Casey’s Safe Haven gives a home to horses in need

By on October 11, 2012

Photo: Casey’s Safe Haven is a holistic horse rescue in Elburn that opened its doors to the public this summer as a home for retired horses from the police service, pony rides and race tracks. Courtesy Photo

by Amanda Niemi
ELBURN—A new non-profit organization is giving a home to horses in need.

Casey’s Safe Haven is a holistic horse rescue that opened its doors to the public this summer as a home for retired horses from the police service, pony rides and race tracks.

Sue Balla, Cathy Klink and Barb James make up the Casey’s Safe Haven Board of Directors.

The safe haven’s name is in remembrance, of the first horse Balla, the organizations founder, saved at an auction. Casey was “best friend” to Balla for 26 years.

The organization’s doors were open to the animals long before it began receiving funding as an official non-profit.

“Normally you form an organization, you get money then get the animals. We took a little pony in and named her Hope. She was in really bad shape,” said James. “This little pony was loved, but we couldn’t save her.”

The idea of Casey’s came when Balla was president of a previous rescue out of Field of Dreams farm, where she leases her barn. Sue’s ideas had been to rescue and re-home animals with a good family. The board members of the previous NPO wanted to rescue and keep animals. That rescue moved to a different barn the day after they left, when Balla got a call about a pony in need.

“We took in a fourth (horse) early this summer, (at) the end of June. During that time, you cannot raise funds. We were living on anyone’s generosity,” James said. “We started to cram and plan our fundraiser. The end of July, Jack got adopted. The same day, we got a phone call—about four more ponies coming in together. We didn’t have stalls or regular funding. Sue said, ‘If you can find them stalls, food and bedding, we can take them in.’”

Casey’s fundraiser was held on Saturday at Rustic Roads Farm in Elburn. It was a “complete success” for the organization, even drawing in a few big names.

“Mike Star (Goodfellas, The Bodyguard), who emceed the event, flew in from California,” James said. “He’s a friend-of-a-friend of Sue’s, and he said he would love to help out. He’s a really down-to-Earth guy.”

Of course, even the stars couldn’t outshine the help Casey’s received from community members and local businesses that donated their time and services.

“We couldn’t have done it without Mark Bernard, Big Bowl, Tokio Pub, Shaw’s Crabhouse and Foodies marketplace. (They) donated all the food, all the drinks, and hosted for us, so we would like to thank them,” James said. “Chrissy Dwier—Mark’s assistant—(and) tons and tons of people helped us. Those people, we couldn’t have done it without them. It was a magical night and tremendous success. A lot was due to the location and sponsors we had.”

Many of Casey’s sponsors are through the local community and friends of members and volunteers. It has been a grassroots effort for the three members of the board of directors.

“It’s hard, when you start as a new organization, to get your name out there. You always need more name recognition,” James said. “We need to grow that. It’ll come; we’re brand new. We’ve rescued seven ponies and one horse. That’s a lot.”

James said the organization would like to educate the public on the lives of service horses, and asks people to be vigilant when it comes to how animals are cared for.

“People don’t set out to be cruel, but they haven’t given thought to what it entails to own a horse. It’s a lot more than they can handle in a bad economy.” James said. “There are people out of ignorance that just don’t treat their animals right.

“There is so much more we want to do, but, of course, it is going to take funding.”

For more information or to contact the Casey’s Safe Haven Board of Directors, visit or call Balla at (815) 762-1983. You can also find Casey’s Safe Haven on Facebook.