If you've experienced the unconditional acceptance and love of a loyal pet, then you have a glimpse of the impact these gentle horses and big-hearted volunteers make. Together, they form the foundation of our unique outreach programs provided for those of all ages facing struggles.
Our mission always involves spreading joy, hope, and healing. During our educational programs, there is an emphasis on growing a student's confidence and trust as important life lessons are taught.
Enjoy exploring our website!
Mini Joys programs are for young children, teens, families and seniors who are facing tough emotional, cognitive, or physical challenges.
Lessons are uniquely designed for a specific impact on each target group we serve. Some visits are simply to bring joy and hope, while many of the programs have specific goals and outcomes, becoming equine therapy programs.
Curriculum covers a variety of life enriching topics and three Mini Joys books have been written to strengthen the learning impact and increase long term retention by students. These books are often gifted to participants.
The Mini Joys Crew is made up of five sweet little miniature horses, one slightly strong-willed but lovable mini donkey, and four tiny little goats that always try to steal the show!
The paid staff consists of one who acts as Executive Director, program developer, volunteer trainer and coordinator, and head barn pooper-scooper. :) This director works alongside, (and answers to) an additional seven members of the Board of Directors.
Over 50 awesome volunteers give of their time, energies, and their hearts to make it all possible!
More Than a Few Facts...
1. Mini Joys is a non-profit organization, called a 501-c-3. The money needed to run the organization is from tax-deductible donations from individuals, businesses, or foundations. In addition, a few grant applications per year are submitted.
2. This non-profit corporation was formed in March of 2009, in Boise Idaho, when a diverse board of directors came together to bring these unique miniature horse therapy services to the Treasure Valley. Other similar groups around the country were studied, and then Mini Joys was created to best meet the needs in our community.
Founder, Laurie Bell, loved to encourage and build up children’s self-esteems by providing positive experiences and team building activities in her 21 years of teaching elementary Physical Education. During the summers, she would teach horsemanship and riding skills using her full size horses. Over the years, she had a growing desire to bring horses and children with physical or emotional challenges together in unique and beneficial ways. Thus, the purchase of the first miniature horse and the creation of the Mini Joys outreach.
3. The mission is to spread JOY, HOPE, and HEALING using the help of sweet, gentle, loving miniature horses. While some visits simply focus on spreading joy, most involve teaching a life lesson on topics such as Trust, Friendship, Caring For Animals, Self Value, or the Anti-Bullying lesson, Finding Joy, and Learning to Give Back.
4. Program recipients include anyone facing physical, mental or emotional challenges. (That just may be all of us at some time in our lives.)
5. Programs are almost always provided free of charge as many of those we serve do not have the ability to pay, nor do they have any other opportunities to experience these special equine connections. Tax-deductible donations by generous families, foundations, and businesses in our community make this possible.
6. Most of the teaching programs are for at-risk youth ages 4 to 18 (often those living in shelter homes or foster care), and special needs children (often on the Autism spectrum), who are served in the local schools and through collaboration with other community services.
7. The mini crew is currently made up of five miniature horses, one mini donkey, four tiny mini goats, and a great group of caring volunteers and dedicated board members. Please take a minute to check out "The Crew" tab to learn a little more.
8. Mini Joys provides approximately 40-50 group programs over a ten month period, taking a winter break from late December through February. About 70% of these are travel programs, and the rest are held here at the Mini Ranch. Hundreds of young children, teens, families, and seniors in need receive programs every year.
9. The five areas of programming are: (The first three make up the large majority of those served).
Special Needs Students
Individuals & families facing medical challenges (often serving patients at the Children's Hospital, or hosting groups at the Mini Ranch)
Seniors & Veterans
Other Non-Profit Organizations (Sending the Mini Joys Crew to enhance their programs and special events)
10. Current teaching topics include:
Caring For Horses (and other pets)
Being the Best Version of YOU
Wonderfully Made, The Story of Hope (Mini Joys 1st book)
Giving Back to Your Community
Growing in Confidence
Big Bully Buddy, Finding Friendship (Mini Joys 2nd book)
11. Ken and Laurie Bell purchased and own the miniature horses, but lease them to Mini Joys which pays for the feed, hoof, and vet care. No board or rent is charged for the horses so this keeps the costs low, and allows donations to go directly toward servicing more people in need.
12. Expenses are also kept extremely low as Mini Joys is run almost entirely by volunteerism. Over 50 big-hearted volunteers give unselfishly of their time, creating a wonderful outreach team. The director is paid a modest salary and “wears many hats” as the only employee: from program design and development, to horse care, to volunteer training and coordination, to fundraising, and holding down the business end of things. The Director meets with, and answers to, the Board of Directors which includes seven additional members for all decision making.
To learn more about this unique outreach, PLEASE check out all tabs of the website, and visit (or follow) the Mini Joys facebook page. Thank you!