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American Junior Paint Horse Association president uses talent to change young lives

FORT WORTH, Texas—At only 18 years of age, American Junior Paint Horse Association (AjPHA) President Banks Ready is beyond his years. Through a combination of southern charm, wit and impeccable manners, this young man from Hernando, Miss., has proven he has the ability to inspire youth and adults alike to reach goals they never knew they could achieve. While only mid-way through his first term as president, Ready has been able to raise $60,000 to make dreams come true for 12 children with catastrophic illnesses.

It was Ready’s goal, in fact, to lead the more than 6,800-member youth group and its 85,000-member parent organization—the American Paint Horse Association—in a drive to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That Foundation enriches the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions through its wish-granting work.

And if anyone thinks Ready’s work is done, they should think again. The ambitious AjPHA president plans to raise an additional $10,000 to grant two more wishes when Paint Horse enthusiasts gather in Fort Worth, Texas, for the World Championship Paint Horse Show in late June. At last count, he already had commitments from donors to grant at least one of those wishes.

If Ready’s ability to set ambitious goals and continue to achieve remarkable results is any indication for what lies in store for AjPHA, the organization has a bright future.

Where wishes begin

Each year, as a new AjPHA president steps into office, he or she brings a plan for a “Presidential Service Project” and challenges fellow youth members across the country to get involved. In the past, projects have ranged from therapeutic riding, to grass roots equine educational efforts, to blood drives for the Red Cross and other worthy causes. The incoming presidents have their choice on what their project will be and whom it will benefit. Often times the presidents choose something in which they have been previously involved, and that has touched them beyond measure. This was the case for Ready.

A high school senior preparing to enter Texas Tech University in the fall, Ready first got involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation through his high school Key Club, a student-led organization that teaches leadership through serving others. The high school group partnered with a nearby elementary school to raise money and grant a wish.

“It changes your life when you see the face of the child and the family’s reaction,” said Ready. “You instantly know how much the child cares and how much it means to the family that you have taken the time to do this for them.

“I knew what my service project was going to be probably before I ever decided to run for president,” added Ready. “There was never a doubt in my mind.”

Granting the first wish

While deciding on and launching a presidential service project was Ready’s first step, actually implementing the plan was the next. Ready did just that, recruiting help from a group of AjPHA members from his home state of Mississippi. Together the group was able to raise $10,000 and literally make a dream come true—granting the first wish during the Dixie National Paint Horse Show in Jackson, Miss., on February 1.

The first of what would eventually become many wishes went to a 4-year-old who was initially diagnosed with Leukemia M1 in June 2008—about the same time Ready challenged AjPHA members to participate in Make-A-Wish. Through Ready’s hard work, the youngster’s wish to take a trip to Disney World was granted. The youth members raised enough money to grant an additional wish and are currently in the process of making that happen.

While many might be satisfied with raising $10,000 and making a difference in the lives of two children, it still wasn’t enough for Ready.

“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to hold a large-scale Make-A-Wish benefit at one of the largest APHA shows,” said Ready. “We focused our attention on the March Mania Paint Horse Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

Thinking “Backwards”

And focus he did. Ready had been working closely with March Mania Show Manager Karen Kennedy, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oklahoma and several of the top Paint Horse trainers across the country since last fall. Wanting to keep the fundraiser entertaining and fun for all, the group decided to host what they called a “Backwards Western Pleasure Calcutta Class.”

In the class, several of the industry’s top halter trainers—David Boggs, Floyd Danley, Tim Finkenbinder, Clint Fullerton, Kevin Hood, J.T. Mitchell, Dewey Smith and Casey West—competed in Western Pleasure aboard world-class Paint Horses, while spectators bid on which trainer would ride away with the first-place title. While halter trainers are great fitting and showing horses, they are not so well known for their actual riding skills. Getting them in the saddle proved to be entertaining, and profitable. In the end, half of the money raised was designated for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the other half to the highest bidder of the winning rider.

“We started working on this project on and off since the time Banks first pitched his service project idea,” said Kennedy. “If you would have asked me then how big this would have gotten, I never would have imagined.”

“We were hoping to raise about $10,000,” said Ready. “When we got to the last rider, [J.T.] Mitchell, we were already sitting at $10,000 and then things started getting exciting. The bidding started and before we knew it, two bidders were dead-locked at $20,000.”

It was then that the announcer Kevin Smith stepped in and suggested both bidders settle the battle and each write a check for $20,000. Without hesitation, they nodded their heads, signed their names and in minutes $50,000 had been raised.

Following the bidding, the class was held and Floyd Danley of Las Vegas took first place. His bidder, Nancy Smith, of Magnolia, Texas, was awarded half of the money raised—$25,000. However, being in a philanthropic state-of-mind, Nancy decided to donate her money back to Make-A-Wish for a total raised at the show of $50,000.

“Everybody’s jaw just dropped,” said Ready.

Future Dreams

To put the total $60,000 raised in perspective, Ready and APHA members will be able to make dramatic differences in the lives of at least 12 children who are faced with life-threatening diseases by making their dreams come true.

“We anticipate granting about 125 wishes in Oklahoma this year,” said Jane Rohweder, director of marketing and public relations for the Oklahoma Make-A-Wish chapter who was on-hand at March Mania. “This is one of the biggest donations we’ve had from an outside event and will prove very valuable.”

With each wish requiring about $5,000 in funding, Ready and his contributors have will brighten the lives of many children.

“I really want to be able to grant two wishes at Summer World Show,” he said. “I understand that people want to grant wishes in their home state, but if we all join together and participate in the World Show wish together, we can all see that life-changing smile and the difference we have made.”

Help grant a wish at the Summer World Show

For more information about Painting Dreams, visit ajpha.com and watch Ready’s video. Donations to help Ready grant a wish at the Summer World Championship Paint Horse Show in Fort Worth, Texas, can be made by contacting APHA at (817) 834-2742 or by contacting Ready’s father, George Ready, at (662) 429-7088.

More about AjPHA

The American Junior Paint Horse Association is home to more than 6,800 Paint Horse enthusiasts aged 18 and younger. The youth organization is part of the American Paint Horse Association, which registers and promotes the American Paint Horse.

To learn more about AjPHA, visit ajpha.com. Or, contact the Director of Youth Activities by e-mail at coordinator@ajpha.com or phone (817) 834-2742, extension 248.


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