I Saw a Child
saw a child who couldn't walk,
saw a child, no legs below,
saw a child who could only crawl, mount a horse and sit up tall.
saw a child born into strife,
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With a therapeutic riding school, Marilyn and Pat Greene turn the loss of a Daughter,
Marianna into a victory for disabled children
Photo by Susie Post
Article by Claudia Glenn Dowling
Jan. 15th 2001 Issue
In 1984, Marianna Greene Henry began volunteering for a therapeutic riding program in Birmingham, Alabama. With her love of horses and children, she was amazed at the progress the horses had on the children with disabilities and pursued it with a passion.
Several years later she urged her parents to establish a small therapeutic riding program on their farm near the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind in Talladega, Alabama. The Institute is renowned as one of the most
comprehensive facilities in the U.S. for the sensory-impaired, with residential quarters for 1,000+ children and separate schools for the deaf and blind. Children with multiple handicaps are also served by the Institute’s Helen Keller School. “You’ve got to get this thing started,” Marianna told her parents. “You have all those disabled children right down the road.”
But one day in 1989, before her parents could act, Marianna was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy – a heart disease in which only a transplant could cure. Marianna died in March of 1989 as surgeons tried to implant an artificial heart.
Soon after Marianna’s death, Pat and Marilyn Greene founded the program in her memory. “We just looked at each other,” recalls Marilyn, “and said, ‘She really wanted this.’”
They started modestly with a few horses and a ring in the side yard. But within months the program had blossomed beyond belief. Today the program is housed inside a 39,000 square foot arena and serves 350 – 400 children per year; it is the largest in the Country that serves both deaf, blind and multi-disabled. An endowment was established to help pay the operating cost of the program, and annual expansion is backed by generous foundations, companies and individuals. Tim Greene, Marianna’s younger brother, is now the Program Administrator and Pat Greene sits as President of the MGH Foundation.
Every Tuesday, Marilyn and Pat volunteer to help with the children at the MGH Arena. They have watched the miraculous transformation of many of the disabled students and the joy and self-esteem that goes along with it. “It wasn’t until I started working with these children that I saw what Marianna saw,” says Marilyn. “It saved our lives.”
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