Tina and Dave Durbin with their miniature therapy horses Tex and Wally

Enjoying a sunny day, Tina and Dave first bonded over a shared love of horses.

By Adrianne Pearl Gimenez 

The first time you see miniature horses, your face lights up. You can’t help but smile when you see them. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that they’re horses, or that they’re dressed up, or that they only go up to your knee (perhaps it’s a mix of all three), but you can’t help but smile when you see Tex and Wally.  

Dave and Tina walk them out to our children’s garden, Dave leading Wally and Tina leading Tex. As a couple, Dave and Tina volunteer as CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates). These two, with their matching white CASA baseball caps, are undoubtedly a team. Together, Dave and Tina have been the voice for 15 children and now own their own nonprofit Angel Hooves Heeling Hearts. 

Adrianne Gimenez: So, tell me how it all began. How did you two meet?  

Tina DurbinWe met outside a restaurant. I was outside when Dave came over and just struck a conversation. The more we spoke the more we found out we had things in common. We shared a love for horses, we had both just gotten out of long-term relationships. We just clicked and Dave asked me out and I said yes. That was eight years ago.  

AG: That’s crazy. I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason. So how did you and Dave get involved in CASA?  

TD: I signed up to be a CASA first in 2016. I had always been passionate about helping children and it was the right time in my life.  I was assigned my first case and I loved the work I was doing, but it was hard. It’s crazy and often frustrating to see some of the things my kids had to deal with for no fault of their own.  

Dave Durbin: I could see she was passionate about what she was doing. She convinced me to sign up to volunteer with her. I joined CASA in 2017, was sworn in and then assigned my own case. Tina was assigned on my case later. 

TD: I was assigned more so as a mentor, but that was great because we were able to talk about our shared case to each other.  

“Working a case together made us stronger volunteers.”

AG: How was working a case together different?  

DD: Working a case together made us stronger volunteers. We could both see the children and we would come back with different perspectives. We could talk about what we saw and how we thought the children were doing. There were so many times that Tina would find something that I missed.  

TD: Dave got along better with one of the kids on our case more than I did because he had more of a fatherly presence. There are a lot of children that CASA serves that could use a good male role model, male volunteers. I also felt like as a couple, we could show these children a good example of how relationships should be. Dave and I work as a team and we respect each other. 

A Package Deal – Tex and Wally are inseparable and adopted together.

Judge Gomora (left) meeting Tex and Wally for the first time.

AG: How did Tex and Wally enter the picture?  

TD: I was on Facebook and saw that a woman was selling her miniature horse (Tex). We inquired about it, but she had changed her mind and decided to keep Tex.  A few months later, she reached out again asking if we could take Tex but on one the condition that we take Wally too. Tex and Wally were inseparable, one couldn’t be without the other. We happily took them as new additions to our family.  

AG: What inspired you to create your own non-profit with Tex and Wally, Angel Hooves Healing Hearts?  

TD: Honestly, the kids. We’ve seen some of the hardships these CASA kids go through and we thought these horses could be a real comfort to these kids. I told our supervisor Kaitlin about our horses and sent her a picture, she was ecstatic. We drove the horses to the court house so the CASA staff and Judge Gomora could meet them and we got all the certifications for Tex and Wally to be therapy animals. 

DD: It was easier for us since we were already sworn in as volunteers and had signed confidentiality statements and were trained in working with CASA children. We filled out the paperwork to become a non-profit and the rest is history. It’s amazing now that as a non-profit we can raise funds and collect supplies for children in need.  

AG: It really is amazing the work you two have done. Thank you again for all the backpacks and supplies you brought. The kids will love them. How do the kids react to Tex and Wally?  

DD:  They love them. We were able to bring them out to a summer camp through CASA and the kids were enamored with them. There was a girl who was so shy at first and mostly kept to herself but really came out of her shell once she got to play with Tex and Wally. At the end of the day she was talkative and begging us for more time with them.  

TD: During Christmastime, we bring Tex and Wally to deliver presents to some of the CASA families. Their eyes light up when they see Tex and Wally all dressed up with their presents. It’s a magical experience for everyone.  

AG: It’s amazing what you two have been able to do for the children of CASA. How has the CASA experience impacted your relationship? 

DD: It’s been such a positive force. We have conversations that are deeper than the usual every day conversation. I’ve learned so much more about my partner, in ways that I wouldn’t be able to without this experience.  

AG: What would you say to couples who are thinking about volunteering together?  

TD: If you have the time and the drive, do it. You won’t regret it. 

To find out more how you can get involved in CASA as a couple visit our Volunteer page here

CASA of River Valley
3200 McDonough Street
Joliet, IL 60431


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