Gil Iwanski has trained miniature horse ambassadors that have touched more than 10,000 lives through his organization, Minis and Friends.
RecognizeGood presented the 51st RecognizeGood® Legend award to Gil Iwanski of Minis and Friends in a ceremony at Elmcroft Senior Living (7017 Manchaca Rd, Austin, TX), beginning at 10:00 am on Friday, August 29, 2015. As part of the award presentation, Minis and Friends received a $1,000 pay-it-forward donation from RecognizeGood in Gil’s name.
At Minis and Friends, the goal is simple – share the love and spirit of miniature horses with those who need specialized, tender care. The minis must be cared for daily with hands-on touching and exercising, and their volunteer mini-handlers must be specially trained to guide interactions between the horses and those whose spirits they lift. Holding it all together is Gil Iwanski, resident “horse whisperer” for Minis and Friends. Gil, 69, takes on the education and observation of each trained miniature horse ambassador at each visit, and behind his watchful eye and years of dedication, Minis and Friends has not only touched more than 10,000 lives itself but amazingly spawned twelve new sister organizations to touch lives across the United States and Canada.
“I can truly say that Minis and Friends would never have gotten off the ground if it hadn’t been for Gil,” says Sally Iwanski, Gil’s wife and co-founder of the organization. “Minis and Friends has changed both our lives – over and over and over again.” The minis pay visits to about a thousand children each year, from the general population of Dell Children’s Medical Center and special events for the Blood and Cancer / HEMOC clinic at Dell Children’s to shelter facilities like Helping Hand Home for Children and The Settlement Home for Children. The little horses with big hearts also share their love with hundreds of special needs adults each year, and make appearances at events like the Buddy Walk for Down’s Syndrome, NAMI Walks and the Center for Child Protection Family Day. “Minis and Friends would be in very sad shape if Gil was not there to help lighten our day,” says Sally. “We depend on him greatly!”
As a 2015 Legend, Gil is now eligible to participate in RecognizeGood’s Say Thanks Austin campaign, an annual event which presents the Austin area with a unique opportunity to say “thank you” to a group of remarkable individuals who contribute their time and talents to our community. The participant with the most Thank You votes receives a pay-it-forward donation of $10,000 to the nonprofit of their choice.