Sunrise Therapeutic Riding & Learning Centre, Ontario- Puslinch

Beneficiaries of this grant will participate in one semester (10 weeks) of weekly therapeutic riding lessons. Most children continue their participation in therapeutic riding long past the initial semester, and continue to benefit from these programs for years to come.                                     

The group served by this program are children with special needs from financially-marginalized families. For many of these children, viable fitness and sport opportunities are extremely limited due to their cognitive, behavioral, emotional and / or physical needs. For some families, registration fees can create additional barriers to participation. Therapeutic riding is a safe, empowering sport opportunity, and many parents have found it to be one of the few (or only) physical recreation programs in which their child can happily participate on a long-term basis. Only swimming and riding offer complete freedom of movement for children with physical special needs, allowing them to leave walkers or wheelchairs behind.

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This grant was made possible by the fundraising efforts of Guelph Pergola Commons GoodLife Fitness staff and members during the 2013 fundraising campaign. 

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The Confidence to Try #FEELGOODFRIDAY Lukas is a 10-year-old Raptors fan who plays basketball with his local chapter of Special Olympics, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was afraid to join a team. Lukas is an outgoing kid who likes to make friends and has always been very active. But his early experiences in organized physical activity were not positive. One of his biggest challenges with autism is struggling to follow directions in large groups. He was often told he was doing things wrong and even that he would embarrass the team. “These negative comments deflated his confidence, and he became afraid to try new things,” explained his mom Lisa. When he was eight, Lukas took part in the Sports of All Sorts program at the Geneva Centre for Autism. The supportive environment in the Sports of All Sorts program, funded by a GoodLife Kids grant, was a real game-changer for him. Constant encouragement and positive reinforcement gave Lukas a safe space to explore new activities without a fear of being judged. With one-on-one support he played basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. “We’re so glad to make physical activity a regular part of Lukas’ life and we’ve found ways for him to continue practicing at home,” said Lisa. “We bought a tennis net for the backyard, and now that he’s not afraid, he loves to go to glow-in-the-dark mini-putt with his dad!” As Lukas turned around on the basketball court to wave to his mom, he gave her two big thumbs up and her eyes welled up with tears of joy. “Watching him enjoy himself, I’m overwhelmed with happiness and pride,” she shared. “He has talents! But most of all, he has regained a belief in himself – that he CAN do it – and that is so powerful.”

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