VALPARAISO | A black pony named Thunder slowly paced the grounds outside the Porter County Animal Shelter as children waited their turn for a ride.
The pony, from the Four Seasons Equestrian Center in Crown Point, was among the attractions at the second annual Kids Power Fun Fest, which raises money for the shelter.
Formed in April 2012 by Valparaiso resident Kim Gavaller, the group has raised $15,000 so far through a variety of events.
About 60 families with kids ages 5 to 17 participate, and there are no fees or required time commitments, Gavaller said.
“There was a need for this,” she said. “There were a lot of kids who wanted to help.”
Sisters Ashlee and Kyla Sinkiewicz helped organize the fun fest, which also featured a bounce house, prince and princess pageant, princess and pirate makeovers, a stepping stone contest, carnival games and crafts.
Ashlee, 8, wrote letters to local businesses seeking donations for raffle prizes, while Kyla, 13, enlisted her fellow Boone Grove Middle School cheerleaders to help run the games.
Kyla said she joined Kids Power because she has two rescue dogs at home and knows the hardships they've experienced.
“I want to help other dogs so they don't have to go through that,” she said.
Valparaiso resident Rebecca Laughner brought her five children to the event. Her daughter, Liberty Bell, 3, took a ride on the pony.
“My kids love animals and so do I,” Laughner said. “I thought this would be fun, and it's for a worthy cause.”
The event also offered opportunities for animal adoptions. Last year, six cats and three dogs were adopted, said Jon Thomas, shelter director.
He praised Kids Power for raising money and helping homeless animals “find forever homes faster.”
“These kids are the future generation, and this is teaching them compassion and responsibility,” he said.
For more information about Kids Power, visit www.kidspowerportercounty.org.