Partnerships are what help our small nonprofit thrive, and Comcast NBCUniversal has been a wonderful partner for Special Equestrians through Comcast Cares Day.
We are a therapeutic riding program founded in 1982, and each week, with 15 horses, 16 mostly part-time staff members, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers, we serve nearly 350 children and adults a year throughout the Bucks County and Philadelphia region. Eighty percent of our riders are 18 and younger. We work with riders dealing with over 60 diagnoses, including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, behavioral disorders, brain injuries, and autism spectrum disorders.
We first partnered with Comcast NBCUniversal in 2008 and again in 2013 when Comcast Cares Day volunteers updated our "sensory trail," the location where we run many of our lessons that also serves as a learning opportunity for all of our riders. More than 100 Comcast employees, friends and family made sure there were new activity stations with bright colors and lots of interesting details, and kept the place looking beautiful with all the landscaping and cleaning they did. It was work we otherwise couldn’t afford to do.
This year, we are thrilled to be expecting 125 volunteers for Comcast Cares Day on April 30, and it’s particularly exciting because they are coming the day before our spring horse show, so everything will look beautiful and bright and clean for the event.
Children who come to ride the therapy horses at Special Equestrians always get really excited when they see the new stations on the sensory trail. They love the colorful additions and they love the new challenges. They enjoy introducing their horses to the new games and activities, and it’s thrilling to see how they want to share the new experiences with the horses.
One of the most memorable contributions to date by Comcast Cares Day volunteers was a "car wash" for the kids to ride their horses through on the sensory trail. The riders go under an arch with a misting hose, then they ride under an arch with pool noodles dangling from the sides, and the next piece is a very tall archway with long plastic ribbons, so they get that tactile experience of walking through with the ribbons blowing through their hair. It’s especially great for summer camp. There are bright colors, and the kids giggle all the way through.
A 2013 Comcast Cares Day volunteer puts finishing touches on the horse "car wash" at Special Equestrians.
What makes Special Equestrians’ programs work are the relationships the children develop with their horses. We believe that the relationship between horse and rider can improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals with disabilities. And we appreciate the great relationship we have with Comcast. Comcast Cares Day means a tremendous amount because we’ve had such terrific people come out, and we love having the families and the kids.
The big thing for me on the last Comcast Cares Day was seeing the spirit among all the Comcast families, and seeing them bring their children so the next generation was learning all about cooperation and giving back. It was so great having even the youngest of kids helping to paint the rails.
This year, the Comcast team appears to have set the bar even higher. Projects include expanding the sensory trail with new games, rebuilding benches, adding fencing, and children will be decorating bird houses to be hung around the outside trail of the outer horse pastures.
We look forward to seeing their smiling faces soon, and maybe even giving a few their first ride on a horse.