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St. Matthew junior high service ‘saints’ sponsor aged racehorse

March 6, 2015
Christina Gray

Chippy the retired racehorse spent the last of his 30 years cherished by students at St. Matthew School in San Mateo.

The junior high students in the school’s “Saints at Your Service” community service program spent $140 raised in a bake sale last fall to sponsor his care at the Central California horse sanctuary where he and other aging or neglected horses have found a home.

They raised another $300 to buy the large brown quarter horse with the white muzzle a raincoat and blanket with his name on it, and they each added their own.

Though Chippy reached the end of his long life in December, “his story still lives in the hearts of our students,” Mary Doherty, St. Matthew’s junior high religion teacher told Catholic San Francisco on Feb. 24.

“I found out during Christmas break that Chip passed away,” said seventh-grader Ella Catalano-Dockins, who told her class the sad news. “He was wearing our raincoat.”

Doherty said she revamped and renamed the school’s community service program to help students “own” their service to the community by identifying their own passions and using their individual gifts for the greater good.

“In the past year I have seen remarkable results, when students pursue projects they choose themselves,” she said.

“Saints at Your Service” is made up of more than a half-dozen student-chosen service “clubs” including the Project Gabriel Club, which helps women facing an unplanned pregnancy, the Baking Club, which sells baked goods to fund the school’s other clubs, the Music Club which performs concerts at senior centers and the Shelter Pets Friends Club, which helps bring comfort to shelter dogs and cats.

Doherty said the popular Equine Rescue Club was formed after school parent Michelle Trumpler asked if the “Saints” could volunteer at a fundraiser in Woodside for the Equine Rescue Center and Sanctuary.

Trumpler’s friend, Monica Hardeman, founded the Equine Rescue Center to save “throwaway horses” – often former racehorses whose careers ended due to age or injury and ceased to be profitable for their owners – from neglect or black market slaughter.

Horses had been a source of healing for Hardeman after her sister was murdered in 1995, and she in turn wanted to become a source of healing for them. On a donated plot of land in San Benito County near Hollister, Hardeman relies on donations, grants, volunteers and “sponsors” to help underwrite the cost of caring for the sanctuary’s 80-plus horses.

According to Doherty, there were a lot of St. Matthew students who felt passionate about horses. They supported the sanctuary’s fundraiser on Oct. 6 by preparing and serving dinner to the guests and caring for the rescue horses in the stables at the event site. Over $20,000 was raised.

Eighth-grader Taylor Brennan cared for four rescue horses at the fundraiser, including a mother and a new foal. The mother had been up for auction for slaughter when Hardeman rescued her. Within a few weeks, the mother horse gave a surprise birth to a little colt.

“Nobody knew that Monica was saving two lives,” said Brennan.

“After hearing the stories of the rescue efforts of the mistreated horses in class, I talked about the sanctuary with my family,” said seventh-grader Josh Dehoff. His father, who owns Dehoff’s Key Market, immediately donated a large crate of carrots.

The other service clubs chipped in too, and that’s how they met Chippy.

“Our Baking Club raised enough money to purchase and deliver 500 pounds of carrots for the horses,” said Doherty. “We had an extra $140 left and we asked Monica how we could use that money to help her horses.” Hardeman said they could sponsor Chippy.

It was unusual for a racehorse to live to 30, Doherty and her students learned. Often an expended racehorse is sold for slaughter early in its life, or neglected. Chippy’s owners had loved him, but he outlived them and came to live with Hardeman’s herd.

As winter approached, the students learned that the shelters on the new property had not yet been built. Because Chippy was an old horse he could use a raincoat.

The Baking Club sifted into action, raising the money for Chippy’s new coat, which all 220 St. Matthew’s junior high students signed.

When the Equine Rescue Club raises enough money for its new sponsor – a white horse named Rose – she will receive Chippy’s memorial raincoat.

“We know that we gave him the warmth and protection he needed to live out his final days,” said Doherty.

Visit www.equinerescuecenter.com.

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