By Bari Diamond from Teaneck, New Jersey
People who know me know that I LOVE animals. So for my Bat Mitzvah project I wanted to do something that combined
two things I love — horses, and my friend and neighbor, Kayla.
Kayla is a sweet and smiley three-and–a-half-year-old girl with Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurogenetic disorder. Kayla can’t talk
and can only walk with the help of a special walker, but when she rides Butter, a tan colored pony every Sunday through the
Pony Power program, she’s SO happy. I’ve seen how amazing the program is for her. Kayla smiles and laughs and loves her time with the horses.
I first visited Pony Power Therapies in Mahwah, NJ, with Kayla because I wanted to watch her ride and I wanted a chance to see the horses in action. I was so amazed at how much Kayla gained from riding the horses. All the kids I saw on my visits were so happy and it made me feel so good to see how beneficial therapeutic horses can be for kids. I chose this organization as my Bat Mitzvah project because I’d love to give other special needs children the opportunity to ride as well.
Pony Power Therapies is a nonprofit organization that gives children and adults with a broad spectrum of developmental and physical disabilities a unique opportunity to ride, care for and interact with horses. All the activities there enhance their physical, social and emotional well-being in a safe, nurturing farm environment.
During each 30-minute session, riders are paired with one Pony Power instructor and two trained volunteers. The therapeutic
riding focuses on teaching each child to ride a horse within his or her ability. Many kids can get better focus, flexibility, balance and
motor skills from riding. But most importantly, all riders leave with a smile.
I think everyone should be able to live their life to the fullest, regardless of their abilities, and Pony Power helps make that happen. I wanted to do anything I could to help as many other children like Kayla get the benefits from this great organization.
Kayla rides her horse with the Pony Power Program
So far I’ve raised more than $3,000 – more than $500 over my initial goal. I raised it by creating an online fundraising page that I emailed to my friends and family, telling them all about Pony Power and asking them to support my project. I also donated most of my babysitting and dog-sitting money.
The money I raised is enough to send two children to Pony Power for a semester each. Because therapy is not done in one session,
but rather 10-12 week semesters, the money I raise can really make a difference in a few kids’ lives. I’m working with Chai Lifeline and i-Shine to identify kids who could really benefit. Once they start, I hope to attend a few of their sessions so I can see how the money I’ve raised is helping them. There’s also some extra money that will go to send nearly 100 autistic children on interactive field trips where they will meet and groom Pony Power horses.
Helping others is definitely a good way to celebrate becoming a Bat Mitzvah. A Bat Mitzvah project is so meaningful because it makes you feel like you accomplished something to make other people’s lives better. As a result, I have learned not to take anything for granted and to appreciate everything that I have.
This project is just one way I have interacted with animals. I have always known I wanted to do something with animals. Even as
a baby I loved going to the zoo and I love learning about animals. For my birthdays when I was younger I asked people to sponsor
animals from the World Wildlife Foundation instead of buying me presents, and I am sad to learn about those animals that are
endangered. When I grow up I’d love to work with animals, either as a veterinarian, a trainer, or even a marine biologist or scuba
diver, which sounds awesome.
Bari and Kayla
I plan to continue to raise money for Pony Power and can’t wait to see how Kayla progresses in life and grows up. I wouldn’t miss it!
This story is from new 2015 Mitzvah Market Magazine. If you would like to request a free copy, click here.