Two weeks after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Ct., Jorge Garcia-Bengochea loaded up his non-profit's miniature horses Wakinda, Magic, and Aladdin, and headed up north to help heal the families.
"One teacher lost nine kids," said Jorge Garcia-Bengochea, who helps run Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses in Alachua, Fl. "One child talked about how a teacher saved her life by pushing her into a closet. Other kids were talking about how they had lost their teachers and their friends."
The Gainesville non-profit was invited to Newtown after the shooting rampage where 20 first graders and six adults were killed. It's all because their mini horses help replace nightmares of monsters with dreams of minis.
"When we were leaving, (the children) were singing songs and the headmaster came up and said the kids had not been singing since the tragedy, the teachers had not been singing since the tragedy," said Garcia-Bengochea.
The non-profit was invited to go to Newtown three days after the December shooting. Organizers expected six children to be in the town library; 600 people showed up.
"The town really hadn't come out since the tragedy happened," said Garcia-Bengochea. "After the library event, the assistant director said it was the beginning of healing."
Both of the governors of Connecticut and Florida wrote the non-profit, commending the group on their work with the children and families of Newtown. Garcia-Bengochoa thanked volunteers and those who made donations. The trip was the organization's first one out of the state. He said the donations made the trip possible, and allowed the group to stay in Newtown for an extra week.
The non-profit received several letters, emails, and Facebook comments from children and residents once they arrived back home. One in particular touched organizers.
"One little girl, I'm paraphrasing, but she said, 'I was very sad and then Magic came and visited with us, and she said Magic you made me very happy, so now I'm sad, but I'm also happy," said Garcia-Bengochea. "Thank you for coming, Magic. Thank you for your sparkles."
The non-profit was asked to stay a third week in Newtown, but had to return home to Florida. Garcia-Bengochea said he and his wife are already making plans to return to Newtown in the spring.