How fulfilling it is to be able to combine a personal passion (horses) with serving the community. For the past two years, I have been a volunteer for We Can Ride (http://www.wecanride.org/), a therapeutic horseback riding and carriage driving program for adults and children with physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral disabilities. We Can Ride operates in 4 locations: in St Paul (at the University's Equine Center), Delano, Marine on St. Croix, and Minnetonka. I volunteer on Thursday nights in Minnetonka.
The evening begins at 6pm with grooming and tacking the well-trained and very patient horses. The first clients arrive at 6:30 (the first of three classes each night, limited to 6 riders each class), some ambulatory, some in wheel chairs. Volunteers like me, under the direction of trained instructors, assume one of two roles - leading the horse, or interacting with the rider as "side-walkers" (two volunteers for each rider). "My" riders range from an exuberant 5 year old to a 26 year old who doesn't communicate verbally at all, to someone who only wants to talk sports (right down my alley)! All the riders benefit from the physical challenge of balancing on horseback and the continuous interaction with the instructor and the volunteers. By the end of the last class at 9:00, we're all pretty pooped, and we've all walked at least a mile in circles around the arena. But the reward comes with seeing the joy in most of the riders' faces as they bond with their horses, and the appreciation of their parents who stay and watch.
Yes, I also contribute financially to various causes, including through the University's Community Fund, but the contribution of time is equally valuable and very rewarding. It's great to be able to give back to the community.