Joan Benavidez was born in Kentucky but grew up in Oracle, so she’s right at home as an LHBH volunteer. Joan currently works at the Hilton Conquistador in Oro Valley but looks forward to retirement and the opportunity to spend more time with her special equine friend, Lillie Jean. Joan loves to groom, walk and sit with the minis. She also likes to accompany our horses on visits to nursing homes and assisted living centers, where the residents are all smiles in the presence of these gentle creatures. As Joan puts it, “I love that we make their day.”
It’s always good to have a man of the cloth on your team, and Pastor Bob Cannon is a valued member of the LHBH family. Having been born in Texas and raised in Texas, Arizona and California, Pastor Bob served in the Air Force during the Korean War. A world traveler, he has visited all of the major continents and more than 40 nations. His ministry is the Living Word Chapel, but Pastor Bob believes that he’s also found his calling at LHBH, whose good work “touches his heart.” Although Lillie is his favorite, he likes to sit with all of the horses and feel their energy. Pastor Bob is grateful to be able to help our clients get to a better place in this life, both physically and emotionally.
Joyce was born and raised in the small Dutch community of Witchert, Illinois. The people of Witchert did things the old fashioned way, and the heavy work on her family’s dairy and gladiola farm was done with horses, not tractors. She remembers being put up on one of her father’s work horses when she was only two. Joyce learned how to get her hands dirty at an early age and started working in the fields when she was 10. Back then, who would have guessed that she would eventually become the Human Resource Manager for Apple Computer. Having lived all over the country—Illinois, Indiana, California, Nevada, Florida, Tennessee and now Arizona—the one constant in Joyce’s life has been her involvement with horses, whether riding them for fun, showing them or judging them in equine competitions. She considers herself truly fortunate to have found LHBH.
Phyllis grew up in Colorado and, like so many other volunteers at LHBH, has always had a special bond with animals, especially horses. When as a child she couldn’t have a real horse because her family moved around too much, she began collecting the toy kind and now has a “stable” of 134. Phyllis eventually got her own horse, named Pet, to go with a pig named Lady Macbeth and a lamb named Winkles. Both Lady Macbeth and Winkles won blue ribbons at the 4-H fair. After attending the University of Arizona, Phyllis began what would turn out to be a 25-year career with the Brunswick Corporation, a world leader in bowling products and equipment. She took up the sport in a big way and is the only person at LHBH to have been inducted into the Arizona chapter of the U.S. Bowling Congress Hall of Fame. Phyllis loves taking the minis on visits to nursing homes. Witnessing the joy they bring to the residents, she’s “found her niche in life” as one of our volunteers.
Laura Hutler was born and raised in Wisconsin, where she developed a love of horses at an early age. Years later, while serving as the program director for a Christian youth camp, Laura discovered that horses are not only fun to be around, but they also possess special healing powers. Her passion for using horsemanship and equine-facilitated learning to help at-risk kids led her to become certified by both PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) and CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association). Having moved to Arizona, Laura is now volunteering at Little Hooves and continuing her work in service of others.
Born and raised on a small farm in South Dakota, Gene Kitterman has always loved horses and the great outdoors. Prior to joining the Little Hooves team in 2008, Gene worked as a section boss for the San Manuel Copper Mine near Oracle. He enjoys helping others and being a part of their lives, and his willingness to pitch in and get the job done is a big help to the LHBH staff. Gene, whose favorite horse is Leanne, particularly enjoys watching children interact with our minis.
Wendi Nielson is the poster child for how equine therapy can change lives. Born in San Manuel, Arizona, Wendi came to LHBH as a young adult with a physical disability, and two years later she emerged from treatment as a fully functioning, confident woman who is now one of our most committed volunteers. Her favorite horse to relax with is Dolly. Wendi especially enjoys watching others with disabilities interact with the minis and “come out of their shells,” just as she did.
Sue Queenan was born in Illinois but has spent most her life in Arizona. She knows the state well, having lived in 11 different Arizona cities and towns over the years. Proud of her five children, 14 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and one great-great granddaughter, Sue has been around horses since she was a little girl. As an adult she also enjoyed riding and packing mules in Arizona’s White Mountains and the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. No longer a rider, Sue fills a void in her life by volunteering at LHBH. Because she worked in nursing homes for 16 years, Sue has a special appreciation for how a visit by the minis can brighten a senior’s day.
Hannah Riley is our youngest volunteer. Born and raised in Arizona, Hannah loves to be outdoors working with animals, so Little Hooves is a natural fit for her. She has bonded with all of our minis, but her favorites are Chico and Savannah. Hannah’s generous spirit and willingness to help out, even at the last minute, are appreciated by everyone at LHBH.
Sonja Saroni, born in Indiana and raised in Texas, is a true Texas girl who loves people, animals and life. Prior to her retirement, Sonja worked as a teacher’s aide and later as a flight attendant, and now she puts her people skills to good use helping others. In addition to grooming and walking the minis, especially Daisy, Sonja loves to work one-on-one with the special-needs kids and seniors who come to visit us in Oracle. “LHBH is a refuge for anyone who needs to find peacefulness,” she says.
Born in Paragolud, Arkansas, Sandra Shaffer moved to Arizona at the age of seven. After retiring as a healthcare consultant, Sandra learned about Little Hooves from a newspaper article, and she knew that becoming an LHBH volunteer would be a great way to give something back to the community. Reflecting her loving, caring nature, Sandra has no favorites and loves all of our horses equally. In and around the arena, she is also known for her enthusiasm and zest for living.
Born and raised on a 330-acre farm in Illinois, Marilyn acquired her love of animals and the great outdoors at an early age. 4-H projects and fairs were a favorite part of her childhood, and while she didn’t have any minis to care for, her family had plenty of chickens, sheep, cows, pigs and full-size horses to keep her busy. After graduating from the University of Illinois, Marilyn moved to Virginia, where she began a long and rewarding career as an elementary school teacher. That’s when she first started working with special-needs children. Retirement brought her to Arizona. As a volunteer at LHBH, Marilyn loves her time outdoors with the kids, the seniors, the minis and the rest of her LHBH family. As she puts it, “All of them have enriched my life in ways they will never know.”