Thursday, March 21, 2002
By LAURA ZAVALA
HARRISBURG - Rafter M Therapeutic Riding Center is saddling up for a new season and needs volunteers to help.
The center, entering its 11th year of providing horseback riding programs for children and adults with Down's syndrome, multiple sclerosis, developmental disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, learning and emotional disabilities, among others, was founded in 1992 by Betsy Moore after she attended a training workshop that inspired her.
"I thought if I don't do it now I'll never do it," Moore said. "It's something I wanted to do since college."
Since that time, Rafter M has grown, expanding from the first class of six adult riders from Coleman Tri-County Services to serve about 150 riders in the past 10 years. They have also had about 45 field trips visit the ranch, and have seen riders in the program progress on to the state Special Olympics and the International Special Olympics.
Clients learn how to ride and care for the horses, and the activities give them a sense of accomplishment and a chance to participate in something fun, said Moore.
"It offers coordination, balance, self-esteem," she said.
Moore said she plans to take between 19 and 25 riders this year, but since Rafter M receives no public funding, everything is dependent upon volunteer response.
"We need more volunteers," Moore said. "The number of volunteers determines the size of the program because it is an all volunteer program."
Although volunteers include a staff physical therapist and three instructors certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, Moore said volunteers need not have any knowledge of horses -- only a desire to work with those with disabilities.
Volunteers may find themselves doing a number of tasks, including helping riders by leading their horses, playing games with the riders, and helping in the office. Volunteers may also help with the annual trail ride and silent auction, and the horse show, held in October.
Volunteers must be willing to come to the training session, scheduled for March 25, and make a six-week commitment to one of the riding sessions. Sessions are scheduled for April 1 through May 7, May 13 through May 28, Sept. 9 through Oct. 8, and Oct. 21 through Nov. 26.
Moore said, she would love it if volunteers would sign on to help with all four sessions.
Volunteering can also count towards community service hours for some high school, college and special education classes, as well as serving as a resume booster, Moore said.
Training is 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday at Rafter M, located at 50 Stever
Road, Harrisburg. Anyone interested may call Moore at 618-252-3494.
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