Fort Bend County, TX- Numerous state government officials visiting from Austin and nonprofit representatives joined together last week to cut the ribbon and celebrate an exemplary partnership devoted to providing safe, effective and enjoyable therapeutic horseback riding to people with special needs. As stated on the certificate presented by State Senator Rodney Ellis’s office, the occasion merited “most sincere congratulations … to SIRE, Houston’s Therapeutic Riding Centers and Richmond State Supported Living Center on the occasion of celebrating their collaboration.”
The program began with Presentation of the Colors by SIRE riders and wounded veterans Sgt. Derrick Perkins and Cpl. Steven Schulz, accompanied on foot by 1st Lt. Ragnar Jamieson & Master Sergeant Arturo Rodriguez. In a moment all will remember, Angela Dampeer, mother of SIRE rider Larke Dampeer, provided a dramatic and touching rendition of the national anthem. Acting Richmond State Supported Living Center (RSSLC) Director Tim Weatherby and SIRE Executive Director Lili Kellogg ably introduced the numerous speakers, keeping the mood light and appreciative.
State Representative-elect Phil Stephenson welcomed attendees and expressed his interest in effective programs to help those with special needs. In Richmond from Austin, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, Jon Weizenbaum, and Assistant Commissioner for State Supported Living Centers, Joe Vesowate, both praised the collaboration. Commissioner Weizenbaum further elaborated, “I am extremely pleased with the depth of therapeutic services now available to both Richmond SSLC residents and the private clients living in this area.”
The persistence and hard work provided by the Volunteer Services Council of the RSSLC was recognized also by all in attendance. Judy Schmid, their President-elect, ably represented the council on the podium. Terri Barnes, Past Director of the RSSLC Therapeutic Riding Program, traveled from Colorado to reflect on the vision, gifts and work it took to build the arena twenty years ago. Reva Williams, of the RSSLC Parents’ Association and who had the original dream to build the facility in 1992, brought tears to the eyes of many as she told how horses had made such a remarkable difference in her own daughter’s life.
Ileene Robinson, a supporter of activities at RSSLC and who has a relative there, noted, “This partnership is unique because it joins SIRE, Inc. a private facility, with the state facility to bring about one of the most extensive programs being offered in this field. Partnerships like this must be encouraged in more areas to better service the local community of the disabled folks and well as the residents on the campus.”
The evening’s festivities concluded with riding demonstrations by Thomas Haverkorn, Renee Jamieson, Kevin Johnston, Sabira Khan, Chandler Warren, and Emma Watson. Attendees, including SIRE supporters and many of the nearly 350 RSSLC residents, enjoyed the elegant buffet provided in part by Chef Wayne Webb, Director of RSSLC’s Food Service. Enchanted Forest Nursery’s donation of plants and the St. Thomas Jazz Combo’s music added to the magic of the crisp evening. As attendees left, they happily accepted decorated horseshoes and SIRE logo-emblazoned glasses as mementos of the evening.
The RSSLC Equestrian Center, built in 1992 through the generous support of the Moody Foundation, the Houston Endowment and the George Foundation, among others, was established to keep Richmond State “at the leading edge of habilitative and rehabilitative technology and treatment,” as stated on the center’s sign. Adding SIRE’s expertise in the field of therapeutic riding allows for the expansion of services to a larger percentage of the resident population, brings the community on campus and allows SIRE to expand its ridership. “It is truly a partnership for the benefit of all,” says Joelle Devlin, SIRE’s Fort Bend site director. And State Representative-elect Stephenson adds, “After visiting the Houston Therapeutic Equestrian Center, and witnessing the marvelous, vital work that SIRE performs, it serves to reinforce my belief that it is imperative that Texas balance its budget; so that those services that are truly needed are not only preserved but enhanced. The SIRE program, as well as the Richmond School itself, are indispensable to our community and its citizens.”
To inquire about volunteering for SIRE, please contact Maryann Gerity, Volunteer Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 281-344-4308. For more information on SIRE or to download new client registration materials, please visit http://www.sire-htec.org/.
The MISSION of SIRE is to improve the quality of life for people with special needs through therapeutic horseback riding and therapies and related activities. SIRE’s vision is to provide the highest quality therapeutic horseback riding and related activities to all those who can benefit. SIRE is a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International premier accredited center serving 200 riders per week with three sites in the greater Houston area, and has been in operation since 1983. SIRE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.