Horse lovers brighten residents' day at Minnesota nursing home
BEMIDJI, Minn. — Residents of GoldPine Home had their day brightened on Thursday, April 23, when two horses and a donkey paid them a visit … through their windows, of course.
Like most nursing homes, GoldPine typically has a calendar filled with activities. But since the coronavirus pandemic hit, residents have been stuck in their rooms.
Tracy Klefsas, a horseback riding instructor, organized the event. She recruited a small group of horse lovers to bring the animals to GoldPine, and the results were magical.
“Honestly it brought the residents joy,” Klefsas said. “But I have not felt so uplifted since this whole thing started.”
Klefsas runs Aurora Sky Training on her farm near Laporte. She and her 8-year-old daughter, Peyton, brought two of their horses to GoldPine. Liz Letson, founder of Eagle Vista Ranch and Wellness Center, brought her miniature donkey.
Siblings Cody and Isabella Anderson also helped out.
Klefsas got the idea from a friend who shared a Facebook post about a similar effort in Indiana. Tracy put the word out on the Bemidji Area Horse Group on Facebook. “We just kind of as a community pulled it together and made it happen.”
Residents were thrilled to meet Smokey, a 23-year-old quarter horse, and Buckwheat, a 16-year-old Shetland pony. Cleo, the donkey, also was a big hit.
“One woman was sort of napping, and Smokey nudged the window, and she woke up, jumped out of her chair with a huge smile,” Klefsas said. “She cracked her window open and she started talking to us. She was telling us how she grew up on a farm, and used to ride all the time, and this was the closest she had been to a horse for 30 years. It was absolutely amazing just getting to chat with them. They haven’t had any visitors at all, and everyone was all smiles.”
Sarah Sundeen, GoldPine’s activities director, said the April 23 event was one of many acts of kindness toward the residents and staff.
“It was so special,” Sundeen said. “The community in general has been so amazing to us. We’ve received letters and cards, painted pictures from daycares. We’ve had deliveries from local restaurants and treats from Raphael’s. If you could see all their smiles today. It was an awesome day.”
Klefsas said she can organize visits to other retirement or nursing homes in the area, and those interested can email her at email@example.com.