LEADING BY EXAMPLE
School teacher by day, role model and philanthropist by night, this month’s featured team member provides a whole new meaning to the word “give”. What began as a journey of curiosity for her daughter has turned into a full-fledged mission of dedication and service. Find out how this determined mom and her precocious daughter infiltrated Red Bucket and are moving mountains to save our horses.
al·tru·ism [ˈaltro͞ oˌizəm] NOUN
the belief in or practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others: “some may choose to work with the needy out of altruism”
Meet Shannon Ballou: mother, wife, teacher, role model, and inspiration to all those that know her. Red Bucket is blessed to not only have Shannon on our team, but also her “mini-me” daughter Lily. Shannon’s story began 5 years ago when Red Bucket was in the process of buying the Ranch. “Lily, my horse loving daughter, and I went to the Ranch and took a tour,” Shannon recalls. “It was incredibly eye opening for me. I had no idea that horses were sold at slaughter auctions and never thought about the fact that when times get tough for people financially, a horse is an incredible expense that is often cut. That tour left a long lasting impression on me. I knew I wanted to get involved, but as a full-time working mother of two young daughters, I didn’t think I would be able to commit to it.”
Shortly after their tour, Lily started riding right around the corner from Red Bucket. And then she began riding with Susan Peirce on the weekends. “Susan was always so sweet to Lily and knew that she wanted to become a Jr. Red,” Shannon shares with me. “We took more tours of the ranch, we attended a Ruby Red Gala, and all of Lily’s hard work to become a Jr. Red finally paid off.”
When Shannon was completing the online application for Lily, she saw that there were so many ways that a person could contribute! “I knew I couldn’t commit to grooming or feed crew because of my schedule and Lily’s little sister, Violet, who is 5 years younger,” Shannon explains. “But I thought that I could help with planning and working events, getting mailings out, etc…so, I completed an application as well. Right away I began working under the guidance of Susan Knox and assisted with the Help-a-Horse Day event at the Ranch. From there I became more and more involved in helping the Jr. Reds. The Jr. Reds would come to our house to make cupcakes and horse treat boxes for various events and Lily and I would volunteer at the Blenheim Horse Shows. I guess my official role now is to help lead the Jr. Reds. We have an amazing group of youngsters, and our co-presidents Meg and Kat are phenomenal! They are organized, dedicated, and hard-working, and we work well together in planning our meetings and fundraising ideas. The Jr. Reds learn leadership skills, the importance of giving back to their community, equine care, and getting their hands dirty by providing a service to the Ranch. They are always eager and willing to jump in to help out in any way. It’s a real privilege to work with these teens, and is definitely the most rewarding part of volunteering at Red Bucket for me. In my ‘day’ job I teach 8th grade, so working with children has always been appealing to me. Red Bucket has given me the opportunity to work with teens outside the typical classroom setting and help horses at the same time! It’s the best of both worlds for me!”
Kata Conlon sums up Shannon perfectly: “One word to describe Shannon is ‘Giver’ – she unselfishly gives of her time, attention, and resources to her family, work and fortunately for us Red Bucket! A few years ago, Shannon and her family brightened Red Bucket’s doorstep. I met her during one of our fundraising events and her positive attitude, bright smile, and willingness to do anything necessary was inspiring. She has opened her home to help with projects including our mailings, making snacks for events, and helping out with our Jr. Reds. Under Shannon’s guidance the Jr. Reds have experienced learning opportunities regarding horse care, coordinated Tack Sales for our most recent Mother’s Day event, and supported the completion of our much needed mailings. Our children have enjoyed learning and growing as Jr. Reds and I appreciate all Shannon has done to nurture, teach and guide these eager young individuals. Red Bucket is lucky to have such a giving, kind soul on the team.”
Another experienced Jr. Reds’ mom, Susan Knox has worked closely with Shannon from the very beginning. “I first met Shannon through Jr. Reds,” Susan explains. “I felt that’s when Shannon joined the team as well. She embraced every activity the Jr. Reds did and I could tell right away that she was a genuine team member. Being fairly new to the organization, I remember that we needed someone to take the lead on ‘Help a Horse Day’ and Shannon stepped up to the plate and managed the entire project. It was a very successful event and she made sure that it was the ‘Red Bucket’ way…and it truly was!”
“Today the Jr. Reds have over 20 members and have done several different fundraisers to support Red Bucket. Shannon not only leads the Jr. Reds, but she supports them at every event and is committed to them and Red Bucket. I love her ‘what can I do to help’ attitude and bubbly personality. Once again, another team member that Red Bucket is so lucky to have!”
The respect for her peers is reciprocal – Shannon enjoys the team atmosphere at Red Bucket. She relies on Susan Knox and Kata Conlon as much as they rely on her, and provides her with insight into the organization. “Susan and Kata both put their own children through Jr. Reds and they’ve helped guide me as I started working with the Jr. Reds. Susan is always available and answers my many questions – even when I know I’ve asked before. Susan is the person who encouraged me to take on a leadership role with the Jr. Reds. Kata and I bounce ideas off of each other and she always thinks of a detail that I may have overlooked. She’s always willing to help the Jr. Reds in any way, and is such a tremendous support to the program!”
“I also work regularly with Susan Peirce,” Shannon continues. “What can I say about Susan that I’m sure hasn’t been said a million times? She is the perfect leader! She encourages us to give it our all, she leads by example. She would never ask someone to do something that she wouldn’t – or hasn’t – done herself. She models to us all the heart that goes into an organization like Red Bucket. She challenges me and makes me get out of my comfort zone, all the while having confidence that I can do it. When I see how much she does on a daily basis, it inspires me to work harder. A project that we are trying to get off the ground is a group for smaller kids who want to get involved. Susan has named them the Red Rangers. We’ve laid the groundwork and it’s all ready to go….we just need someone to lead the group (hint hint!). I think a former Jr. Red would be perfect to lead the Red Rangers!”
With all the time she spends on the Jr. Reds, Shannon spends just as much time with the horses. “I love all the horses at Red Bucket,” she relates. “One that really affected me was Callum. I was at the Ranch the day after he was brought in. I didn’t know that such sadness could exist in a horse’s eyes – he was broken inside and out. The physical pain he must have been in is unimaginable. Since my daughter is a hunter/jumper, I was disgusted to know that this poor horse had been ridden with his front leg broken. I had never seen saddle sores like that before. I was sick to my stomach. Every time we went to the rescue, I checked on Callum. I slowly saw the desperation leave his eyes and many of his wounds heal. Even though he was only with Red Bucket for a short time, he finally knew kindness, gentleness, and love. Red Bucket is such a special place where I’ve seen amazing transformations. The ‘before and after’ images are unbelievable – and I know that they are true. I’ve seen them, and that is why I love being a part of the beautiful work that is accomplished here.”
According to Susan Peirce, Shannon and her family are an integral part of Red Bucket. “Shannon took over leadership of the Jr. Reds program when her daughter Lily joined. The Jr. Reds consists of youth ages 12-18 seeking a path of leadership, philanthropy, and equine wellness. The kids sign a contract to uphold values and participate in 10 out of 12 of our annual meetings, which contain components of education, skills, and horse knowledge. Shannon works with the curriculum and the youth, as well as with our fundraisers. The youth in turn receive service hours for school or essay material. Shannon is the REAL DEAL! She stepped up and took over; she’s a tremendous role model for young AND veteran team members! She attends our Ruby Red gala every year with her husband, and she is responsible for planning and executing our Mothers and Babies fundraiser-the entire family helps! Her daughter Lily is absolutely delightful; she’s a tiny bundle of energy and enthusiasm. Shannon’s real life job as a teacher transcends to her Red Bucket role beautifully, she is a positive role model and leads by example which makes the kids just blossom. She is polite and positive, and evokes the same from the 20 or so Jr. Reds we have. Shannon is the definition of altruism, and believes in leaving her imprint on the kids.”
Many thanks to Shannon and the Ballou family for their enormous contributions to our cause! These are the team members that build our foundation and create hope for our future.
Story by Roni Raczkowski