By ERNEST J. HEWETT

Arcadian Correspondent

Mustang Promise ranch in DeSoto County gave kids a chance to ride and slide, to paint ponies, horses and a donkey in a red, white and blue theme in celebration of Independence Day.

But after a freak Friday windstorm had earlier damaged several tents, Jan Chapman, president of Mustang Promise, was worried she may need to cancel the July 6 benefit. Riding to the rescue, Darvy Peden, Oakshire Farms VP, saved the event by providing replacement tents, tables and chairs. Darvy also brought one of her six majestic Clydesdale horses, Kaitlyn.

Darvy said, “Kaitlyn is a Clydesdale from Grant’s Farm in St. Louis, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch Corporation.”

By noon on that Saturday, the heat had kids enjoying waterslides provided by K Town Slyde & Bounce, as well as bouncehouses by Wanna Bounce. Julia Sutherland, owner of HWLM Horsemanship, brought her horses for rides. HWLM is a nonprofit in Felda, Florida, that provides horse training and problem-solving for both horse and handler.

Saturday’s favorite in the pony decorating contest was Lilo, a 5-year-old rescue mustang painted by John Joseph III, Char’Donae Watson and Kimelina Joseph.

The Mustang Promise event wouldn’t have been complete without Big John’s BBQ. Locally known as the original black cowboy, “Big” John Lloyd Jr. retired after 44 years as utilities manager with Punta Gorda. You would think Big John in retirement would be ready to relax, but not Johnny, a BBQ chef extraordinaire who enjoys catering affairs, especially “For the Love of Kids.”

Known as the peacemaker, John said, “I give God all the glory.”

Stacy Hornes and Donna Escort promoting Keep Kids Out of Trouble served fish and other seafood to support the Mustang Promise event. Also lending support was Bob Washburn, president of the Arcadia All-Florida Saddle Club, affiliated with the Quadrille Team that performs at the Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo. Bob also brought a trailer full of western horse tack.

Jan Chapman thanked the donors, volunteers and everyone who came to have fun, help the horses, and be part of the Mustang Promise event’s success on that Saturday, and into the future.

Jan’s ranch is for rescue horses, mostly mustangs, and for qualified children to place their horses. Some kids work to cover those expenses, which builds appreciation and a work ethic. Those with physical or emotional disabilities also find the therapy provided at Mustang Promise to be a healing experience.

Facebook, 941-448-6160

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