IDAHO FALLS — After months of uncertainty regarding the future of Champ’s Heart, the local nonprofit has a permanent place to call home thanks to community members.
The organization — which offers horse encounters for children who are facing cancer, disabilities or other challenges, their families and veterans — was once located out of the North Bingham County Historical Park in Shelley. Champ’s Heart left at the end of July 2021 due to lease issues and complaints made to animal control.
The group eventually moved to a temporary location in Idaho Falls and was there for three months before finding their new home. Champ’s Heart will permanently reside at 988 S. 45th E. in Idaho Falls beginning March 1.
“This is way bigger than anything I could’ve dreamt up. It is amazing,” Founder Larry Cudmore told EastIdahoNews.com. “Every time I go out there (on the property), I thank God for blessing us with this because it’s all for the kids and the veterans.”
Cudmore, who is a cancer survivor, did not expect things to happen how they have but he’s grateful for how it all came together. Cudmore started the organization about three years ago after battling cancer. He remembers telling his neighbor, Ron Warnecke, that if his cancer comes back, the horse encounter experiences would go away.
“He (Warnecke) said, ‘We’re not going to let that happen. We’re going to build this thing for you so that it lasts after you’re gone, so it’s still here no matter what,’” Cudmore recalls Warnecke telling him.
The two of them made a deal that if Cudmore found the property, Warnecke would figure out how to get it financed. One day while Warnecke was out driving, he noticed the property they’ve since purchased was for sale and told Cudmore.
“His journey through cancer and meeting Emily (a cancer patient who inspired Champ’s Heart after she passed away) and trying to carry on that legacy (is the biggest reason I wanted to do this),” Warnecke explained. “He’s so passionate about the kids. It’s incredible.”
Over the course of a few weeks, Warnecke and three other men — LaMoyne Hyde and Hyde Drift Boats, a man who preferred only his initials A.J. be used and a man who asked to remain anonymous — each brought $50,000 to go toward a downpayment for the property. The land sits on almost eight acres and features a pasture, indoor arena, shop and a 4,000 square foot almost new home with seven bedrooms. The arena, shop and home are all heated with solar energy.
Champ’s Heart is hoping to figure how to use the house as an income source to make payments. It’s also starting a two-year capital campaign with a television special on March 15 at 6:30 p.m. to raise funds so the four men can be paid back. Warnecke said they’re looking to raise a couple million dollars to pay off the property and give Champ’s Heart a few years of operating funds.
“We’re trying to set it up with recurring donations so that it’ll continue on. It’s not just a one-time thing,” Warnecke explained.
Cudmore said there are 7,400 kids with special needs in eastern Idaho between kindergarten and high school. Champ’s Heart has been helping 75 kids a week but has 100 kids on the waiting list and the nonprofit needs more volunteers.
“I am so thankful for community support on this,” Cudmore expressed. “I am overwhelmed with the kindness and the generosity of the community to help us do this.”
Champ’s Heart will close after Saturday for a month while they train their volunteers and prepare to open at their new home.
Read More:Four local men purchase property to give Champ’s Heart a permanent home