A Sunday morning 5K took runners and walkers of all ages around winding trails of corn and soybean fields, through the woods and around stables where horses grazed in the sun.
The second annual Hoofin’ It 5K Run and Walk took place Sept. 30 at Ellis House Equestrian Center in Minooka to raise money for Ellis House and Sunrise Center North Therapeutic Riding Program.
“The trails are so pretty; it’s fun to have people out here running, and I feel like the newest fundraisers are 5K runs,” said Kris Mondrella, Sunrise Center North Therapeutic Riding Program founder and instructor.
Although attendance was lighter than in past years, Mondrella said there were other festivals the same weekend. Those who did come out enjoyed the atmosphere and wanted to support the cause.
Mikayla Rabick, who takes lessons with Sunrise, ran with her dad, Darren, and had the whole family there for support.
Julee DeGeus said her son, Davin DeGeus, has autism and remains nonverbal. He has ridden for 10 years, and the therapy was not only about the physical gains.
“He looks forward to it, and when I tell him we are going riding, he pops right up and gets his gear. Davin always brings carrots for his horse, Heidi, so when she sees him, she knows she is getting carrots,” Julee said.
The 5K took off from the side parking area and followed along two circle trails on the property at Ellis House.
The first runner to finish was John Roets, with a time of 20:55, and the first female runner to finish was Jayne Sanders with a time of 31:37. A kids’ mile run stepped off after the 5K, and the first runner in with a time of 6:59 was Caleb Kies.
During the awards ceremony, participants wore horseshoe-shaped medals in gold, silver and bronze, donated by John Ryan.
Mums and pumpkins donated by Heap’s Giant Pumpkin Farm also were given to the top finishers in the 5K and the kids’ run.
Leo Raczykowski of Limelight Music Services played music and announced the winners and prizes.
The partnership between Sunrise and Ellis House began more than two years ago. Both groups have four horses and share those horses when needed for regular riding lessons or the therapeutic lessons.
“Two years ago they moved in, and we have had a great relationship. They can handle the special needs individuals, and we handle everyone else with lessons,” farm manager Marty Vick said.
“We share resources, and Kris has been great to work with,” Vick said.
Sunrise offers lessons to those 2 and older. Mondrella said most riders have autism or are developmentally delayed.
“The benefits are hidden through a recreational activity,” Mondrella said. “It’s not in a clinical setting, and they bond with the horse through grooming and getting to know the horse.”
Vick said Ellis House has seen a spike in lessons.
Two years ago, he said, 15 lessons a week was normal, and now the staff runs about 50 to 60 lessons weekly.
He said Ellis House also hosts birthday parties, weddings and summer camps.
“I think whenever you have people coming out here and bring children for lessons, they are not looking for just lessons, they are looking for role models,” Vick said. “The people we have working here are fantastic.”