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Pay It Forward: Champ’s Heart

Champ's Heart
Todd Kunz
A horse riding program that creates smiles from children and veterans of all ages as they battle health struggles.

BONNEVILLE COUNTY, Idaho (KXPI/KIFI) - News anchor Todd Kunz found a place where the horses help children of all ages battle health struggles and the horses help our veterans combat mental struggles. It's a fun place to ride, even he got to do it. They call it a smile factory.

Time to Pay It Forward to Champ's Heart and see what they. do.

If you drive off South Crowley Road in Bonneville County, you will see a sign. Drive across the bridge and park. You will then see the arena where the magic happens. Welcome to Champ's Heart, a horse arena that operates year round riding with horses and volunteers, but for a purpose, to create smiles. In out of the cold, where it is 60 degrees in the middle of winter, they provide a fun children's riding program and a veteran's riding program.

"We just have 40 minutes for the children to come and have fun. And we have over 300 children in our program now. And it's for families with special needs, but if a family has four children and only one has special needs, they all get to come," said founder and owner, Larry Cudmore.

He is a former pastor. But with his own life-threatening health scares in the past, he and his wife, Wendy started Champ's Heart in 2019, when Larry realized that horses could heal. And so the nonprofit called Champ's Heart was born. He named the program Champ’s Heart in memory of his horse that made a difference in so many other lives.

"And then the thing has just kept snowballing and snowballing," said Cudmore.

It is making a difference. Like with Sierra Hinckley, who is a long-time rider. She said besides being fun, it helps her to ride and benefits the horses at the same time.

"It helps the horses to get exercise and it helps me to do better," said Hinckley.

Karen McMurphy has been riding for about six months. She likes how the horses make her feel calm.

"Gives me therapy and calms me down and just makes me want to keep calm and just enjoy the horses and just keep company with them," said McMurphy.

It is these feelings of success and stories like this that have retired news anchor, Karole Honas, sitting on the board of Champ's Heart, and more importantly, engaged as a regular volunteer.

"You know Todd, it is just the most rewarding, fulfilling thing I have ever done in my entire life because you are just so, expands. You see a child who is afraid and shaky and not making eye contact with people and you put them on a horse and within about a lap you see them smiling, and then you see them wave to their mom and you know what? Waving to mom when you are an autistic child with no verbal skills, it means everything to that mom. And it means everything to us," said Honas.

Even Kunz tried it out and got on a horse for a few laps.

"What do you think?" asked Kunz as he rode past Honas.

"I think you look gorgeous," said Honas, recording video of the moment. Honas is a regular horse lover.

"It's all for free. We exist by the donations of people in the community," said Cudmore.

Time to Pay It Forward.

"Larry?" said an unknown woman walking up to him.

"Oh, hi," said Cudmore.

"Hi. How are ya? I'm Cassey (Leatham). I'm with Mountain America Credit Union," replied the woman.

"Oh, you are?" asked Cudmore.

"I am," said Leatham.

"Oh, wow," said Cudmore.

"And we are here to Pay It Forward," replied the Leatham.

"Oh, wonderful," said Cudmore.

"Yes. We just are... you are very inspirational. We love your story and what you do for parents and kids in the community," said Leatham.

"Oh, my. My," said Cudmore.

"You're amazing. So we've got $500 to give you," said Leatham, pulling cash out of an envelope and giving it to Cudmore.

"Oh, thank you," said Cudmore.

"Hopefully you can put that to work," said Leatham.

"Oh, absolutely, absolutley. We sure can. So my, so, so. Here Todd," said Cudmore, as he held the cash up for the camera to see. "So this really helps. It really helps. Every dollar helps," he continued.

"I was going to say, I'm not sure that it makes a dent," said Leatham.

"Oh, it'll make a dent. It'll make a dent. It'll make a dent. A big dent," said Cudmore, giving Leatham a hug.

The best way to reach Champ's Heart is through the website or the Facebook page.

"Pay It Forward" stories air the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to news anchor Todd Kunz at

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Todd Kunz

Todd is an anchor for Local News 8.


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