A friendly visit

Charlie the miniature horse delights residents at Grand Oaks Nursing Center

Eyes lit up and warm smiles greeted Charlie, the miniature therapy horse, as he paraded through the halls and parlors of the Grand Oaks Nursing Center on Thursday, Oct. 6.

This was Charlie’s second appearance at the nursing facility. During his first visit last October, Charlie greeted the residents outside, according to his owner, Ronica Froese. 

During this stop, residents enjoyed Charlie from the comfort of their chairs and recliners. Freose even led Charlie into the residents’ rooms, where he greeted them at their bedsides.

One resident, while stroking Charlie’s face, mentioned she would love to take Charlie home with her.

For Freose, it is a joy to bring smiles to people in nursing facilities.

“My highlight at Grand Oaks was the last resident we visited. He said, ‘Thank you. You made my day.’ I hear that everywhere I take Charlie,” she said.  “We are blessed to be a blessing to others.”

Based out of Fremont, Little Horses Big Smiles Inc. is a non-profit organization founded by Freose, which funds Charlie’s trips to different facilities for animal therapy.

“Our first visit was in January of 2015, to the Transitional Health Services in Fremont,” Freose said. “Charlie made 16 visits in 2015, and this year we have close to 100 visits scheduled.”

“I began the therapy visits with funds out of my own pocket, but people soon offered to give donations and supplies. We were able to become a non-profit group,” Freose explained. “One of the supplies we go through is a lot of shampoo. Charlie gets a bath 24 hours before any visit.”

Freose works full time in Fremont, and in her spare time she and Charlie hit the road to bring smiles wherever they go.

“My job has been very supportive of the therapy outreach, and so has the community,” Froese said.

Freose and Charlie schedule monthly visits to nursing facilities in the Fremont area and also travel to facilities and events out of the area.

Freose enjoys the Lake County visits because of her connections to the area. Her grandparents, Dale and Barb Forbes, owned a business north of Baldwin for more than 30 years.

Freose says Charlie loves the visits just as much as she does.

“He just loves all the attention and petting. The horse loves people,” she said. “He is 200 pounds. I can’t force him to go anywhere or do anything he doesn’t want, but whenever we go on visits he goes willingly.”

Anyone interested in following Charlie’s adventures can do so with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Donations through PayPal can be sent to paypal.me/CharlieLHBSInc.

“We are looking for anyone in the area willing to volunteer to get more therapy teams started,” said Freose. “This therapy outreach serves a great need in communities and brings smiles and joy to people.”