BAXTER INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION AWARDS $85,000 TO EQUESTRIAN THERAPY PROGRAM

Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship, a nonprofit equestrian therapy program in Newbury Park, will receive an $85,000 gift Saturday at its annual open house.

The grant is from the Baxter International Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Baxter International Inc., based in Deerfield, Ill., and with facilities in Newbury Park.

Casa Pacifica in Camarillo and the Conejo Free Clinic are past recipients of Baxter Foundation grants.

“It’s the biggest corporate donation we’ve ever had,” said Bryan McQueeney, Ride On executive director.

Ride On Newbury Park opened in 2001 on property leased from the Conejo Recreation and Park District. It’s a sister program to one in Chatsworth cofounded in 1994 by McQueeney and his wife, Gloria Hamblin, program director. The couple live in Thousand Oaks.

Indirectly, Baxter has long supported the Newbury Park program, McQueeney said. Olivier Dior, a local Baxter employee, “has been one of our backbone volunteers for 10 years” and is in charge of the IT system.

The grant money is earmarked for expanding physical and occupational therapy services for the disabled by increasing a part-time physical therapist to full time and paying half the salary of a full-time riding instructor, according to a Baxter website.

The free open house, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will show the public Ride On’s programs, including therapeutic riding and hippotherapy. Therapy regimens use horses to help clients with physical and mental challenges.

Staff and board members will answer questions and talk about volunteer opportunities, said Sara Jones, Ride On’s development director. Students will showcase their riding skills.

Children’s activities will include stick horses, pony petting, crafts, a Jolly Jump and face and hair painting. A free lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Also, New York Times best-selling children’s author Laura Numeroff will sign copies of her latest book, “Ponyella,” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The book is an equine version of “Cinderella,” with Fairy Godmare, wicked stepsisters, diamond horseshoes and a princess seeking the right pony to love forever.

In keeping with the book, a treasure hunt for “diamond” horseshoes is planned.

Numeroff, 58, a former equestrienne whose heart is still with the horses, lives in Brentwood. She has written more than 30 children’s books since her first, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” was published in 1985.

Among the charities she supports is the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, of which Ride On is a member. When Jones invited her to take part in a book-signing at the open house, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I’ve always wanted to combine my passion for reading and helping children with disabilities,” Numeroff said.

The open house is an opportunity for Ride On officials to recognize the Baxter Foundation, the program’s support from the community and its partnership with parks district, Jones said.

Ride On serves clients of all ages. They work with physical therapists, an occupational therapist, psychotherapists, riding instructors and volunteers.

Clients are charged for services, but many are on scholarship, and others volunteer to earn riding sessions. Fees are far less than the money needed to run the Chatsworth and Newbury Park facilities, with annual feed and care of the horses at the two sites running about $95,000, McQueeney said.

Fundraisers, such as a June 2 Heartbeats and Hoofbeats cocktail reception, help keep Ride On afloat, he said. The event, at a Hidden Hills house, will include equine demonstrations, a reception catered by restaurants and wineries and silent and live auctions. Tickets are $75 each. For more details, email sara@rideon.org.

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.

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