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A Place To Learn, Grow

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

Equest, a nonprofit that offers equine therapeutic programs, visited the students at the Sonshine Center in Sunnyvale with two of their mini horses, Dare and Cisco, on June 27. Both organizations focus on special needs clientele.

The Sonshine Center provides a Christian based day program for adults with special needs that will allow them to grown mind, body, and spirit.

The center opened in 2015 and serves students from ages 18 to 71. They currently have about 65 students and about 48 who attend daily.

"We started because we have Sunday school here, and some of the parents were asking me if I would retire (from the school district) and open a program where their kids have some place to go after they get out of school,” said Rosa Minx, director of the Sonshine Center.

Students there participate in a variety of activities that promote adaptive skills including self-help skills, socialization skills, communication skills and pre-vocational/vocational skills.

The center has students from surrounding cities like Mesquite, Rowlett, Rockwall, Garland, Kemp, Terrell and Lavon.

Sonshine and Equest made a connection through one of the parents, Kathleen Wheeler, whose son Andrew attends Sonshine and also partakes in Equest’s programs.

Wheeler said her son doesn’t speak, but his work with the horses has helped him relate to the animals and develop core strength. It also gives him an activity and responsibilities because he gets to take care of the horses and participates in Special Olympics Equestrian.

Joan Cutler, Equest operations coordinator, said they offer several types of programs that assist in different areas from building self-esteem and functional skills to physical therapy.

"Instead of going to a clinic and sitting on a big rubber ball, we use the symmetrical three-dimensional movements of the horse to facilitate what they want to accomplish as a physical therapist or an occupational therapist,” she said.

Equest also offers a free veterans wellness program open to veterans and their immediate family. Hooves for Heroes empowers veterans and military families to take charge of their civilian transitions.

For more information on the Sonshine Center, visit, and to learn more about Equest, visit

This article, written by Anny Sivilay, originally appeared in the Mesquite News on July 2, 2019.

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