Donor gives Wis. girl, 12, a horse for Christmas

  • Article by: PAMELA POWERS
  • Associated Press
  • December 24, 2013 - 2:50 PM

OSSEO, Wis. — Christmas came early for 12-year-old Dani Morrow this year.

On Monday Santa's sleigh took the form of a horse trailer adorned with red bows pulled by a pickup truck instead of reindeer at the Morrows' rural Osseo home.

Inside the trailer, dressed up in a blanket and a bow, stood an American quarter horse, also named Dani, a surprise gift intended to bring good cheer.

As about 100 carolers sang Christmas songs, including the girl's favorite —"Where Are You Christmas?" —the horse was led out of the trailer and toward an extremely grateful girl.

As the horse came into view, Dani Morrow ran to the mare being led up the driveway by a man dressed as Santa Claus.

"I saw her come over the hill," Dani said excitedly of the horse, tears in her eyes. "I am really so happy. I thought I wouldn't be able to get her. She was so expensive. This is the best Christmas ever."

She looked over at one of her friends and added: "I told you it wasn't a coincidence we had the same name."

Dani's receiving the horse was a sign the season of giving had arrived. The girl lost her father, Tony, to colon cancer in October and her beloved pony, Popcorn, to organ failure three weeks ago, the Leader-Telegram ( ) reported.

An anonymous donor from Pierce County who heard about Dani's hardships donated the horse, a 13-year-old registered American quarter horse mare. About 10 days ago Candice Aspen of rural Colfax spread the message she was looking for a horse to give the Osseo-Fairchild Middle School seventh-grader.

"When her dad got sick, there were times Dani couldn't be with him because of treatments, so she would stay with us," Aspen said.

After the girl's pony died, Aspen went on a mission.

"I just felt there was something I could do," Aspen, coach of the UW-Eau Claire hunt team, said. "It originally started (because) I wanted to find Dani a horse for Christmas. I lost my dad when I was young. I can relate to losing someone."

Aspen posted a message on the Facebook group Chippewa Valley Horse Lovers about finding Dani a horse. But she didn't expect so many people to offer their help procuring a horse for the girl. Within two hours Aspen had received offers of 50 horses from owners in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

"I never in my wildest dreams expected all the people to step forward," she said. "None of them have even met Dani or her family before."

Aspen narrowed the list to 10 horses before the animal bearing Dani's name was chosen.

"The person who donated Dani the horse never thought of parting with the horse," Aspen said, but after she saw the posting about Dani's hardships, she changed her mind.

"Right away it was a perfect match," Aspen said, noting it is a fluke that the girl and the 15-hand chestnut horse share the same name. "This was the horse she connected with on an emotional level. She was in tears because she felt it was her soul mate."

The mare has done barrel racing, western pleasure and trail riding, Aspen said.

People's giving spirits didn't stop at the horse. Horse owners have donated everything from a new custom saddle to a bridle, grooming supplies, buckets, polo wraps, treats, grain, horse blankets, coolers and other items.

Dani's family — her mother, Lisa, and her three sisters, Mikey, 16, Caty, 20, and Jessi, 22 —also received gifts such as a hotel stay and services at a local salon from donors.

On Monday at the Morrows' home, Aspen boosted Dani up onto the horse's back. The girl reached down and hugged the horse's neck. A moment later, after climbing down off of the animal, Dani kissed the mare's muzzle and gently rubbed its cheek.

One woman, Betsi Haack, traveled about three hours, from Elko, Minn., to the Morrows' home, to witness Dani's receiving the horse.

"I just thought it was wonderful," she said. "Not enough things like this go on at Christmas anymore. It just gets at the meaning of Christmas."

Caty Morrow said she knew her sister was to receive the horse for Christmas.

"It was hard to keep a secret," she said. "It's a Christmas miracle."

After Dani and the mare were united, Aspen had tears in her eyes.

"It was magical," she said. "For me it summed it up, just to see her so emotional."

Lisa Morrow said she also was touched by the generosity shown to Dani and the rest of her family.

"Dani is a horse person," her mother said. "I didn't even understand how much. She did everything for Popcorn. She was her best friend. It's just amazing for her to get another horse to get through all this."

An AP Member Exchange Feature shared by Leader-Telegram

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