The Rodeo of the Ozarks held its ninth annual Super Cowboys and Cowgirls event for kids that have mental and physical disabilities.
The event was free to the children and their families. Those that attended enjoyed horseback riding, roping and stagecoach rides. Board member Tex Holt said the idea to give back to the youth of the community came from another board member nearly a decade ago.
"Most of these children have never got to ride a horse before, or pet a horse, throw a rope, ride a stagecoach," Holt said, "We try to do lots of things that are western rodeo, and these children have never had this opportunity before.”
Holt said the first year there were fewer than a dozen kids that attended the event; this year, between kids and families there were over 100 that attended.
"It is beautiful," He said, "And we’ll take a big group picture here in a minute, and we keep these pictures hung up at the board...we’re proud of these kids, and we’re proud of these parents.”
Parent Monica Hinton said she never thought her nine-year-old autistic son would be able to come to the Rodeo of the Ozarks.
“I grew up going here to the rodeo," Hinton said, "So it's really a blessing to be able to bring him to this, that he can have those experiences without dealing with the crowds, the bleachers, the loud noises and the smells...it can all be overwhelming.”
She said Thursday morning she was able to see her son become completely confident around the other kids and the horses.
"The horses are so calm and so great, and it's really enjoyable for him, it relaxes him...he’s had a smile ear to ear the whole time we’ve been here,” Hinton said.
As a mother, she said it was amazing to see her nonverbal son come out of his shell and just be himself.
"I have a tissue," She said, "I keep dabbing my eyes, because it’s just so great to see him comfortable and relaxed and everyone accepting of him.”