Little Bit moves to new facility

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Little Bit
Courtesy Photo The new facility, Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center Dunmire Stables, will enable the organization to double its capacity and help ease wait times.
Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center is moving into its new digs this month, much to the delight of its staff and clients.

It’s a project that began back in 2005 when the organization’s board of directors launched an $11 million capital campaign to address the ever-growing needs of individuals with disabilities in the greater Seattle area.

The objective became to find a new facility with enough room to expand and reduce the waiting list.

Currently, the organization serves 222 riders and patients each week. There are an additional 225 individuals on a waiting list and the number continues to increase.

Some people have had to wait up to two years to receive services.

The delay in service delivery can be especially detrimental to kids where early therapeutic intervention is sometimes essential.

The new facility, Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center Dunmire Stables, will enable the organization to double its capacity and help ease wait times. Ultimately, services will be available for as many as 500 riders and patients a week, making it the largest therapeutic riding center in the country.

The new facility, which is situated on 17.5 acres in Redmond, boasts a 41-stall barn, enabling Little Bit to grow its herd of “four-legged therapists.”

Little Bit horse
Photo courtesy of Little Bit One of Little Bit’s “four-legged therapists”
It has a quarter-mile racetrack that provides riders with an enclosed and private place to do trail rides. This area will eventually be converted into a sensory trail. There are two covered arenas for year-round riding, with plans for an outdoor arena to be added in the future.

Riders, patients, caretakers, families and volunteers will now have a designated community viewing space to watch lessons and treatments.

In addition, there’s a tack barn for riders and patients to participate in grooming and tacking activities, and a training center to host volunteer workshops and certification sessions for attendees from across the country.

Though the organization had initially planned to retain its Woodinville facility with the aim of having two centers, it became clear that this was not a feasible situation.

“Our organization could not focus resources on expanding its community while operating two locations,” explains Cluny McCaffrey, deputy director of Little Bit. “Legacy Hunters and Jumpers purchased the Woodinville facility from us in September 2012.”

According to McCaffrey, the total cost of the organization’s new home is expected to be $11 million. The majority of funds raised have come through the generosity of the Little Bit community.

McCaffrey notes that individual supporters including Mike and Phyllis Dunmire, for whom the facility is named, John and Kelly Olerud, Karyl and Elias Alvord and Eve and Chap Alvord are among the many generous donors.

Additionally, grants from the Norcliffe Foundation, Taxpayers of Washington State, C. Keith Birkenfeld Memorial Trust and M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust provided financial support.

McCaffrey explains that the new facility required only slight modifications to its existing structure, as it was once a thoroughbred training center.

She says, “Little Bit made improvements to the horse barn, indoor arena and hay barn, and converted the home on the property to a training center. To comply with guidelines, a rain garden was installed to protect the Bear Creek salmon habitat. We also constructed a new tack barn and a second covered arena, as well as a state-of-the-art welcome center, consisting of a community lounge for families and volunteers, therapy rooms and staff offices.”

The new facility is a dream come true for Little Bit Executive Director Kathy Alm, who notes that the organization’s goal of doubling the number of people served will now be attainable.

She is grateful to all the supporters who made this possible and emphasizes that Little Bit owes its continued success to so many dedicated individuals. “An intersection of strong board and staff leadership, along with the inspiring support of our community has brought Little Bit to where it is today,” adds Alm. “It’s the people behind Little Bit who have made us a leader in the therapeutic horsemanship field on a global scale.”

Elite hoops clinic is only the tip of the iceberg for Gametime Sport Academy

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Jamie ReddYouth who are serious about playing sports will now have another choice when it comes to training camps and clinics.

Gametime Sport Academy is bringing its elite training program to Woodinville.

Founded by Derek Sparks, author of “Lessons of the Game,” and former WSU football player, Gametime is an organization dedicated to student athletes.

Its upcoming clinic is geared specifically to basketball players, ages 12-18, who are looking to improve their game.

The program will focus on skills and incorporate a range of drills involving dribbling, passing and shooting.

Jamie Redd, a former WNBA player and UW all-time leading scorer, will head up the sessions, along with a cadre of accredited assistants.

Gametime got started 12 years ago with the release of Sparks’ book and the subsequent ESPN Sports Center documentary about his life, entitled, “The Derek Sparks Story.”

The Texas native, who grew up playing football in the small town of Wharton was one of the most coveted athletes in the country.

“I had an uncle in California and when I was in junior high, I sent him a tape of me playing football,” explains Sparks. “He showed it to some schools out there and then orchestrated deals to have them fly me to California. I ended up playing for four different high schools in four years. I played for both public and private schools. They lured me with tons of gifts, like free tuition, free places to stay, expensive cars to drive and more. But, there were strings attached to all of these things. Everyone wanted to cash in on my talent.”

He adds, “It was all illegal and improper, of course, because schools aren’t allowed to do those things, but they did and then it all got ugly. My experiences and the controversy that surrounded me during all of this later became the subject of my book, as well as of an ESPN documentary.”

Sparks was highly recruited out of high school and ended up at WSU, where he played tailback.

He admits that his college career was subpar, as injuries kept him from reaching his potential.

Instead of a glorious record, however, he ended up with something better, something more valuable — a college education and a degree in business.

“When you come from hardship, like Jamie (Redd) and I, education makes all the difference,” says Sparks. After graduation, he went on to a variety of careers, including being a football coach at a small college, where he always made sure to emphasize academics to his players.

He began making the rounds at different high schools, giving inspirational and motivational speeches to students.

He shared his story, and with it a valuable message for his audiences.

“Success involves work,” he told them. “It means applying yourself, being goal-driven, focusing and staying away from distractions and out of harm’s way.

“It also means believing in yourself and having confidence that you can accomplish what you set out to do.”

In the process, Sparks came up with “Gametime” as his mantra.

It eventually evolved into a brand and spun off into a variety of areas, including designing and manufacturing athletic apparel for schools.

“I use this arm of the business to fund the intervention work — all the afterschool programs I do in collaboration with other organizations,” comments Sparks. “These are programs to help keep kids off the streets, such as open gyms, arts and crafts classes, cooking classes, dance and academic prep classes.”

For Sparks, Gametime transcends sports and his hope for it to develop into a full service academy for athletes.

“I want to be able to prepare these kids for life so when they move on to college, they will be the best they can be in all areas.

“I especially want them to understand about the educational opportunities available to them.”

He adds, “It’s really about harnessing energy, setting goals and developing skills. And for me, it’s all about giving back to the community.”

What: Gametime Elite Training Camp Hoops Clinic for youth, featuring former WNBA player Jamie Redd
When: Saturday, April 27, (morning session for ages 12-14, afternoon for ages 15-18)
Where: Gold Creek Tennis and Sports Club in Woodinville
Cost: $50 if you register by April 15; normally $60 per person
To register: Call (206) 571-1433 or visit

‘Trails’ is a story worth telling

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Trails Photo
“Trails” runs through April 21 at Village Theatre in Issaquah. Courtesy photo
There’s much to like about “Trails,” the new musical having its world premiere at Village Theatre in Issaquah.

To start, Jen Zeyl’s imposing mountain set is artfully constructed and beautifully lit by Roger Aguilar. Though inert, it is a place of action for the actors and they use it a myriad of creative ways as they take their memorable journey.

The show, written by Christy Hall with music by Jeff Thomson and lyrics by Jordan Mann, tells a simple tale of two 30-something friends, underachiever, nice guy, Seth (Joshua Carter) and self-assured, take-charge lawyer, Mike (Dane Stokinger), who set out to hike the full length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Their trek proves to be more than just a sightseeing endeavor and a physical challenge made impulsively to fulfill a childhood promise. It’s an opportunity to retreat from the daily grind and take time for some deep soul searching and self-introspection.

Along the way, the men learn some valuable lessons as they attempt to heal from loss, while trying to mend a broken friendship. The story unfolds between the present day and flashbacks to the characters’ childhood, where they are joined by their ever faithful gal pal, Amy (Kirsten deLohr Helland). She is the spunky, adventurous leader of the trio, who inspires the boys and navigates their course of maturity from childhood’s imaginary escapades to the harsher realities of adulthood.

She is also the one that ultimately comes between them and causes their friendship to fracture.

While hiking, the men wrestle with their individual demons and each receives advice from fellow trekkers (Bobbi Kotula, Sarah Rose Davis and John Patrick Lowrie) on the route, who share their experiences and sage-like wisdom.

The music moves the action along while providing insight into the events of the past and the nature of the decisions made by the characters.

Vocally, the production is very strong, as the actors are consummate, talented performers, who sing with passion and conviction. Their voices soar and sparkle. Lowrie’s powerful baritone in “Purgatory Blues” is especially memorable.

Unfortunately, despite a few notable numbers (i.e. the wonderful, “Miles of Time” and the bluesy, “The Road is My Home”), the predominantly melodic pop score does little to distinguish itself. After a while, most of the songs begin to sound similar. Their message, however, is worthwhile. Life is a journey and the paths we take are determined by the choices we make and their ensuing consequences.

“Trails” runs through April 21st at Village Theatre in Issaquah and at the Everett Performing Arts Center, April 26-May 19. For ticket information: (425) 392-2202 or

Polar Bear Poem Party is an annual tradition at Arrowhead

  • Written by Deborah Stone
polar bear poem party 003
Teacher Amanda Budwill’s second grade class waits patiently to recite “The Polary-Bear” by Shel Silverstein. Staff Photo/Deborah Stone
Every child in Mandy Budwill’s second grade class at Arrowhead Elementary knows Shel Silverstein’s, “The Polary-Bear.”

The students all learn to memorize and recite the humorous poem and many never forget it, even years later.

Some continue to return to the school as they get older to join Budwill and her class at the annual Polar Bear Poem Party, where they get the opportunity to recite the poem once again.

This special event was set in motion 18 years ago.

“My second graders memorize and recite poems every week,” explains Budwill. “We keep a poetry notebook and frequently reread our favorites. For some reason, my first class really loved and remembered the Polar Bear poem. The next year when my class was reciting it, the third graders wanted to return and say it with them. So they did.

“Then the following year, the third and fourth graders returned to recite with us, and the tradition just continued. Now we have students from Kenmore Junior High, Northshore Junior High, Inglemoor and once in a while, even college students who return. We only recite that one poem every year at this event.”

Last year, Budwill notes there were over 100 students who participated. She adds, “I think they return for the tradition, the polar bear cookies, the prizes for seniors and the fun!”

The children in Budwill’s current class recite first. Then each group follows in grade level order. Seniors recite last and each receives a small remembrance token. Then everyone eats cookies and Budwill gets a chance to visit with her former students.

polar bear poem party 009
Kenmore and Northshore Junior High students return to Arrowhead Elementary to recite the poem at the yearly Polar Bear Poem Party at Arrowhead. Staff Photo/Deborah Stone
Take Chloe Jarvis, for example. The Kenmore Junior High ninth grader has been coming to the event since she was in second grade.

“Mrs. Budwill is one of my favorite teachers,” she says. “She’s really the only teacher I know who does something like this and I think it’s just so memorable for the kids. It brings everyone back together. And the poem is so cute and catchy, too.”

Lindsay Starostka has attended the party every year except one. She says, “It’s just such a great tradition and Mrs. Budwill is a wonderful teacher. I student taught for her last year and it was such a good learning experience. She handles kids so well and knows how to discipline without sounding mean. She is really skilled in the classroom.”

Kaitlyn Hollis, also a senior at IHS, is another veteran of the event. “I never missed a year,” she notes. “I love the poem and the tradition is unique and special. It’s something I wanted to do ever since I was in second grade and heard about it.”

Budwill describes the event as “organized chaos,” but comments that it is very heartwarming for her to see the interest kids have for both the poem and the tradition.

The local teacher believes that reading and memorizing poetry builds basic reading skills, such as phonics, rhyming, phrasing and fluency. She also feels that it strengthens memory practice and increases one’s confidence in the ability to stand and recite in a group.

She adds, “Memorizing a poem gives students a feeling of accomplishment and pride.”

Budwill’s class studies polar bears and other Arctic animals as part of their nonfiction reading and informational writing unit. Additionally, they spend time discussing global warming and the plight of the polar bears, as well as incorporate this learning with some map study skills.

The Polar-y Bear

By Shel Silverstein

There’s a polar-y bear

In the fridge-idy -dare.

He likes it ‘cause it’s cold in there.

With his seat in the meat

And his face in the fish

And his hairy old paw in the buttery dish.

Well, he’s sucking up the noodles

And he’s munching on the rice

And he’s slurping up the sodas

And he’s crunching on the ice.

When you open the door,

He gives out a ROAR!

It gives me a scare

To know he’s in there

The polar-y bear

In the fridge-idy -dare.

Get in the Nordic spirit with a visit to the Nordic Heritage Museum

  • Written by Deborah Stone
nordic heritage
The Nordic Heritage Museum is located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Staff photo/Deborah Stone
Seattle is a city of museums, ranging from the renowned Seattle Art Museum and Pacific Science Center to the more esoteric Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum.

And then there’s the Nordic Heritage Museum, a center of Scandinavian culture that although small in scale, is internationally recognized as a place where people of all backgrounds can be inspired by the traditions and spirit of the Nordic peoples.

Seattle was an important place of settlement for Scandinavians in the Pacific Northwest and the Nordic influence on the city was very strong for many years.

The Nordic Heritage Museum is testament to this influence and was created to help preserve and promote the Nordic culture in the region.

The center opened its doors to the public in 1980 and over the years it has steadily expanded its permanent exhibits, collections and programming.

Within the approximately 50,000 square-foot building (formerly Daniel Webster Elementary), there are 11 galleries, three classrooms, an auditorium, seven administrative offices, two libraries and a gift shop.

On the first floor, visitors will find “The Dream of America,” a permanent exhibit detailing the story of immigration told through a series of dioramas that show how Scandinavians made their way across the Atlantic and landed in New York.

From there, they headed to the Midwest, then the Great Plains and finally to the Pacific Northwest, ending in Ballard. Displays show the growth and development of a typical small Northwest community, complete with post office, church, drugstore, blacksmith shop and a family dwelling.

On the second floor, “The Promise of the Northwest,” another permanent exhibit, encompasses two galleries, focusing on the logging and fishing industries, which employed many immigrants who brought their skills with them from the old country.

Within these galleries, the contributions of the Nordic pioneers to the settlement of the Pacific Northwest are also showcased. Treasured and useful items the immigrants brought with them, including colorful folk costumes, textiles, tools and well-crafted furniture are on display in the Folk Art Galleries.

Also on the second floor are various temporary exhibits. Currently on view is “Bad Art? 1,000 Birch Board Pictures from Sweden,” a visiting exhibition representing a form of folk art from unknown origins in Northern Europe.

Sold as tourist souvenirs for more than a century, these humble objects have spread around the world.

To create the plaques, a postcard was glued to a thin piece of a tree trunk, typically from a birch tree. The image was then hand painted to the edges of the slice of wood and sometimes included three-dimensional objects. The exhibit challenges notions of what makes fine art versus popular art, as well as what constitutes bad taste versus good taste.

Also on display is “The Impression of Amundsen: Roald Amundsen’s South Pole Expedition 1910-1912.” The explorer Roald Amundsen’s personal diary from his South Pole expedition provided inspiration for this new exhibition of paintings and graphic works from several prominent Norwegian artists.

Up on the third floor, the differences and the common bonds among the Scandinavian people are delineated. There is one gallery for each of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Each hall of this permanent exhibit highlights the individual group’s special achievements in our region. In addition to its exhibits, the museum also offers an array of programs including craft, language and cooking classes, guided tours, an active outreach program to schools, the popular “Mostly Nordic Chamber Music Series,” films, lectures and plays.

For more information about the Nordic Heritage Museum: (206) 789-5707 or