BOISE, Idaho — Laurie Bell is the founder of Treasure Valley nonprofit Mini Joys.
"We started Mini Joys in 2009 here in Boise," Bell said. "It's been growing ever since."
Bell was inspired to start this nonprofit when she realized how therapeutic miniature horses are. People flock to the Mini Joys wherever they go. The nonprofit shares their visits on Facebook.
"Not everybody gets to be around horses, so when they see these little horses, they get so excited," she said. "For a lot of people, it's the first time."
Mini Joys visit people of all ages.
"We work with kids who are facing medical challenges, special needs kids, at risk kids. They were just at a nursing home bringing joy to some horse lovers who haven't been able to be around a horse for a long time. It's so special, because all their memories come flooding back of their days riding as a kid," said Bell.
Bell is always really touched by the kids she gets to meet, and their families.
"Some of the folks we work with are going through such hard things, we have gotten to know kids who are now in heaven, and they are so special to us," Bell said. "Those relationships grew over the years, and it's just really deep."
She said the miniature horses have a way of connecting with people who need their comfort.
They are very emotional creatures. I think that's why they get humans too, and we hopefully get them," Bell said.
Bell said just about everyone enjoys spending time with these tiny guys. Recently, they stopped by Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke's hospitals to spread some joy. The staff and the patients loved it.
"Our mission is to bring joy hope and healing to those facing physical emotional and cognitive challenges," she said. "One thing I've found in the journey, is that that is pretty much all of us at some point in our lives. We all go through really hard life changing events that produce depression anxiety at times, so there are so many different people that have benefitted from the outreach."
Bell also likes to include teaching life lessons during her visits. She says she couldn't do it without her dedicated volunteers.
"I feel like our volunteer group gets as much joy back, as we give away," Bell said.
What started out as a little nonprofit in 2009, is now in high demand all over our community.
"When I get too tired, and I think I'm retirement age, I shouldn't be working so many hours a week and coordinating volunteers, planning etc.," Bell said. But then you go make that visit and that connection and you get to know that child who is battling cancer, and you say, of course I'm going to keep going. I'll keep going until I can't go anymore."
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