significant role in rescuing these horses from the Germans and before others could harm or kill the animals. These horses were among the finest purebreds in the world so it ultimately was important to try to rescue them as the war ended. To do this, Americans, Germans, Polish and other countrymen worked together to protect the stallions, mares and foals. Overall, this was a well-told story and interesting book.

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Penguins, butterflies and giraffes, oh my! October 1, 2016

Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! Sorry, but I couldn’t help it. Every time I enter the gates of the Detroit Zoo, I think of that scene in Wizard of Oz. Although my recent visit to the zoo should have included a chant of ‘penguins, butterflies and giraffes, oh yes!’

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Inside the underwater tunnel.

It was a beautiful, sunny day during my recent visit to the 125-acre Detroit Zoo. Home to more than 2,400 animals, the zoo has a new penguin center and baby giraffe, which were my main interests of the day.

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There is much to see at the Detroit Zoo. You can meander through the paths to view animals in various habitats or pick and choose your path (maps and signage help direct you to specific points of interest). Since there were several in our group that day, we each voiced one attraction we hoped to see. Happily for me, everyone also wanted to view the penguins and baby giraffe.

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We were given a time slot to visit the penguin center when we purchased tickets so that was the first stop on our visit (I was told that timed-entry is only on weekends right now). This new center is 33,000 square feet, with a 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area. Plenty of clear glass allows you to watch more than 80 penguins swim, eat, snooze and play. I find penguins cute, and interesting to watch them interact with each other, swim and waddle around. As you walk through the penguin center, a path takes you to the ‘deck’ of a ship where awesome 4-D video makes you feel as if you’re crossing Antarctic waters. Once you leave the ship area, you can enter an underwater gallery with two acrylic tunnels to watch the penguins swim above and around you. It’s very cool!

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So many pretty ones.

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Once we left the arctic, we entered the balmy Butterfly Garden. Home to thousands of butterflies, representing more than 25 species, the beautiful gardens are maintained at 75 degrees to ensure optimal flora growth and butterfly activity. And active these butterflies were that day! It was fun to watch them take flight throughout the gardens.It’s funny my human instinct to duck when something flies at your head, even a harmless, lightweight butterfly. To enter the Butterfly Garden, you walk through one door, wait for it to close, then go through another door. This ensures that any butterfly that happens to slip past the first door can be caught and returned to the garden area. Which was a good setup to have as a large pretty one landed on my leg as I was walking out. Thankfully someone spotted it before I went too far and, with the help of the docent, we returned it safely to the garden.

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An adorable ‘little’ girl.

I was so tickled to walk up to the giraffe habitat and immediately spot the ‘little’ female giraffe (born in August). She’s adorable! She walked around the enclosure several times, often stopping to check out all of us humans smiling and taking pictures of her. The zoo added an elevated viewing platform several years ago, making it easy to get almost eye level with the largest mammal in the world. Some interesting giraffe facts (courtesy of the Detroit Zoo): Giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in the neck as a human (there are only seven bones in its neck); a giraffe’s heart can weigh up to 25 pounds (an adult human heart weighs about 10 ounces), and giraffes sleep about 20 minutes each day.

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There were many other animals to watch, from gorillas to polar bears to red pandas to kangaroos to zebras. It’s a good time of year to visit these animals as the cooler weather often provides a more active viewing opportunity. It was a great day to be outdoors and learn about the conservation efforts of the zoo and the many animals living in metro Detroit.

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Fall hours begin today, 10am-4pm. Keep in mind that the zoo doesn’t sell bottled water (in a cool effort to reduce plastic waste) – you can bring your own or purchase a reusable bottle at the concession stands.

 

7 reasons to take a hike in the woods May 21, 2016

ReasonsToHike_Blog

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Mother Nature is finally starting to love us in southeast Michigan. The weather has been mild to warm temps, the sun shining and the breeze blowing just right. The birds are chirping, ducks and geese are having babies all around me, and even the deer are making appearances (considering I live in the suburbs, it’s so fun to see all these animals on an almost daily basis!).

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HH_Mill Creek stone_Cuyahoga 508

This time of year is one of my favorites because it means I can get outside to hike and bike. The titanium rod in my femur prevents me from having too much fun during the winter when we have snowy, slick conditions so I’m usually pacing the living room waiting for the weather to break (by January!). I love to be outside, whether hiking on the trails, biking, walking, relaxing in the backyard, hanging with friends and family on the deck, chilling at the local park, or wherever – I love the fresh air, gentle warm breezes and animals talking. I’ve always enjoyed nature, but it became a necessity after spending multiple stretches of 6-16 days in the hospital during 13 months of cancer treatment. Upon discharge, my parents would take me home and I’d sit outside with our Sheltie, letting the stress emotions seep out of me.

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Hiking has been my preferred form of outdoor exercise the past few weeks. I love walking into the woods, feeling like you can escape the world for even for a short bit. I enjoy the wonderful nature center and trails near my house – perfect distance to stop by after dinner or early on a weekend morning to wander in the woods when I don’t have a lot of time to go to the larger parks. An added bonus is I also feel safe hiking there alone. The trails aren’t super long but if you lap a few times, it’s a great workout for the body and mind.

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If you haven’t tried hiking or been on the trails for a while, here are some reasons to take a walk in the woods:

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Anyone can do it. The beauty of hiking is that it doesn’t matter your gender, age, race, economic status, or education – anyone can enjoy the outdoors! You don’t need fancy, expensive shoes or clothing. Shoes with good treads and simple workout clothes will suffice to get you started.

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You might learn something. Many of the local and state parks have trail signs throughout the route to share some knowledge about the land, animals living nearby or history. Take a moment to stop to read these signs. There’s some interesting things to learn!

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Clear your head. Lately, I’ve been heading to the trails on my own more than with others. There’s a lot going on in my head and sometimes I need to slip away without my phone or people to think about things. There’s something about stepping onto the trails, hearing the rustle of the leaves and chirping of birds above you, and the absence of cars. Moments like that are what feed my soul.

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Get exercise and burn some calories. Hiking is great exercise without the tedium of the indoor gym or machines. A few summers ago, I hiked some of the local trails 1-2 times a week with a group of friends. After a few weeks of doing this (and having a LOT of fun), I happened to glance in a mirror that I walked by in my bedroom after a shower. I paused, backed up and thought, “Wow.” My legs had become very toned from the variation of the trails, distance and regularity of hiking. I was especially excited because it’s been tough to tone my left leg after surgery cut and moved so many muscles in my thigh. I was working out without really paying attention because I was enjoying it so much!

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Quality time with friends and family. Some of my best conversations have been hiking on the trail. As I mentioned earlier, for the most part, differences tend to be irrelevant when hiking (and camping) so it’s a great opportunity to share some of yourself and your likes/dislikes (I have discussed pizza, politics, craft beer, cancer, horses, work, fertility, sports, life goals, bucket list destinations, favorite colors, books and so much more!).

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Stage deerYou gain a better appreciation of nature. It’s so important to protect our environment as it provides much benefit to us, not just for enjoyment. The more I’m in the woods, the more I notice variations of trees, plants and flowers. I watch animals build homes, care for their young and forage for food. I try to take my nieces and nephew on the trails as often as we can so they too develop an appreciation and understanding for the environment. It’s a commitment all of us adults need to pass down to younger generations.

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You never know who you may meet in the woods. When I meet other people who also enjoy hiking, I know I’ve met some like-minded people. I’ve joined several hiking groups over the years to meet people with the same interest, and I’m fortunate that many of these people are still friends. The other day I hiked with seven deer, three wild turkeys, a dozen or squirrels, two rabbits and….three people!

 

7 tips for finding a great volunteer activity April 13, 2016

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 12:01 pm
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volunteerimage quoteThis week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week so I want to thank all of you who volunteer in your community! Volunteering is an incredible way of helping others and supporting your community and neighbors.

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I love to volunteer for many reasons – I feel so fortunate to be alive, healthy, financially stable, educated and loved by many. I know how lucky I am to be here, especially as a 17-year cancer survivor. I believe that everyone can pay it forward in some way. Maybe not financially, but we can all donate our time and talent. Every minute can help others.Consider this information:

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Last year, 62.8 million Americans volunteered almost 8 billion hours!* This equates to almost $184 trillion! Need another reason to volunteer? Volunteers have 27 percent higher odds of finding a job after being out of work compared to people who don’t volunteer. Consider the new skills you learn and people you meet as added bonuses of helping others.

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If you haven’t yet found the time to volunteer and help others, no worries. You can start tomorrow (or today depending when you read this)! Maybe you’re wondering how to get started and what you might be able to do. There are thousands of nonprofits that need help! Here are some suggestions to get you started:

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Start with your local community: Think of what interests you or what really makes you passionate (Are you a cancer survivor too? Love animals? So grateful to your shelter for helping you or someone you know? Experienced in planning events or finances?). Check out some nonprofits near you. Ask your family and friends where they volunteer and what they like about these organizations.

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Thank your church: Many churches welcome volunteers to help with activities such as office tasks, answering phones, greeting members before services, and during Sunday School for the children. Our church hosts coffee time between services where members volunteer to greet others, donate baked goods, and basically ensure everyone is enjoying the social time as we get to know each other.

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School time: Those of you who are parents know that most teachers and schools love to have volunteers help out in the class and at activities. I’m not just talking about PTA. While I may not yet be a parent, I still love volunteering at my nieces and nephew’s schools. I’ve done everything from chaperoning field trips to helping with classroom activities to checking out books during library time to assisting at holiday events.

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Volunteer with a group: Volunteering with others is a great way to help and have fun at the same time! Gather your family, friends and/or coworkers together to help make a big difference. Many nonprofits have special group projects, such as spring cleaning gardens, packing food boxes, painting and building homes. The local horse rescue organization that I support organizes group volunteer days in the spring and fall to clean the farm for the four-legged residents. Tasks can range from washing water buckets to fixing and painting fences to organizing the feed room to cleaning the pastures. It helps the organization get a lot of big projects done quickly while also exposing many people to the great mission and animals. And I love meeting new horse-loving people!

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Cuddle some animals: Many animal shelters need people to play with and simply love the pets in their care to help socialize the animals waiting for adoption. Many of these animals have been abandoned and possibly abused so letting these furry creatures know there is lots of love in the world can help them find a home.

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Hang out with seniors: I have so much respect for the generations above me and love talking to them to hear about our history through their experiences. Some senior citizen homes have volunteers come in to play games and activities with the residents and help them not be alone.

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Focus on your passion: I’m pretty passionate about fighting cancer, helping others touched by cancer, and anything horse-related so it’s probably no surprise that I give a lot of time and energy to organizations with missions that fit my interests. I am particularly partial to organizations that support young adult cancer survivors since I know first-hand the powerful impact cancer can have on you when diagnosed at that vulnerable stage of life. Do some research though. As you can imagine, there are thousands of organizations focused on cancer so I thoroughly research an organization, meet some of the staff to ensure we ‘click’ and commit to organizations that I feel really need my help (I refuse to help as a volunteer or board member just to list this on my resume).

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There really are SO many volunteer opportunities available throughout the country, even world. Many communities have an organization that lists volunteer opportunities throughout the area (Volunteer Impact is one example in the Detroit area and Volunteer Impact highlights U.S. opportunities). What are some volunteer opportunities you participate in?

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*source: Corporation for National & Community Service.

 

Exploring local kid-friendly trails and nature center June 21, 2013

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 2:16 pm
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kidstrailI love being outside and am so happy that my nieces and nephew share the feeling. I’ve taken the two oldest nieces camping and hiking in the past so decided it was time to take the next two on the trails. I picked Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township because it’s one of my favorite local parks. Plus there is a nature center at the park so figured if the kids got bored (gasp!) or tired on the trails, we could wander through the building. I shouldn’t have worried about being bored or tired. In fact, I was told on the drive home that we needed to go back to “spend hours in the woods” (courtesy of my 4-year old nephew). That warmed my heart.

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While I’ve hiked many times in Stony Creek, we usually stick to the hiking/mountain bike trails near the West Branch picnic area. Since these trails are shared with bikes, I decided we would explore the trails by the Nature Center. It would be a new experience for me too. So I headed out with three nieces (ages 6, 15, 17) and my nephew (age 4). We were supplied with snacks, water, sunscreen, wipes and a few other necessities for wandering the woods. Two of my nieces and I carried day packs.

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In preparation for being on the trails, I created a scavenger hunt form – look for a squirrel, acorn, flowers, etc. The kids got really into the task of looking for the items and we spotted a deer, chipmunks, lots of flowers and leaves, acorns and birds. The squirrel alluded us until we were leaving. We also talked about the concepts behind Leave No Trace and how the woods serve as home to many different animals.

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There are several variations in habitat on tphoto(19)he trails, which was fun to explore. The trail led us past the Clinton River, where we took our first break on the bench to re-apply sunscreen and open granola bars (a long 10 minutes into the hike!). There are benches at various locations along the trail, which is nice to rest and enjoy the sights. At a fork in the trails, I made the mistake of asking which way we should go, only to get two different answers! Being a nice aunt, I decided we’d do both routes so we hiked a bit on one trail, then turned around and headed to the other trail. The trails are really well-groomed and while not too difficult in elevation or terrain, a good distance for a nice workout/hike.

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We didn’t get to hike the entire route of any trail but it was enough of a teaser for me that I’m looking forward to going back with Justin or some adult friends who can hike a bit longer. Although the younger two kids said they could have gone on much longer!

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NatureCenterThe Nature Center is a nice building with many things to explore. And bathrooms. The Nature Center has many live fish, snakes, frogs, turtles and more. There are several exhibits on animals and the history of the area. Outside of the Nature Center are benches and gardens. There is a wooden deck just off the sidewalk that overlooks the river and trails. We had snacks and drinks in the shade by the Nature Center and then had to head home for other commitments. I asked each one what they liked best about hiking:
H (age 17): The blue sky; M (age 15): The nice breeze; A (age 6): Sunshine and warm weather; B (age 4): Everything! (which resulted in the others agreeing!)

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The only thing that bugged me is that there is a shooting range not far from the nature center so we heard shots constantly while on the trails. Once when we all stopped on the trail, I suggested we be quiet to listen for the sounds of nature – the sounds of shots were the most HB_naturecenterevident, which finally made us laugh because what else could we do.

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On our way out of the park, I showed the kids all of the other fun activity sites, including some beaches, picnic areas, paddle boat and canoe rentals and the fitness trails. H and M were excited to see all that the park offered, wanting to visit again with friends. We all decided it would be a great plan to hike the nature center trails again, then have the rest of the family meet at the beach for an afternoon of fun and barbecuing. I was so happy the kids loved hiking and being outdoors as much as I do. I’m glad to share this interest with my family and look forward to hiking again with them. The kids decided our next adventure would be camping….with the entire family. The planning alone might be an adventure for that idea!

 

Volunteers needed for great charities May 18, 2013

Filed under: Cancer Tips,Life Lessons — Heather @ 6:01 pm
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For most of my career, I have worked in the nonprofit sector, focusing on missions, fundraising, volunteers and getting the best bang for always low budgets. I loved knowing my work was making a difference in the lives of people in our communities. So it’s a little strange to be in the for-profit world, not worrying about planning fundraising events and raising donations (although for-profits obviously focus on raising funds for different reasons). I’m not complaining though – I love not worrying about those things! And it frees my time for volunteering at my favorite charities.

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Horses have been my passion since childhood.

Horses have been my passion since childhood.

I love volunteering – love knowing I’m helping others, love sharing my skills and knowledge to help others give back, love seeing the results of hard work. Whether it’s helping facilitate a program, coordinating publicity for an event, chaperoning children with cancer to camp, cleaning feed buckets for horses, or sitting on a nonprofit board, it’s quite gratifying to help worthwhile charities be successful.

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I always encourage others to give back, whether volunteering your time and talent, attending a fundraiser to show support, donating funds for a project or simply helping spread the word about programs and events. So many of us are blessed with health and success, and there is always something that everyone can give. And giving back doesn’t have to be about money. While donations are critical to a charity’s ability to provide their programs, volunteering is essential too. Most charities have small staffs to keep administrative costs low so rely on volunteers to help with office tasks, work at events and assist during programs.

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After years of working in the nonprofit sector, I am familiar with many local charities. Many have a wonderful mission, are well-managed and efficient with funds and resources, and positively touch the lives of many people in our local communities. And several have a well-meaning mission and want to make a difference but don’t quite understand that operating a nonprofit is similar to operating a business. Just because you are ‘helping’ people, the environment or animals doesn’t mean you get to slack on accountability, ethics and responsible management. Donors trust you to do good work with their money and make the greatest positive impact. The IRS has high standards too. I recall a board member of a nonprofit I managed telling me that I was running the organization like a business, not a nonprofit. I knew he meant it as a snarky comment but I smiled at him and said “thank you.” It was clear he didn’t know the business model of a highly functioning nonprofit and I took his comment as a compliment.

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While there are thousands of charities to find in metro Detroit, and many worthy of support, I admit I have my favorites. These organizations fall into categories that interest me, thereby motivating me to give my time, energy, talents and money to them when possible. I thought I would share in case you’re motivated to give back to others.

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Camp Casey, Royal Oak: This organization combines two passions of mine – horses and cancer advocacy. Founded in memory of a young girl who loved horses, Camp Casey offers horse-related programs to children with cancer. Cowboy Camp Outs lets families with a child with cancer get away for a weekend at a dude ranch. Outlaw Outings are cost-free fun activities for these families, including sports games, museum visits, theater shows, etc. And Horsey House Calls are an awesome opportunity for Camp Casey to bring the horse to a child’s house. I recently trained to be an equine therapist for the Horsey House Calls, which includes a fun pizza party, craft project, grooming lesson and ride on the horse around the neighborhood for the child with cancer and a few siblings and/or friends. All programs are free to participants. You need horse experience to be an equine therapist but there are several other volunteer opportunities, including helping at events.

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A magical place to support.

A magical place to support.

Friends of Camp Mak-A-Dream, Michigan Chapter, Bloomfield Hills (and Montana): I’ve shared info in the past about this great camp for children, teens and young adults with cancer. It means so much to me that Justin and I chose to give a donation to the camp in honor of our wedding guests rather than favors (we also chose Michigan Humane Society). The Michigan Chapter raises funds to send local cancer survivors to the camp in Montana. Local volunteer opportunities include helping plan a fundraising event and working at events. If you want a life-changing event, volunteer for one of the week-long camp sessions in Montana. Each session is unique in activities but always is filled with fun (ropes course, miniature golf, art studio, archery, swimming, bonfires, etc). The modern cabins and a state of art health center enable participants to be in treatment for cancer, and a siblings camp provides a much-needed getaway for those who have a sibling with cancer. There are several volunteer positions to fill – cabin counselor, kitchen, program, office and more.

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Horses Haven, Howell: I continue to be so impressed this all volunteer run organization does so much for the animals they rescue. I love visiting the farm, seeing horses who thankfully were rescued to get another chance at happiness and health. Volunteers help with many tasks around the farm. There are two shifts during every day for volunteer to feed, water, clean stalls and do a

How do you resist this handsome face??
myriad of other tasks to care for the horses. Quarterly work days let volunteers paint fences, clean water buckets, organize tack rooms and whatever else is needed completed around the barns, paddocks and grounds. Sponsor days are monthly, welcoming individuals who sponsor one of the horses for a minimum one year so experienced horse volunteers help get the horses from the paddocks and ensure safety (I sponsored Shecky for several years and hope to do so again soon). Random volunteer opportunities include helping at awareness events and helping plan fundraisers.

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Clinton River Watershed Council, Rochester Hills: This environmental nonprofit works hard to protect the Clinton River, its watersheds and Lake St. Clair. If you love to be outdoors, you’ll enjoy the many opportunities to help make a difference for our communities. Cleaning up the river and its banks is always needed, removing invasive species and wood. Adopt A Stream volunteers monitor water at specific sites and River Day volunteers ensure this annual June event is a fun, safe time for all. There are plenty of other projects and tasks to keep you busy all year.

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Many local metroparks and state parks need volunteers to help remove invasive species, clean trails and keep the parks clean and safe for thousands of people to use each year. REI coordinates many volunteer activities during the year so check your local store for details (volunteers usually get a cool REI shirt). My family and I have also helped at our church, particularly around the holidays to pack boxes from the food pantry. During my work transition, I used some of my free time to volunteer at my niece’s elementary school. Nothing made me smile more than chaperoning a laughing group of kindergarteners at the farm or helping during their computer class.

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As I mentioned, there are MANY more worthy charities in the area that could use your time and talent. Even if you volunteer once a month or a few times a year, every bit helps the organization. And I promise it will help you too. Who doesn’t feel great about giving back to the community and helping those in need? So do it for others and yourself. Do you have a favorite charity you volunteer for?

 

Touring Kentucky’s horse racing farms March 16, 2013

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 3:39 pm
Tags: , , , ,
Mare & foal play at KatieRich Farm

Mare & foal play at KatieRich Farm

I’ve been obsessed with horses since I was a child. I started riding horses when I was nine, evolving into a hunter/jumper rider and then dressage. I exercised racehorses in college and had visions of becoming a horse veterinarian. I followed horse racing, getting a subscription to The Blood Horse magazine and watching races on television. During middle and high school, I picked the Kentucky Derby winner six out of seven years. Things changed as ‘life happened.’ I was forced to stop riding due to a surgery that replaced my femur and knee with titanium. I switched from pre-vet to journalism in college. And my attention wandered from racing. But the obsession with horses never wavered.

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When my husband suggested a stop at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington on our way home from Florida, I jumped at it. Then he suggested we fulfill my interest in touring some of the horse farms made famous by racehorses and breeding. I was ecstatic. Kentucky Horse Park has a partnership with Unique Horse Farm Tours, which provides tours to three big racing farms. As we waited for the tour bus to arrive, my excitement climbed. I kept hugging my husband, assuring him he would ‘love’ it too (ok, maybe he didn’t love it like me, but in the end I think he found it really interesting and learned a ton!).

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There were eight of us on the tour. Our tour guide, Shaun, was full of information and was well-known at the farms. He was raised

WinStar Farm

One entrance to WinStar Farm

around horses and owned racehorses for years so we enjoyed talking with him. He started the tour with some racing trivia – I blurted out the answers to every question, then decided to be quiet so others could answer. But no one else did so Shaun and I became fast friends! Justin and I asked lots of questions throughout the day too, which Shaun seemed to love.

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If you’ve been to or even just driven through Kentucky, you’ve seen the rolling black or white fences that line acres of horse farms. Interesting fact: It costs $6,000 per mile for black fence versus $18,000 per mile for white fence (Kentucky Horse Park has 60 miles of white fence). Wow! This is not an industry for the poor, or even middle income. It can cost $40,000 annually to prep a horse to race and that’s not typically ‘the big league’ like the Kentucky Derby or other Grade 1 races. Some of the farms we visited cost hundreds of thousands to operate per month; some $1 million or more.

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This colt was only one week (at KatieRich)

This colt was one week old

Our first stop was KatieRich Farms, a 647-acre farm. What did we see that made everyone smile? Babies! KatieRich had welcomed about 40 foals in recent weeks. I thought it was awesome how relaxed the staff was with our tour group, inviting us to the fence to pet the mares and foals. It was evident how well-liked and respected Shaun was by others. One colt was only three days old, wandering his stall while I stared. His bloodline went back to Easy Goer and Alydar, two of my favorite racehorses. I took a picture of him and told Justin we would pay attention for him in 2-3 years when he starts racing. On our way out, we saw one of the mares in the pasture rolling around in the mud. Having just been told the mare cost close to $500,000, I couldn’t help but laugh. These animals don’t care how much they’re worth. In the end, they are animals with basic wants. They care about food, fresh air and a good roll in the dirt!

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Our next visit was to WinStar Farm. The 1,700-acre farm’s rolling hills go on and on from the road.

Champion Tiznow

Champion Tiznow

It’s breathtaking. This stop was true money and amazing horses. Beyond my comprehension. WinStar recently built a new stallion barn so that was our destination. This mammoth, state of the art building had offices, a huge lobby with videos of stallions at stud, three viewing areas for potential breeders to inspect stallions, a lab, washroom for horses, two breeding sheds and more. Breeding shed is a term used in the industry. This was not a ‘shed.’ It’s a padded, well-equipped area to make mating between a stallion and mare as safe and controlled as possible. Remember, these animals are worth lots of money. No random mating allowed. WinStar bred 46 mares the day before!

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Gemologist

Gemologist

WinStar boasts some pretty impressive stallions at stud – Distorted Humor, Bodemeister, TizNow, Gemologist, More Than Ready and others. Stud fees range from $5,000-$100,000 per insemination. Crazy business! We were fortunate to see Bodemeister and Tiznow up close as someone was there to inspect them for possible breeding to her broodmare. Gemologist greeted me at his stall door. These stallions were breathtaking. Pure muscle, grace and power. Tall, alert and spunky. Watching them prance and then stand tall took my breath away.

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Calumet Farm was our last stop. This famous farm boasts two Triple Crown winners and eight Kentucky Derby

Calumet Farm

Famous Calumet Farm

winners! Established in 1924, Calumet is 832 acres with 22 miles of white fence and was home to Triple Crown winners Whirlaway and Citation, as well as champions Bull Lea and Alydar. While Calumet doesn’t have the brand new, elaborate barns and buildings like WinStar, I love this farm. I love the older style barns and history that fills the stalls and land. We visited the foaling barn, where pregnant mares rest until giving birth. We met one of the women who monitor the mares and oversee the births, ready to step in if help is needed.

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Very friendly Calumet mare

Very friendly Calumet mare

Also at Calumet is a cemetery of many famous horses, including Alydar and Bull Lea. I like that Calumet respects the accomplishments of these animals to honor them with proper burial and recognition. An exhibit at the International Museum of the Horse at Kentucky Horse Park showcases the history of Calumet, including the hundreds of trophies won by horses representing the farm. A book, “Wild Ride: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, America’s Premier Racing Dynasty” by Ann Hagerdorn Auerbach follows the great moments of the farm and also the tragedies that led it to bankruptcy. I just purchased the book so am anxious to read it.

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This was a truly memorable day. I’m grateful to my husband for knowing how much I’d enjoy it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to immerse myself in a world I love and remind myself that, just because I can’t ride, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it. Unique Horse Farm Tours tickets can be purchased inside the welcome center at Kentucky Horse Park. Tickets were $35/person for a 3-hour tour. I highly recommend this tour if you have any interest in horses, racing, breeding and/or business operations.

 

 
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