HOPE Landing board members and volunteers spread holiday cheer during its annual Christmas on the Ranch Saturday afternoon.
Jolly St. Nicholas made an appearance and gave out candy canes to every child who made a Christmas gift request. Kids made reindeer food to leave out for Rudolph and pet HOPE Landing’s “four legged friends,” like SpongeBob, that it uses in equine therapy.
While the event was free for the public to attend, HOPE Landing sold holiday crafts and trinkets made by board members and children who participate in HOPE’s occupational, physical, equine and aquatic therapy services. Donations were also accepted on site.
The organization has a mission to “bring hope and purpose to the lives of children with disabilities by helping them achieve their God-given potential.” Therapy is facilitated by licensed therapists, according to its website.
“These teachers can go elsewhere and make a lot more money, but they have it in their heart to help these children … People (should) come out, see these children and see what these teachers do for them,” long-time volunteer and board member Joan Tribble said. “If they didn’t take of them — there’s not another facility around here — they would have to go to Little Rock for the type of the needs that they get out here.”
Because financial resources have dwindled in recent years, Tribble said that the nonprofit needs donations more than it ever has.
“It’s been a struggle the last year or so because you’ve got so many places and all of these companies are cutting back … HOPE Landing wrote off $800,000 last year,” she said.
Board member Debbie Stinson said that HOPE Landing stopped receiving federal and state levels funds.
“A lot of it has been cut and they serve the children no matter if they can pay or not,” Stinson said.
The nonprofit hosts fundraisers and family friendly events year-round like the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Hope-o-Ween, Tribble said.
HOPE Landing kids usually participate in a nativity-themed Christmas production at the South Arkansas Arts Center every year, marketing director Jenny Williams said.
The organization’s next fundraising event is a production of “Unwrapped: A Christmas Truth,” where a family unwraps “the significance of the age-old symbols of Christmas.”
Tribble said, “The children, if you can just see them on stage doing their little songs and they even have a horse come in on the stage with them. So, come next Thursday if you can. It starts at 7 and we’ll have punch and cookies again.”
Curtains go up at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the South Arkansas Arts Center. Admission to “Unwrapped” is also free, but donations are accepted, Stinson said.
After the performance by the children of HOPE Landing, refreshments will be available in the Merkle Gallery. To donate or learn more information about HOPE Landing, call 870-862-0500 or go to hopelanding.com.