MSU nonprofit surprises boy with horse
Fallon Williams couldn’t keep a secret.
For two weeks, the Lansing resident plotted the surprise. She knew her son, 10-year-old Damani Mack, would open the front door Sunday morning to find a horse on their front lawn — and she just couldn’t resist telling him earlier that weekend.
Williams received a phone call from doctors in June telling her Mack’s leukemia had returned. Since then, she has made a constant effort to stay positive. When she heard about Camp Casey, a nonprofit formed at MSU nearly 10 years ago that brings horses for children with cancer to spend time with, Williams knew it would bring a smile to her son’s face.
Early Sunday morning, Camp Casey volunteers brought Ashley, a 31-year-old white horse, to 609 Julia St. in Lansing, for Mack to ride.
“Just having a horse … show up in your neighborhood, you don’t see that every day,” Williams said. “I kind of spoiled it for him and told him what was going on.”
Program Director Danielle Martin said the organization brings horses to children’s homes as part of a program called Horsey House Calls, which allows other children in the neighborhood to participate with no cost to the family. The Lansing visit was Camp Casey’s 51st house call.
Camp Casey originally was founded by MSU alumna Molly Reeser. The nonprofit moved to metro Detroit with Reeser when she graduated until her sister, dietetics senior Caitlyn Melamed, started up an MSU branch of the organization nearly three years ago.
Melamed said the house calls often bring a therapeutic release to the children.
“These children have lost so much control in their lives, going through all these tests and chemo,” Melamed said. “They’re in control of the horse, so they get some of their power back and a day to be normal kids.”
Williams’s mother, Lansing resident Barbara Williams, said she initially pursued the visit to encourage her grandson to keep moving forward. She said Mack likely will undergo treatment for the next seven years for his leukemia, but has yet to complain about it.
“It’s been real hard on him, but he takes it like a trooper,” she said. “He doesn’t let it bother him.”