Treats From the Heart

Eliana Kirson's horse treats
Image Caption
Rising high school junior Elianna Kirson with her horse Ilyana

Horses have always been a part of Eliana Kirson’s family. Her mom has ridden all of her life, and Elianna and her sister started riding and then competing in English-style horsemanship competitions about four years ago.

“It’s just such an amazing sport to get to know the animals and form a connection with them,” Elianna says.

As a high school freshman, Elianna started baking “cookies” for their horses, using ingredients like oat flour and molasses. “It's so nice to give them something you put effort into, something from the heart," she says.

As Elianna got more elaborate with decorating the treats, she gave some away to friends, and they were a hit. 

She decided to sell them, but she wanted to do something good with the earnings. 

Her mom, Sarah, suggested donating to Duke Cancer Institute (DCI).

Eliana Kirson (right) with her mom Sarah and sister x and horse Grimaldi
 Elianna Kirson (right) with her mom, Sarah; sister, Talia; and horse Irma. 

Sarah has been undergoing cancer treatment for the past six years, working with doctors near her home in Chicago.

But she consults regularly with John Strickler, MD, and others at Duke, on recommendation from some of her doctors.

Elianna says her mom always has lots of questions, and Strickler always takes the time to thoroughly explain her options.

"My mom really values her ability to consult with Duke," Elianna says. "Dr. Strickler is at the forefront of new avenues of treatment for her specific cancer, and he is always pragmatic and compassionate with his advice."

Horse lovers can buy the treats online at All of the proceeds support research at DCI.

Elianna, now a rising high school junior, makes and packages the cookies in her spare time a couple of afternoons or mornings a week. “I have a newfound respect for small business owners,” she says.

She plans to run the venture for a couple of years until she starts college, when she hopes her younger sister, Talia, will take over. “We would like to keep it going if we can.”