St. Charles boy and his pony star in documentary premiering at Arcada

  • Josh Martin of St. Charles and his equine therapy pony Berry star in a documentary that will premiere Jan. 23 at the Arcada Theatre.

    Josh Martin of St. Charles and his equine therapy pony Berry star in a documentary that will premiere Jan. 23 at the Arcada Theatre. Courtesy of Kerrie Weiss

Posted1/20/2019 6:00 AM

For most of his life with Down syndrome, 8-year-old Josh Martin of St. Charles was frightened by animals, especially horses -- to the point he would cry just being near one.

But what happened about nine months ago changed all of that, and the result is available for everyone to see Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Arcada Theatre in the premiere of "A Pony and His Boy: The Story of Berry & Josh."


It's an award-winning documentary about equine therapeutic riding from director Julianne Neal that is part of the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City making a global tour.

Josh's mother, Julia, had purchased a horse she was keeping in a stable west of St. Charles, and on a nice spring day last year when walking around the stable with Josh, she asked if he wanted to ride a Shetland pony nearby named Berry.

To everyone's surprise, Josh said yes.

"What has happened since is nothing short of a miracle," said Lisa Diersen, the director and founder of the EQUUS Film Festival.

"He is now riding his mom's larger Luistano mare, Havana, … and they simply can't keep him away from the horses now when they are at the barn."

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Medieval Times head horse trainer Mario Contreras works with Josh at the Equestrian Events stables in Maple Park.

Josh will see himself in the movie for the first time at the Arcada, which also has an important role in the equine training films.

Arcada frontman Ron Onesti was the festival's first supporter in 2013 and has donated use of the theater to the organization to further its cause. Diersen said Onesti indulged her passion by allowing her to show about 30 films related to equine therapy that first year.

"Bringing the documentary to St. Charles is both to thank Ron Onesti and because Josh is from there, and many kids from Josh's school are planning on attending," Diersen added. "Sharing the message of how horses are healers is my mission."

The evening's festivities, from 6 to 9 p.m., will include other films that earned honors at the festival and a meet-and-greet with directors and those appearing in the films. Cost is $25.


A portion of the proceeds for this showing and other local screenings will go to the therapeutic riding center Hands & Hooves, operated by Kelly Owens in Wayne.

"The festival is rich with heartwarming films about all kinds of equine programs, from using horses for healing from wartime PTSD to Down's Syndrome," Diersen said.

Not Mr. Clean, but …:

In glancing through the Netflix menu, my wife piped up immediately when she saw "Tidying Up," a new series featuring Japanese author and consultant Marie Kondo talking about her method for clearing clutter from one's life.

My wife said she knew some women who claim to be motivated to organize their clothes and other items almost immediately after watching Kondo in action.

I laughed at such a notion, but watched the show.

An hour later, I was organizing the clothes and socks in my drawers. I have to admit, Marie got me hooked on these relatively easy ideas for what I would term "getting your act together."

Our house is not full of clutter nor junk piled up in plain view, but we have our share of messy drawers, closets, countertops and storage spaces.

Kondo's ideas for folding clothes and deciding what to keep or toss are right on target. My sweatshirts, T-shirts and socks are much easier to see in drawers now. During the process, I found things I forgot I had. And more than a few of those things got tossed or donated.

This is no more difficult than just stuffing socks or underwear in a drawer -- which I have done my entire life. The time you spend folding doesn't take as long as trying to find the one item you have in mind to wear that is buried in a sloppy pile of clothes.

A day or two after becoming an advocate of the KonMari Method, I noticed Kondo consultant Kristyn Ivey was making the rounds at local libraries to teach this stuff. She was in Geneva just the other day, and will be at the St. Charles Library from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, in the Carnegie Community Room. The library can expect a full house.

Getting deals that week:

Restaurant week starts in Geneva Monday, Jan. 21, and it means various restaurants will offer discounts.

St. Charles offers its restaurant week this year from Feb. 25 to March 1, while Batavia has its week set for March 24-28.

The concept has always been a good one -- give diners an incentive to visit the restaurants during typically slow periods.

They generally fall in a time slot that has given us enough time to get over holiday bliss and overeating, and when we are well along into the winter months and need something fun to do.

The best place to figure out which restaurants are involved and what they are offering is on the city or downtown organization websites.

Because Geneva is unfolding first, I glanced through the week's special offerings from participating restaurants. One could spend quite a bit of time trying to decide what to go for.

It's an awakening:

Some form of eye-opening education about the dangers of drugs and other temptations aimed at our young people has been offered to parents for years. Some parents have accepted the fact they don't know much; others haven't taken the time to find out what they don't know.

The Geneva School District and Kane County Juvenile Justice Council will host a free "Wake Up Call" discussion about drugs and alcohol from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at Geneva High School.

The evening features three speakers from Your Choice to Live Inc., including a mother of a recovering addict.

The program is for adults 21 and older.

The amount of information that will be shared and available for participants can go a long way to resolve a serious problem within a family.

Parents would be wise to listen and ask questions at these types of events.

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