One Good Pairing Deserves Another
By Samantha Wright
OURAY – A unique fundraising dinner taking place in Ouray on Saturday, June 1, aims to raise money, and awareness, for an equally unique new nonprofit organization that is making a profound difference in the lives of at-risk children and neglected horses.
Ouray chefs extraordinaire Sid Cavallo and Khris Dunham have teamed up to create the outstanding menu for the upcoming five-course steak and seafood dinner, which pairs local microbrews with each delectable, eclectic course.
Funds raised at the dinner will go toward supporting Hope’s Ark, an Olathe-based nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates horses and repurposes them to work with at-risk children.
“It’s a really wonderful cause,” Cavallo said.
Hope’s Ark founders, Hope and Jay Blakeny, have offered a licensed therapeutic foster home for 14 years, first in Denver and for the past six years in Olathe. Both Blakenys were themselves adopted as children. Over the years, they have fostered 45 kids and adopted five.
Hearing Hope Blakeny talk about the experience of fostering a neglected child, it is clear that she has a calling. “The kids are the inspiration,” she said. “You take a kiddo and just love on them. Give them food and a safe place to live. And the best part of them just rises to the top. They are incredible, resilient. They are amazing, what they can walk through and come out the other side.”
Taking in horses that needed a new home seemed a natural progression in the couple’s calling.
“The horses can be rehabilitated and trained so they can then begin building trusting relationships,” Hope said. Then, they can be paired with children for free riding lessons, and lessons in herdsmanship, and equine health and nutrition.
Over the past three years that they have been cultivating their new program, the Blakenys have seen remarkably transformative relationships being forged between children and horses. When paired together, the horses healed faster and the children came out of their shells and expressed themselves – especially those who were a little leery of human relationships.
“It’s an opportunity for the kids to build relationships, too,” Hope said. “Learning how to ride teaches responsibility and trust.”
Ultimately, the pairing results in profound healing for both the horse and child.
In its formative years, Hope’s Ark has primarily served the children who come through the Blakenys’ own foster home, but now they are ready to go to next step by opening up the program to other foster agencies in the region, as well as to kids who have come through the Youth Corrections program.
In preparation for this step, Hope’s Ark recently doubled the size of its herd. Today, the organization provides a home to nine horses and two shetland ponies on its 10-acre spread near Olathe.
The horses that come to Hope’s Ark have all been rescued from situations of abuse and neglect. One who come into the fold was Spirit, a black and white paint who was part of a herd that was dying of starvation. Now, after lots of hay and lots of love, Spirit is a big, beautiful 1,200 pound mare.
But like a human who has come out of an abusive situation, Spirit’s scars are still apparent.
“No one will ever ride her,” Hope said. “But she chose to be with us and we can love on her.”
Hope described a recent encounter that a young lady in youth corrections had with Spirit. “She was able to catch her (in the paddock) – and she is not an easy catch; she has to come to you.”
The troubled girl stood in front of the troubled horse, and gave her a bath and groomed her.
“That’s where the healing comes, for the horse as well as for the kids,” Hope said. “Maybe it doesn’t show up today or tomorrow, but somewhere in her future it will show up and she will remember she was able to do that.”
The Blakenys hope that the upcoming fundraising dinner in Ouray will give people in the region a chance to learn more about their organization, and perhaps even become inspired to support it with their own time and money.
The need is urgent. The Blakenys have privately funded Hope’s Ark with Jay’s income as a CISCO food rep for the past three years, but now they have doubled their herd at a time when hay prices have tripled, and there is half as much water to irrigate the pasture.
“I don’t mind giving my time, but we need volunteers and whatever else people can give. However they want to help and be a part,” Hope said.
The dinner takes place on Saturday, June 1, at the Ouray Community Center. Cavallo is the genius behind the menu, which includes such irresistible delights as spicy and sweet carrot-ginger soup, and sweet and spicy orange-coriander pulled pork paired with a saison (a highly carbonated, fruity, spicy pale ale); and beef medallions with smoked Gouda mashed sweet potatoes, tomato, brown ale and beef reduction paired with a brown ale.
Cavallo comes from a background in fine dining creole in New Orleans, and currently applies his culinary skills at the Cimarron Cafe in Ridgway when he’s not tending bar at the Buen Tiempo. He was formerly a chef at the Ouray Brewery, and experimented with some beer pairing there.
“I enjoy the idea of pairings,” he said. “I will take the beers and incorporate them into the foods as well, and tweak the seasonings to make sure the food compliments the beer and vice versa. You want lighter beers with lighter meats, and darker brown ales go well with beef – like red wine with beef and white wine with fish. Pale ale, with a lot of hops, goes well with a salad course.”
Cavallo, who has befriended Jay Blakeny, is impressed with what the couple is trying to do at Hope’s Ark. “They are really trying hard, trying to do it right,” he said. “It just sounds good. Sometimes there is too little of that. Sometimes we find something good and want to find a way to support it.”
Dunham is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who worked for a time as senior chef of bakeshop operations at the famed Dupont Hotel in Delaware before opening up his kitchen shop, Khristopher’s Culinaire, in Ouray. He will be playing a support role in the dinner’s preparation.
The evening includes a live DJ provided by the Mountain Chill Radio. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $60 and are available at Khristopher’s Culinaire in Ouray, the True Grit Cafe in Ridgway, the Coffee Trader in Montrose and Mountain Market in Telluride. Seating is limited to 100. There will be a silent auction and a chance to help float Hope's Ark with your donations and contributions.
“Come join us for a wonderful evening of great food, new friendships, and an opportunity to help bring children and horses together in our community,” Hope said. “Come be a part of the healing.”
For more information about Hope’s Ark, call 720/351-5139, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit facebook.com/hopesarkrescue.