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IPFW's Big Event volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club, Saturday.

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
IPFW students Maj Dinh, back, Mayzin Naing, left, and Sooyean Ahn demonstrate their mop wagon at the World Baseball Academy as part of BIG Event day of service.

IPFW volunteers clean up

1,100 people fan out to assist at 55 social service agencies

– IPFW marketing major Ryan Harris had just gotten down to business.

While snow fell outside, the Fort Wayne man was inside a dark barn scraping the floor of a stable with a shovel covered in horse – well, to put the best marketing spin on it, recyclable horse byproducts.

The job might have been a far cry from the work he expects to do in his career.

But it was an appropriate job Saturday as Harris took up the challenge of the third annual BIG Event – a day when 1,100 IPFW-affiliated volunteers fanned out to 55 nonprofit social service agencies around Fort Wayne and Allen County.

Harris ended up at the Dare to Dream Youth Ranch, 6020 W. Wallen Road.

“Yes, I have done this before,” said the 27-year-old Fort Wayne man pursuing a second bachelor’s degree.

“I live on a farm and took care of horses before. Actually, I have too many experiences with this.”

With about 15 other members of Delta Sigma Pi, a pre-professional business fraternity, Harris got to know the 11 horses and three ponies housed by Dare to Dream.

The agency’s program makes the experience of being around and caring for horses available to disadvantaged, special-needs and other children.

The agency works with church and community groups such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, said Jim Buck, a Dare to Dream board member.

“We see this as a charity to charities,” he said. “We allow charities to have access to meaningful activities for their clients.

“We customize the experience, but it’s always tied to the whole ritual of taking care of a horse.”

Buck said the ranch houses mostly “re-homed” horses, sometimes ones rescued after suffering from neglect, although the place is not a horse rescue facility.

“What we’ve tried to do is build a sustainable ranch model,” he said.

From inside a stall, another board member, Crystal Cobb, spoke to the IPFW students about Image.

The brown-and-white horse came to the ranch after volunteers found her emaciated, Cobb said.

Her owner was willing to relinquish her care, she said.

The horse now has only one eye. The other had to be removed because of a painful infection, Cobb said.

“But she’s here for the kids,” Cobb said. “She’s been a blessing.”

Students fanned out to clean an office and bathrooms and lug water troughs for the horses as they braved the snow and slush starting to accumulate in their pasture.

But senior human services major Wendy Meyers, 20, of Poe, her sister Kelly and Wendy’s fiance, Josh Boehm, stayed behind with shovels.

The women live on a farm and Boehm visits a lot, so they felt right at home tackling the really dirty work.

“We’ve all done stuff like this before,” Wendy Meyers said.

“Yeah,” added her sister, who wants to study nursing someday. “I dehorned cattle yesterday.”