By Britney Grover
Charlie Brandy and Maya Green became fast friends at the barn, bonding over what they have in common. Charlie is in eighth grade; Maya is in seventh. They’ve both been riding for four years. Most importantly, they’re both crazy about horses — and they know how powerful the healing power of horses can be. That’s why they chose to raise money for Mane Stream, an equine therapy and adaptive riding center near their homes in New Jersey. They started Silly Girlzz bracelets with the ambitious goal of raising $2,500 for Mane Stream over the summer, while raising awareness of adaptive riding and equine therapy. Not only did they exceed their initial goal by nearly $1,000, they’re not done with Silly Girlzz — or with helping the community.
What challenges have you faced in life that made this cause so close to you?
Maya: When I was in second grade, I needed to get a spinal cord surgery to save me and my quality of life. Even though the surgery was a good thing, it hurt me mentally. After my surgery, I was upset all the time and very anxious. Also, that surgery wasn’t the end of my medical struggles. I still have medical issues that I’m going to have to cope with for the rest of my life. When I first found this out, I was a mess. I didn’t know how to accept myself for the way I was, with all my flaws. My step-sister, Jillian Leahy, has always had horses in her life. She suggested that I start equine therapy to help me; ever since then I’ve been hooked. Horses aren’t just a sport to me — they’re my outlet. They helped me express myself and be OK with my differences, because they’re what make me who I am. Without horses in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today and as strong as I am today.
What inspired you to find a way to give back?
Charlie: This summer was very difficult because camps were closed and there wasn’t much for us to do because of COVID-19. Maya and I and our moms got together and brainstormed about doing something good for our community.
Maya: Even though we couldn’t go to the barn, we thought about the horses and all of the people who, like us, needed them to stay healthy and have an activity to do. We started to worry about how the barns were going to survive if there was no money going in. I was sick and tired of sitting at home and doing nothing.
How did you decide what to do?
Charlie: We felt Mane Stream was a great organization that was close to home and needed support to keep going during this difficult time. Being a nonprofit, there’s always a need for support, but now that need was even stronger. The barn was closed for a while because of COVID but the horses still needed to be fed and taken care of.
Maya: We didn’t know how we were going to raise the money at first. We threw around many different ideas, some even crazy ideas. My mom even brought up the idea of selling pet rocks. Thank goodness, Charlie’s mom is the creative one. She mentioned jewelry, then we ended at bracelets. Each one of us brought something to the table.
Charlie: We thought beading bracelets would be a fun way to be creative and help Mane Stream. My mom, Carla, who’s a designer, helped with the design and packaging and Erika, Maya’s mom, who is better at social media, helped with Instagram. Maya and I made bracelets every day during the summer. With all of us working together, we were able to make this happen.
What have you learned through Silly Girlzz?
Charlie: It takes a lot of work and dedication to keep things moving smoothly. We all worked as a team in making this successful. We also realized how much fun you can have while doing something to help benefit others. We were so surprised and happy at how many supporters we received over time. I have also learned that good things can come out of bad, meaning that the horrible reality of COVID is really what started the idea for our summer project and ultimately made Silly Girlzz come alive!
Maya: I have learned so much about myself and the power of community service. I also learned that working hard pays off — and that the work is never done. There will always be a need to help someone out. We spent so much time and dedication on this project, and I’m so proud of what we’ve done in such a small period of time.
What would you like to tell others who want to do good in their communities?
Charlie: If you have an idea, just go for it. It may take time and hard work to get up and running, but in the end it’s 100% worth it. We also learned that there are always people willing to help and support, so we never felt alone in our efforts to help Mane Stream. We’ve met some amazing people.
Goals or ideas for the future?
Maya: I don’t 100% know what I want to do with my life, but I do know one thing for sure: I want horses to be a part of wherever I go. I want to ride and compete in high school and college. All of this is important, but what’s more important to me is that I’m going to continue to help in the horse world. That’s why Charlie and I have still been selling Silly Girlzz bracelets.
Charlie: Each season, we’ve slightly tweaked the bracelet designs and colors to fit into the season, and we want the product to continue to evolve. We hope to continue to keep Silly Girlzz alive as long as we can.
Maya: We believe that everyone should have access to equine therapy. I know it’s effective and I want it to be covered by insurance. We want to show the world that this therapy works as well as anything else, if not better, because it not only heals you physically but it also heals you mentally and emotionally. At some time in the future, my mom and I want to lobby and raise awareness for this issue — that’s the most important long-term goal.
To order a bracelet, message @silly.girlzz on Instagram, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text Erika Green at (908) 380-8526
For more information about Mane Stream, visit manestreamnj.org
Do you know someone who is giving back to the equestrian community? Nominate them as a Sidelines Superstar by emailing email@example.com