MATTHEW AND KATIE'S STORY
Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis were not in our vocabulary. They are now.
My husband, John, and I have four children, two of whom participate at LifeStriders. Each week we are amazed at their progress, in particular, our four year old son, Matthew, who has Tuberous Sclerosis.
When Matthew was eight months old he began having infantile spasms which are devastating to the brain. Matthew behaved like a healthy baby but once he began having these seizures he was literally taken away from us. He was completely non reactive to his environment.
Slowly Matthew started coming back to life but he still wasn’t the same. He has significant delays particularly in his speech and language. I had never heard of therapeutic riding but Matthew’s OT insisted he would be a great candidate.
We decided to have both Katie, my six year old daughter, and Matthew participate. Katie, after having three open heart surgeries, has poor core strength and is generally low tone. Matthew, as mentioned, has global delays.
After a few weeks of riding we noticed significant changes in Matthew. He was now quick to respond to comments and questions no longer requiring a lot of time to process information. He also began speaking in sentences and with greater detail.
We began to see a different Matthew. We now have a spunky little boy with a terrific sense of humor who is a bit mischievous at times and has an incredible memory.
LifeStriders has been a gift to us. We have all learned about riding and its benefits. Katie and Matthew love to ride and they talk about their horses. We have met the most wonderful volunteers who are knowledgeable and kind, and even know when to give tenacious Katie a little sass.
Our family has a new word to add to our vocabulary - LifeStriders. We cannot adequately express our gratitude for everything LifeStriders has given us. Katie is stronger and Matthew is back. They gave me my little baby back. I have my little boy. Thank you.
- Michelle McCardle - Matthew's and Katie's Mother
I had only one goal that first day. I wanted Ryan to get close to a horse. Not touch or ride but just close enough without screaming in fear. My son Ryan was born 3 ½ months early with Cerebral Palsy to his left side of his body. He was 2- 1/2 years old and our Physical Therapist recommended we try therapeutic horse riding to strengthen his torso and possibly help him start to walk. Ryan seemed scarred of everything at that age. Noises, parking lots, dogs, and trucks seemed to panic him. I doubted he would even get near a big horse much less get on it and ride.
I held him in my arms and approached the line of horses that Veronica was assigning to riders. Ryan started to panic and point in the other direction. Veronica said ”hand him to me and go inside the barn”. I looked around behind me and said “who me?” Ryan is going to freak without me. I handed him to her and as I walked away, she put him on that horse and he rode away without crying and without a scream. I stood inside the barn, looking out a small glass window as Ryan rode around. I had a knot in my throat. I was afraid he would see me and I would ruin it. I stood there the whole hour just amazed.
If you have a child with a disability, you know how I felt that day. I am so impressed with the professionalism of everyone at Lifestriders. It is such a warm, loving environment. Ryan has ridden for 3-1/2 years. He has his favorite horses and so many friends. He always looks forward to riding. It not only helped Ryan walk but gave him confidence that he “can do it.”
I can’t thank you enough LifeStriders.
- Ryan's Dad
Our family is always looking for new ways to help our five year old son Elliot "break out of his shell." He was diagnosed with autism when he was three, and we have tried every possible therapy possible, some of which have helped in small ways. We have always been interested in trying horse therapy, and Elliot has a love for horses, so we got on the lifestriders wait list. I admit, I am always a skeptic, but when we got a call that there was an opening for Elliot to ride, I was excited to try something new.
Let me tell you...from day one we noticed changes. Immediately when we got home that first evening, Elliot was looking at us! Actually LOOKING at us, and listening and WANTING to interact with us. Elliot is always quiet and reserved. The first lesson he was nervous and did not make any sound, nor pay attention to the instructors. Within weeks, he began listening to the instructors and started taking part in the games.
It has been nine months since our first session at lifestriders and we are amazed at the results we are seeing in Elliot. He has such a great time with the wonderful volunteers. He gets so excited when we tell him we are "going to horses today." He runs to put his shoes on. He has become more vocal at lessons and at home. I believe his confidence has gotten a boost from all the positive feedback he receives from all the workers at lifestriders who want to bring out the best in him and see him grow and succeed in life.
Lifestriders has helped our son in so many areas of our daily life. We now have a little boy who is communicating with us better, using more words correctly, wanting to interact with us and peers, listening to instructions, dealing better with day to day changes in the routine and has genuinely come out of himself a bit and is giving us glimpses of a bright future.
Thank you Rob, Veronica, Lori and ALL the wonderful volunteers who are making our sons life a joy. You are all an amazing blessing to this area!
Jim Langreder - Elliot's Father
Matthew is now 12. He started riding at LifeStriders in 2005 soon after it opened. Initially we were looking for an activity he could fully participate in despite his disabilities. Matthew uses a wheelchair. His muscle tone was so low he could barely sit upright never mind stand or take steps. He lived in his own little world with no communication, no perception of what was happening around him, little eye contact or emotion.
What LifeStriders has done and continues to do for Matthew has changed his life. On horseback his physical limitations are greatly reduced. Over the years he has achieved a degree of strength we didn’t think was possible. He can sit up straight, balance himself through sudden starts, stops and changes of direction. The motion of the horse enabled him to take his first tentative steps, now he easily walks, with assistance, the length of the arena. He is very aware of his surroundings and enjoys interacting with the volunteers – smiling, great eye contact and reaching out, especially if he can grab someone’s hat from their head! He makes clicking noises and laughs out loud during his lessons.
In 2009 Matthew received the LifeStrider of the Year award, the greatest achievement of his life so far.
None of this would have been possible without the dedication of Rob and Veronica and the many volunteers. We have watched the expansion of LifeStriders over 6 years and they have truly made a difference to so many lives.
- Sara Knowles - Matthew's Mother
Please join us to honor all of our wonderful volunteers! We will be hosting our annual Volunteer Appreciation celebration, on December 3rd, at the barn, from 1:00 until 5:00. Food will be served starting at 1:00, followed by volunteer awards at 2:30. We will wrap up the celebration with dancing and music. If you are planning to attend, please e-mail Nicole at email@example.com
. See you then!
Thank you Clear Channel Outdoor
for helping get the message out about the great things LifeStriders is doing in our community! LifeStriders billboards will be on Clear Channel Digital's Billboards in the MIlwaukee / Waukesha area throughout the holidays. Look for us today at: Hwy 41 & State Street (north face) and I-94 & National (north face) digital locations.
Our family has left no stone unturned when it comes to helping our six year old daughter Brenna. This past March we were lucky enough to start riding therapy at LifeStriders. In the first 3 months, we have been amazed and shocked at the positive impact it has had on our daughter and our family. We, along with her therapists and teachers have noticed significant improvements in her academic skills, communication skills and most importantly with her anxiety.
Each week we have been impressed with the different exercises the therapists have put Brenna and her team through. We have spent years working on throwing and catching with Brenna, she got on a horse and can do both! LifeStriders has helped us as parents of a child with special needs make connections with other parents. Riding Cody has given Brenna (and our family) something to look forward to every weekend… the only change she would make is to give Cody a blanket with hearts and rainbows on it, and maybe a purple bow. We are truly thankful that LifeStriders exists to help families like ours.
On November 5th, LifeStriders' instructors and volunteers were treated to a Parelli Horsemanship demonstration by Two Star Parelli Professional Gretchen Arndt. Parelli Horsemanship is also referred to as natural horsemanship because it is based on the way that horses relate and communicate in their natural world. It appeals to horse enthusiasts worldwide, and especially LifeStriders, because of the focus on forming partnerships with our horses without using force, dominance, or intimidation. Gretchen partnered with our very own Marky for her demonstration, and went through three games to play with horses to build a foundation of trust and confidence with our equine stars. We want to keep our herd happy and healthy so we are very grateful to Gretchen for volunteering her time! Thank you to Linda Deppe for connecting us with Gretchen, and thank you to everyone who attended.
LifeStriders is offering to meet with individuals to give them a private tour of our facility. Come see how we are putting dollars to work for children, adults, seniors and veterans with disabilities. LifeStriders is so grateful for all of the community support we have received over the years and very much needs your continued support to meet the growing demands for services. Please call Veronica Sosa Agnoli, LifeStriders' Executive Director to schedule a tour today!
"From our first moment at LifeStriders we found ourselves embraced in a warm Wisconsin Welcome. It was our first time in the state and we were charmed by the beauty of the countryside and the hospitality of the people. Rob, Veronica and their team are running something very beautiful at LifeStriders. They showed us much that we did not know – our emphasis being on autism and neuro-psychiatric conditions, LifeStriders educated us on working with physical disabilities. For example seeing one young boy who was supposed to never be able to walk get off his horse and take confident steps back to his mount, was truly inspirational.
The quality of the horses as well as the staff was also exceptional and the physical environment – the park like surroundings and availability of trails - make this an ideal place for autism spectrum children (and those with other sensory conditions) to come and heal.
The dedicated staff and volunteers also showed great openness of mind when it came to learning new techniques and picked things up fast; always a sign of professionalism - curiosity over new techniques ensures that things stay live and fluid. Put simply, LifeStriders is clearly dedicated to retaining its place at the leading edge of therapeutic riding: so for families in need of these services it would be hard to do better.
We look forward to working with LifeStriders over the coming years and to watching their program grow. We look forward to future projects together. "
The Wisconsin Association of Legal Administrators (WALA) has partnered with LifeStriders as one of this year’s community service partners. On October 22nd, we are so grateful to have had the assistance of 11 people, from WALA, who graciously volunteer their tools and charitable spirit to help us construct our horse sheds. Also, special thanks goes out to Dan Swineheart for volunteering to supervise the project. Thank you all!
More help last Saturday from Dan, Julie, Jorge, Jeremy, Jesus, and Sean Beres. We appreciate all of your efforts!!! Thank you.
More Help from Luis, Manuel, Bob and Sean today. Thank you everyone.