Volunteers offer horse riding therapy

July 21, 2009 (BURR RIDGE, Ill.) That's the idea behind a program at the Ray Graham Hanson Center in Burr Ridge.

ABC7 Chicago's Harry Porterfield says the volunteers who help run the program are 'some people you should know.'

Next to a dog maybe, a horse is man's second best friend. The Hanson Center barn is located in Burr Ridge and is operated by the Ray Graham Association. It's where horses and their riders are partners in a therapeutic program.

"It helps them in many different ways. People with physical and/or cognitive disabilities. It's something they that they really enjoy, and they get a lot of therapeutic benefits," said Program Coordinator Cathy Lebeau.

Seven years ago, Jan Naborowski's daughter Tia, now 14 years old, became a victim of the West Nile Virus when bitten by a mosquito.

"It was devastating. She was paralyzed from the neck down. So, she has come a long way with seven years of rehab, and this was a huge portion of it. It's just wonderful," said Naborowski.

"It's like every step is a journey. It all depends on where you have to go though. Like for me, I'm heading a certain direction that no one's gone before, and I think that means a lot to me," Tia Naborowski said.

Selected for their patience and ability to work with different people, 20 mostly donated horses are used for the program.

Each week, the horses are prepared for 150 riders who take to the saddle for a 30-minute session every seven days.

Therapy riding operates with 80 volunteers each week.

"You see some of them start when they just start coming for the first time and see them a couple of years later, and see how far they've come. So, it's pretty cool," volunteer Meghan Meyer said.

Jeannene Babor, a special education teacher, has been volunteering for 15 years.

"I love volunteering. I love the kids. Their social, emotional skills [and] their physical skills get better. It's wonderful to see how much change they can go through in one session," said Babor.

The people at the Ray Graham Hanson Center in Burr Ridge, some people you should know.

To learn more about the program, log on to www.ray-graham.org.

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