Volunteers Share Their Favorite 2012 Moments at Helen Woodward Animal Center
Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Was it to get fit? Spend money wisely? Or maybe volunteer? We get a lot of “new volunteer recruits” this time of year and we love welcoming them to our mission of being a place where ‘animal helps people and people help animals.’ We can’t save lives and help people in our community without our volunteers!
Here are a few favorite moments and experiences from our volunteers this last year:
From Judy, Therapeutic Riding: I had the privilege of working with the horses, students, volunteers and instructors at the Helen Woodward Animal Center for over two years now. The program is absolutely wonderful for the families involved – but I truly believe that I get so much more out of my volunteer experience then they can ever imagine! Not only have I loved horses since I was a child (this is my weekly “horse fix”), but this year I lost both my father and my husband, so my volunteer experience has been healing as well. Everyone has been so compassionate and caring. And I’m sure that my “guys” – the horses – also felt the pain I was in and helped as well.
Probably more than you needed – but from my heart I have to say this is the most inspiring and amazing volunteer experience I have ever been involved with.
This is the most inspiring and amazing volunteer experience I have ever been involved with.
From Linda, AniMeals: I love to volunteer, because volunteering for AniMeals is the best way to volunteer and help my furry friends.
From a Therapeutic Riding Volunteer: Working in therapeutic riding is a privilege because, for a few hours a week, we are witnesses to the best of humanity. We are honored to work with students and parents who inspire us with their positive spirit and desire to do the hard work required to achieve better health. At every turn we are reminded of their strength and “grace-under-pressure.”
We are also fortunate to work with a staff that is exceptionally professional and brings deep knowledge, dedication, and compassion to our students through the discipline of riding therapy. Last but not least, we are constantly amazed at the way our horses reciprocate to each student’s needs with their deep intuitive understanding of the unique needs required by each student. The love we give our horses is returned ten-fold; what a joy it is to work with these wonderful creatures. For myself, these few hours a week are a constant reminder of how precious our lives, relationships, and health are—the simple issues of everyday life are put into true perspective.
What a joy it is to work with these wonderful creatures.
From Linda, Therapeutic Riding: You walk in the barn in the afternoon, and the smell of hay and horses greets you and makes you smile. You sign in and ask your fellow volunteers, who by now have become good friends, how their week was, and they ask about yours. Badly behaved dogs, upcoming vacations, good movies, childhood memories, the latest achievements or outrageousness of your kids, it all gets covered in the next four hours together. You check the board to see which students are coming, which horses need to get groomed, tacked and ready, and you get busy. You talk to the horses as you’re working, brushing them clean and washing their faces and checking their feet. Sammy nuzzles you, wanting to be scratched, Scout flaps his tongue around like a big goof, Spurs nickers softly when you ask him if he’s feeling better, Noodles looks into your eyes with a soulful plea for attention and love, and you give it to him, gladly. The stress you’ve been carrying in your upper shoulders from the week melts away.
Then, the students. They arrive excited, or scared, or anxious, or bubbling over. They’ve had a bad day, or a very good day, and want to tell you about it. Helmeted and ready, they settle into the saddle and they just light up. They’re in charge, they’re taller than anybody around, when maybe, off the horse, they’re in a wheelchair; they’re fluid, where off the horse they might feel awkward or unbalanced; they’re independent, instead of needing help. I see progress in them every single week, remembering patterns, listening to instructions, staying balanced, working their core, learning to control this big animal beneath them with practice and practice and practice, so that they also learn patience and kindness and pride of accomplishment. For those of us lucky enough to be a part of their success, we’re in awe of their dedication and determination and achievement.
I guess you can see why I am so grateful for the experience of being a volunteer here. The horses, the students, the instructors, the other volunteers, they all contribute to this feeling of mine of being a part of something truly special, for together this program, these people, these beautiful horses, have not only the capability of enriching our students’ lives, but of helping make me a better person just by being around them. How could you not be grateful for that?
If you want to partner with Helen Woodward Animal Center, please visit our Volunteer FAQ!