The 2014 Givin’ Where I’m Livin’ (GWIL) campaign provides support and publicity for local non-profit charitable organizations competing for GWIL matching funds during the campaign’s Week of Online Giving, April 20-25th. Around Dripping Springs is pleased to feature this series of GWIL non-profit profiles to help publicize their unique missions to the community. We invite you to get to know these wonderful organizers and learn more about the important work they are each doing to enrich our community. Please share their stories, and be sure to donate to your favorite during the Week of Online Giving! Learn more at: http://www.GivinWhereImLivin.org
MEET RED ARENA WITH FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JENNIFER YOUNG :
RED Arena was founded in 2008 in Dripping Springs by Jennifer Young, a Physical Therapist who wanted to empower children with disabilities. Being on horseback is an excellent way to work on core strength and balance in a physical therapy session but it also provides the unique opportunity for building communication, confidence, emotional bonds and self-esteem. RED Arena was founded to expand this unique experience in our community so everyone, regardless of ability to pay, could benefit from this empowering experience.
Our mission is to empower individuals with disabilities through horses. We provide physical, occupational and speech therapy sessions on the horses by licensed therapists and therapeutic riding lessons with PATH certified instructors. We serve over 60 riders per week ages 2 to 50+ years old. We provide full scholarships to Military Veterans and those with financial hardships and partial scholarships to keep the costs low for ALL our participants. The diagnoses we see include cerebral palsy, down syndrome, developmental delay, autism, stroke and traumatic brain injury.
In keeping with our mission we also offer inclusive summer horse camps and an inclusive rodeo play day, the RED Arena Round-Up, in which kids of all ability levels can enjoy horses together. We also partner with other non-profits such as Friendships for Life and The Marylee Foundation to provide adults with disabilities job/functional training on horse care and barn management at no cost to them.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE COMMUNITY THROUGH THESE EFFORTS?
We have so many heartwarming experiences every week. The power of seeing our riders physically strengthen and grow in confidence and self-esteem each week is overwhelming. One life changing moment in particular was early on with Regan. She came to us when she was 2 years old and her parents had just been told by her doctors that she would never walk and they should consider a wheelchair for her mobility. They were visibly shaken and distraught over this news. Her Mom conveyed that Regan HATES all therapies and will not participate or talk, so she doubts this will work either but at this point she’s willing to try anything.
We proceeded to get little Regan on the horse, she was crying and screaming at the top of her lungs and struggling to get off. After about 5 minutes of the horse walking, she calmed and started playing ball. We got a glimpse of her parents and they were BEAMING! She only had about 20 words in her vocabulary and she was using all of them to engage with us. Unfortunately, her ride ended abruptly as the horse she was on, our only therapy horse at the time, started showing signs of colic. We immediately took him to the vet and sadly he did not survive. We were complete heartbroken and could not justify the amount of work and expense to start this type of program when there would be heartache like this. We called Regan’s Mom later that week to let her know we weren’t sure how we’d proceed since we no longer had a horse. She told us that Regan took her first steps all by herself and they would wait as long as needed for us to start back up. At that moment we knew this IS what we are supposed to be doing! It was a miracle that their family needed. For us, it wasn’t a miracle that she walked (that was just good timing on our part that her body got to feel what she needed to make that progression) it was the timing of her experience to show us that this is where we should be. Today, Regan can walk, run, climb, is learning to ride a bike and is progressing to riding lessons.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS IN 2015?
One goal in 2015 is to raise $70,000 at the RED Arena Round-Up on Saturday May 30th so we can continue our current programs and expand our services to this community by another 30%. Our second goal is securing larger facility, we are in dire need of a covered arena, and more horse stalls as well as space for wheelchair accessible mini horse halter classes, day programs like inclusive summer horse camp for kids of all abilities and the job skills training programs for adults with disabilities.