by | Nov 5, 2020 | 0 comments

The Future is Bright

Today’s story comes from Susan, a volunteer and member of Forward Stride’s Board of Directors.

This is my 7th year of volunteering as a sidewalker in the Rehabilitation Program and doing horse care shifts – primarily morning feed. I look forward to coming to the barn each week as you get to know the clients, their families, caregivers, volunteers, staff and horses. We often have tears of joy in our eyes when a client is able to sit up, speak, stand or walk for the first time. I will never forget sidewalking for a 95 year old who was able to get out of a wheel chair with our help and safely ride a horse. Volunteering  for morning feed has also been therapeutic for me as I used to be afraid of horses!

a wildfire burns in the distance at night

On Friday, March 13, I did my morning feed shift as usual. Later that day, I received an email advising our entire community that we were closing down temporarily due to early school closures – a result of the coronavirus. Staff would be doing all of the horse care shifts that volunteers normally did. At that time no one knew that it wouldn’t be until July that volunteers could help with horse care and not till October could return to sidewalking in the Rehabilitation Program. What saved me was that I had been asked to join the board in 2018 and became the treasurer in January 2020. We have weekly financial meetings so I have been able to remain connected with staff and keep up on barn news. My first day back providing horse care was July 8 and it was so special to be back caring for our fabulous herd.

At our March 18 board meeting I was impressed at how quickly the staff mobilized and created safety protocols. They created three-person teams who worked rotating shifts. Working in these small groups, the risk of coronavirus infection was limited to that particular team. The rest of the staff worked from home. Masks, social distancing, sanitizing and frequent hand washing are now standard protocol for anyone coming to the barn. Zoom meetings are used for staff meetings, committee meetings, board meetings and for virtual therapeutic sessions for clients. Staff have been incredible in thinking of ways to engage our community. Daily posts of old and new pictures, coloring pages, allowing volunteers to drive through to see the horses and donkeys and say goodbye to retiring horses, creating family camps and so much more.

I am so proud of Forward Stride staff who immediately offered a place of shelter for animals displaced by the wildfires of early September. Staff put themselves in harm’s way to rescue animals while staff at the barn staff built new pastures and split existing ones so so that the animals had their own pastures when they arrived. I think that the future is bright for Forward Stride as it has strong leadership and staff that have stood up to adversity and found ways to still provide our regular services and create new ways to generate income and engage the community.

Our community defines us. We are grateful for every client, volunteer, family member, and friend who have stood with us and helped us grow. Help keep our future bright and consider a donation today!