Giddy-Up

Area residents will have an opportunity to walk for the Centaur Stride cause and to support local disabled persons who benefit from the program’s services Sunday.

The fourth annual Healing With Horses Walk-a-Thon is scheduled for 2-3 p.m. at the Chautauqua Mall in Lakewood. Registration for the walk will be located in front of Old Navy, and begins at 1:30 p.m. The registration fee is $10, and all participants will be entered in a grand prize drawing of a Barnes and Nobles Nook, donated by the Tomassini Family.

According to Claudia Monroe, Centaur Stride president, the event will be held to benefit the Centaur Stride Therapeutic Riding Center, located in Westfield, which strives to provide programs that benefit people with disabilities in the region.

“The walk-a-thon is an hour-long walk in which most of our riders participate, and anybody else that wants to walk for the cause,” said Monroe. “What people should take away from participating in this event is a feeling of doing something very worthwhile and to see all of the people with disabilities who are out there raising money to keep the center open.”

The fundraising goal for the program is $20,000 and $6,010 has been raised so far. The funds raised from the event will help subsidize the rider fees to keep the price affordable. According to Monroe, the actual cost per lesson varies from $37 to $168 depending on the rider’s needs and abilities. The high-end price is because it requires a therapist and two other helpers, while the low end is based on accommodating an independent rider. Because of volunteer help and the annual fundraising event, the cost is not actual, but is what would be needed if Centaur Stride did not have the support of the community.

“Funds from the event help with our programming and to subsidize rider fees.” said Monroe. “Our lessons are $20 right now, and the reason we can keep it that way is because of all the fundraising that we do. Our program is the only one of its kind in Chautauqua County, and it is becoming even more important with the cutbacks in services for people with disabilities. People should help because we’re very fortunate to have this in our area.”

In addition to participating in the walk as an individual or as a team, there are several other ways in which area residents can offer support to Centaur Stride. Interested parties can opt to sponsor a rider by donating to a rider via the ‘Healing with Horses’ walk-a-thon page at crowdrise.com/healingwithhorses. To help a rider raise the money for their team or horse, click on the rider’s picture. It is also possible to sponsor a horse, which helps Centaur Stride immensely because it can take up to $300 to feed a single horse for one month.

Centaur Stride enriches the lives of more than 150 children and adults of all ages with various disabilities. According to Monroe, the types of disabilities that the therapy helps with include: autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, traumatic brain injury, Down syndrome, developmental and cognitive delays, emotional disabilities and more. Additional programs have also been developed to include non-disabled siblings, friends and family members.

“The horse is a very significant therapeutic tool in terms of promoting movement, range of motion, balance, stretching and all of the developmental things that you need for walking or rehabilitation,” said Monroe. “The benefits of therapeutic horseback riding expand across physical, cognitive, emotional and social domains. The joy experienced by family members just to see their child engaging in something that has been made safe and possible for them to do is monumental. The horses are gentle and very well trained. The programs are labor intensive and require many people to assist. It takes the whole community to keep a program like this available to those who need it.”

Centaur Stride Therapeutic Horseback Riding is a nonprofit organization that has been providing an inclusive environment of recreational enrichment for persons with and without disabilities from its facilities since 1993. For more information, visit www.centaurstride.org, or search for “Centaur Stride” on Facebook and YouTube.com.