to read the full article as
it appears in Talladega
YEARS AND COUNTING……………
By Pat Greene, President and Founder of the MGH Foundation
Some twenty years ago
my family and I decided we should do something to memorialize our daughter,
Marianna, who loved children with disabilities and was an avid horsewoman.
Before passing away due to a heart condition at the early age of 31, she
had encouraged us to start a therapy program using horses at our farm here
in Talladega, AL. She had volunteered at a program in Birmingham
but had moved to Kentucky and had to leave her horse on our farm.
Marianna noted that the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind with its large
number of sensory impaired children was just up the road from us and we
had the land and horses needed to start a program.
My family needed something
positive in our lives as much as the children needed us. A Physical
Therapist and an instructor from the Helen Keller School joined with us
to start a program of hippotherapy with eight Helen Keller students.
These were children with multiple disabilities who would benefit most from
this kind of therapy. We built a riding ring and wheelchair ramp
in the yard beside our house and the Helen Keller bus brought them several
times a week. We were accredited by the North American Riding for
the Handicapped Association (NARHA) and our instructors were also certified
by the association. We recruited volunteers to help, and our student
numbers began to grow.
Weather was a problem.
Rain required us to cancel classes and many times my wife, Marilyn, and
I would bring blankets from the house to keep the children warm.
In hot weather it was lemonade and fans. This type of therapy must
be performed on a regular basis to be effective, but our side yard arrangement
would not accommodate the needs of the kids.
We decided to build a
facility that would allow us to have a truly effective program, so we formed
a non profit 501-C3 foundation – a subsidiary of the AIDB Foundation –
to raise funds and operate the program. Board members were the leaders
in the community and included a Veterinarian, Banker, Attorney, Doctor
and business people. Our family donated land and we began a fundraising
program to build a state of the art equestrian facility. We met our
initial goal of $800,000 to begin the first phase and we have continued
to add to the center thanks to the generosity of so many friends.
Alabama Power Company, AT&T, the Hillcrest Foundation, Crippled Children’s
Foundation, Home Depot and many others to too numerous to mention have
been wonderful supporters. Of course, my friends and associates from
BellSouth and the Telephone Pioneers have been major donors. Thankfully,
we have blessed with contributions from thousands of people all over the
country who heard about our program due in part to feature articles in
People, Biography and National Geographic magazines.
Our equestrian therapy
program has grown in size and quality from our modest beginning.
Last year we had 3,600 therapy sessions. The staff of six professionals
is supplemented by therapist and instructors from AIDB and 70 faithful
volunteers. The MGH Special Equestrian Program is a premier accredited
program that is nationally recognized and is the largest equine therapy
service for multi-disabled individuals.
The monetary requirements
of the MGH Program have also grown. Our annual operating budget is
approximately $300,000, not including major capital expenses. Our
endowment fund has suffered some from the economic downturn and now approximates
$600,000. Our hope is to grow this into a $2 million fund that will
provide a source of steady income augmenting donations from our friends.
We are blessed to have
a dedicated staff of outstanding professionals, many faithful volunteer
workers, an outstanding Board of Directors and many wonderful, loyal donors.
Thanks to all of them, we see the way our special children progress and
benefit as they happily enjoy the unique therapy that they can only get
on the back of a horse.
Thanks to all of you who
have made these last twenty years so meaningful and productive for Marilyn
and me. We lost one child, but through the MGH Special Equestrian
Program have gained hundreds of others.
Copyright 2005-2009, MGHSE, All Rights Reserved
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