Girl with leukemia cheers up fellow patients with miniature horse

Published 9:24 am Friday, November 28, 2014


While taking chemotherapy treatments for leukemia, 13-year-old Megan Vess was inspired with a plan to help bring comfort and happiness to other children going through cancer treatments.
The tools needed for her plan: a miniature horse and gift bags filled with goodies for other patients in the children’s hospital.
Megan, with some help from her mother, Amber Vess, formed Hoofprints for Hope, a nonprofit organization designed to bring comfort to children and their families who are battling childhood cancer. Part of their Hoofprints for Hope team is miniature horse Ebony Rose.
Ebony Rose is going through training to become a therapy horse. She already has visited patients of Niswonger Children’s Hospital during a visit to Bristol Motor Speedway. Megan plans to deliver “Hope Bags” in December that will be filled with such items as toys, coloring books and crayons, snacks, drinks and toiletries.
Megan said she thought of the idea when she was a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and a miniature horse visited patients there.
“It was like magic,” she said. “It helped the patients a lot. I thought, ‘I want to do this.’ ”
When Megan came home from the hospital, her parents began looking for a miniature horse for her to start training to use as a therapy animal. Megan said she wanted a small horse that was gentle and would not scare the other patients.
Megan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in August 2012. At that time, the family was living in Carter County and started treatments for Megan in Johnson City.
Since then, they have moved to North Carolina but still make the monthly trip to Johnson City for Megan’s treatments. Megan’s leukemia went into remission Oct. 5, 2012, but she won’t finish her treatment until March 24.
Ebony Rose is in training, learning how to behave in buildings and around large groups of people. Megan sometimes brings Ebony Rose with her to the hospital now. When the miniature horse makes the trip, she always wears a cute costume, which doesn’t make Megan all that happy.
Ebony Rose’s outfit is a pink tutu from a stuffed bear workshop store along with sparkling pink high-top sneakers and a matching hat.
“I wouldn’t wear it, so why would I make my horse wear it?” Megan said.
Megan would have preferred to dress the horse like a cowgirl.
Amber said the horse will have other costumes to wear to the hospital and schools when she visits. After some experience in dressing a horse, they are now looking for clothing that is easier to put on Ebony Rose.
“It is not easy to dress a horse,” Amber said. “Sometimes she plays dead. The shoes are the hardest to put on because sometimes she takes off before you can get them fastened.”
The cute outfits have a purpose, other than making Ebony Rose look fantastic. Amber said the outfits put smiles on the patients’ faces when they see the horse.
“It is all about making the kids smile through their cancer treatments,” she said. “If you can get them to smile and ease the process of what cancer is doing to them, and what they are having to go through, that is what we want to do.”
Megan and Amber are now hoping the public will want to help them assemble 200 “Hope Bags” to share with other patients in December. Amber and Megan will accept any items donated for the bags, including gift cards.
Donations can be dropped off Dec. 1-10 at Little Hoot Boutique, 2405 S. Roan St., Johnson City. Donors also may contact Amber at 423-512-1146 or Hoofprints for Hope also has a Facebook page.

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