Local youngster spreads holiday cheer with her Christmas Pony

For Avila Colanter, it wasn’t enough to just bring a donation of gifts to the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in San Diego. Wanting to make it extra special for the kids at the RMH’s on-site school, the 10-year-old Carlsbad resident who attends Phoenix Learning Center in Encinitas, brought the donations along with a mini horse dressed up for Christmas.

“Avila just loves horses and she had this idea a couple of years ago,” proud mom Brit Colanter told the Encinitas Advocate.

On Dec. 8, after a lot of coordination from Brit and Avila, the idea became a reality. The mother and daughter were joined by Avila’s siblings — 7 year-old Monnica and 4 year-old Augustine — a cousin and her grandparents (dad Eddie, unfortunately, had to work) as they brought gift baskets to the 5-10 kids staying at the RMH on-site school with the help of Beanie Baby the mini pony, who the children got a chance to play with.

Avila and her family also brought a bunch of unwrapped gifts to donate to RMH’s Santa’s Workshop, a program that allows parents from underprivileged families to pick out presents for their kids this holiday season.

While the kids at the on-site school were thrilled to play with Beanie Baby, and Avila and her family enjoyed seeing the joy in their faces, the children also appreciated the gift baskets, which included the children’s book “Jasper and the Big Race.” That book was written and illustrated by Avila when she was just 7 years old, and is available on Amazon.

It was around the time she finished the book that Avila hatched the idea for the Christmas Pony donation event. Then this year, Brit Colanter was able to help her daughter make it happen.

“We’ve done Operation Christmas Drop (a charity affiliated with the military) for kids overseas and she loves doing that and then she just thought it would be awesome to do something like that with a horse dressed up for Christmas,” Colanter said. “She was really insistent that this would happen so I finally said, ‘OK, I’ll try to make some calls, not knowing how it was going to all come together.’ ”

It all started to come together when a friend from 4H gave her the name of Anne Shapery, who runs LJ Mini Ranch in La Jolla. Shapery, who brings mini horses and other animals to the VA hospital and to work with autistic kids, was happy to provide the horse for Avila’s project.

Then, Colanter connected with the Ronald MacDonald House and officials there invited Avila and Beanie Baby to the RMH on-site school.

While that was all being organized, the family was also spending October and November collecting gifts and monetary donations from friends and relatives, people from their church and the families of Avila’s classmates in teacher Ashley Pirrello’s fourth-grade class.

“It was amazing to see everyone’s generosity, and just see the community get behind this (project), even people I didn’t know,” said Colanter, whose family recently moved to Carlsbad from Encinitas.

Another fun thing for Colanter and her kids was taking the donated money and going shopping for toys for the RMH kids.

Mom says Avila is already excited about organizing a Christmas Pony donation next year, and they are looking at potentially finding additional locations to bring their holiday cheer.

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