SAN ANGELO, Texas — The Coronavirus outbreak has disrupted meetings and classes for organizations across the Concho Valley. San Angelo’s Sonrisas Trails riding program now has a shortage of volunteers.
“We’re ready to see people, we’re ready to get this therapy going,” said Megan Kirkwood, Program Director for Sonrisas Trails.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Concho Valley, Sonrisas trails had to stop offering therapeutic horseback riding to school children with physical, mental and emotional disabilities.
“It completely took us out of our program. We had to cancel our main event for the year and reschedule for July,” explained Kirkwood, “We had one fourth the number of people we usually have at the event, although we did raise over $30,000, which was pretty good for being an event during COVID.”
As area school students return to the classroom this fall, Sonrisas will soon start to offer the free riding program. Volunteers are a vital part of the program, but Kirkwood said many of the program’s volunteers are in the high-risk category and won’t be returning this fall.
“Volunteers are huge. We need at least 12 volunteers per class, and we have 4 classes a day,” added Kirkwood.
Volunteers must be at least 16 years old and have the ability to carry a small child in case of an emergency.
“They walk along the side of the horse and hold onto the pad and assist with the activities. They keep the child on safely,” continued Kirkwood.
Kirkwood said they’ll be taking extra precautions to keep volunteers and riders safe, and that they’re ready to continue offering equine therapy to Concho Valley children.
“Horses bring out so much confidence in these kids. We get so many first words. Not even just words, getting some type of communication whenever they’ve had none is amazing. Just getting a hand signal or to get them to sign for the first time is truly amazing,” said Kirkwood.
Sonrisas Trails will hold a volunteer training on Tuesday, September 8 at 10:00am. Volunteers are asked to wear a mask, comfortable clothing and closed-toed shoes. Classes begin Monday, September 14. To fill out volunteer paperwork, visit sonrisasriding.org.
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