Gonzaga Preparatory School

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Find out how these 2 alumni are giving of themselves

Co-Founder, President of Down the Stretch Foundation
Boone grew up at Playfair Racetrack joining three generations of McCanna’s working in the horse racing industry. He was a star athlete at Gonzaga Prep, played football for University of Idaho, majored in business and later became a jockey agent in Washington and then Northern California. Located on the 220 acre family ranch in Creston, WA, Down the Stretch Foundation acquires thoroughbred race horses that can no longer compete because of age, injury or ability. Caring for these horses at the ranch provides therapeutic rehabilitation to veterans of war.
Q: These are magnificent animals surrounded by beautiful rolling hills that seem to have no end - tell us how you ended up here?
A: I worked as an agent for a long time and I found my way home several years ago to be with family. I have always had a soft spot for retired race horses; growing up my parents seemed to always have one or two around. I got to see first hand how working with horses helped my cousin Mark Moran, who lost his leg fighting in Vietnam, and has since lost his battle to cancer. He had a lot of scars, some you could see and some you couldn’t. Being around horses seemed to bring him peace and help calm his mind. That’s where Down the Stretch Foundation began.
Q: How do veterans get connected with the foundation and what is their experience like on the ranch?
A: Mostly word of mouth and through some connections within the Spokane Veterans Administration. We have room for two or three veterans at a time to stay at the ranch in a single wide trailer that was donated. They might come for three days but end up staying two weeks. I take them out in the pasture to the horses and say “Pick one to work with.” When I was out there with a Marine Sergeant named Jeff (survivors remorse was is biggest battle) he pointed at Splash Brother a horse I wasn’t able to easily catch in over a month. I told Jeff “he’s the biggest knot head out here” He replied “Perfect! That’s me - a knot head too.” As soon as Jeff approached, Splash Brother came right to him. I couldn’t believe it! Once they select a horse to work with we bring the horse in a circular riding pen and the veteran stands in the center while the horse runs around and around getting used to them. Eventually the horse will slow and come to the veteran. This is when we get to work. Starting with grooming to learn the horse’s mannerisms, then slowly learning to ride all while helping work on the ranch.
Q: What do you witness WHEN horses and veterans work together?
A: They come to work on the ranch and they find the quiet and peace they didn’t know they needed. They are all dealing with something and the horses seem to know how to help. Veterans are able to connect to nature, to earn the trust of the horses. Being pack animals, horses spook easy so you have to take it slow. That is something I think the veterans need. To slow down and take time to process and find freedom from what is holding them back. Each story is different but they all make connections out here that accomplishes something that often medicine or therapy can’t. Often they can see themselves in their horse. When a new horse arrives, sometimes it can take 8 months for them to calm down and get used to this life. This work is about genuine human kindness - sometimes I fill the role of buddy, sometimes boss, and even dad with advice and encouragement.
Q: What lessons did you take away from Gonzaga Prep?
A: Community is important. My mom Marilyn “Etter” McCanna† was a graduate of Holy Names Academy and my dad Dan graduated in 1952 from Prep, I followed after him and my kids after me. It was such a great support system for my children, Katherine `12 and Dan `09. When they look back they thank me for their time at Prep and the community that they now have. My closest life-long friendships were made at Prep. Many of the Foundation board members are connections I made there long ago. Friendships at Prep are about more, they are deeper. My mom always said, “surround yourself with good people,” and that’s Prep!
Q: What would you say to a prospective parent?
A: If I had to make the choice of sending my kids to Prep 100 times, I would 100 times, no doubt. The teachers are wonderful and they are very focused on educating the whole person. Your child will be part of a lifelong community - where else can you find that?
Q: What would you say to a graduating senior?
A: Stick to the lessons you have learned - stay true to them. Everything from here on out is going to be ups and downs. Surround yourself with good people and stick together.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Program Director of Bridges Pediatric Palliative Care Program at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Portland Oregon
Working with a team, Kathy is able to meet with families who have children with life limiting conditions and provide tools like counseling, symptom and pain management, spiritual care and help with treatment coordination.
Q: Tell us how you got to where you are in your career?
A: I went to nursing school at the University of Portland in order to work with kids, not adults. I knew I wanted to be a pediatric nurse. In 1984 when I started working at Seattle Children’s Hospital the survival rate for children with cancer was not as high as it is today.  It was my first exposure to chronically and terminally ill kids. It was difficult. Part of the reason I felt I could take care of these kids, including those who died was because of my faith.  I could see it from the perspective that the world unfolds as it should and we are all just doing our best along the way. I thought to myself “If I can do this work and others might not be able to….then I am going to do the work.” While completing my graduate work at the University of California in San Francisco, I was exposed to children and families in hospice care and spent time listening to their stories and learning about this work. I returned to Portland and had just accepted a job at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital when two families, whose children had died from brain tumors came back to the hospital, and shared “You could have done better for our family and our children while we were dealing their illnesses and deaths.” We got together a team of physicians, chaplains, child life specialists, social workers, nurses, and nurse practitioners and asked the question: What does “do more” look like? Our answer came in the birth of the Bridges Pediatric Palliative Care Program in 2001 and it has grown ever since.
Q: What are you most proud of in your career so far?
A: Two things really come to mind... First: The opportunities to mentor young nurses in healthcare, teaching them important skills around how to take care of both families and patients. Most importantly how to listen to peoples’ stories, knowing that everyone’s story is different, and at times, helping families to do something impossible, to witness their child’s death. With grace, thoughtfulness, and education, as a team, we help a family do the impossible. Second: The two most sacred things we experience in this life is coming into this world and leaving it. So much celebration happens at birth and we whisper when someone dies. We don’t give the leaving the same presence and honor - but to be able to help someone do that is something I am very proud of.
Q: How did Prep Prepare you for your career and life?
A: To do this kind of work you need a strong support system. Mine is made up of family, colleagues and friends-from the Prep community. We met here at Prep and many remain my closest friends today. While I was at Gonzaga Prep my faith grew. I was able to recognize that it wasn’t just about going to church with your family every week. It’s bigger than that-it is service to others, learning together and finding grace in the hard spots. This community is so valuable in the hard times.
Q: What was a favorite memory from your time at Gonzaga Prep?
A: One experience really stands out. One of my assignments in Mr. Falkner’s class was to present in front of the entire class. I was terrified and Mr. Falkner knew it. He allowed me to present with just a few friends in the room during break, with the stipulation that I would earn a lesser grade. I took the opportunity and credit him to this day for the reason I am able to speak in front of large crowds teaching heath care professionals across the US and internationally. I wrote him a thank you letter years ago for helping me realize I could do it and for allowing me the space to figure it out in my own time.
Q: What would you say to prospective parents and students?
A: The things I learned at Gonzaga Prep still influence how I look at the world and how I provide care to others. The ideas of compassion, empathy, and caring for others weren’t taught formally in a classroom, they were something I witnessed. They were lived out for me by this community. The connections I made here nearly 40 years ago are still some of my best friends. The values that Prep brings out in people remain decades later. It is worth the sacrifice to have your student be part of this community. Together with the friends I met at Prep I figured out a lot of life. You will love the atmosphere of Prep, so show up and be open to opportunities. Get involved.
Q: What would you say to our newly graduated Seniors?
A: My education from Prep was so good that in my freshman year of college I felt like I had a jump on the next 4 years. It’s a great foundation - don’t underestimate what you can do. It’s ok to not know where you will end up, but commit to experiencing new things and believe in yourself. Remember the community you have behind you and with you along the way.