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Now headed to Moore, Okla., the Gentle Carousel Horses have recently visited children’s hospitals and the Sandy Hook/Newtown, Conn., area.


HIGH SPRINGS –Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, husband Jorge, and the Gentle Carousel Horses are on the road again. This time they are heading to Moore, Okla., after receiving several requests for visits from area hospitals and families of children affected by the recent devastating tornado.

“This was another group of telephone calls we just couldn’t say ‘no’ to,” explained Garcia-Bengochea. “It was the very best thing we could do, so we’re doing it. Anytime there are children involved, we know we can help,” she said.

The team of miniature therapy horses just returned from a second trip to Sandy Hook/Newtown, Conn. They visited children's hospitals on the way starting with St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis and ending at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital. They also worked with victims of child trafficking in Washington, DC.

“On the way back to Florida we will be stopping at various children’s hospitals on our route,” she said. “We want to be there to support as many children and caregivers as possible.”

One of the benefits of working in different cities and recently working in Washington, DC is the couple’s new-found ability to contact sources to help them coordinate their visits. In addition to the local people in Oklahoma, FEMA and the Health Department are all pitching in to help. “We have people we can call on now to help us, which is great,” she said.

Garcia-Bengochea also extols the virtues of social media. “So many more people know who we are now because of our Facebook page and the press coverage we have received along the way. It really helps,” she said.

Also, unlike their first trip to Connecticut, there are teams of people along the way and in Oklahoma who have volunteered to help with the horses and to provide locations for them to rest and play between visits to the families. “It’s more economical for us if we do not have to bring a team of volunteers with us,” she said.

Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses is an all volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity. The teams of 32 miniature therapy horses visit over 20,000 children and adults each year inside hospitals, hospice and assisted living facilities, libraries and school programs for at-risk readers.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the program or donate to the organization can contact them on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TherapyHorses.

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