Not a day goes by without hearing or reading news of yet another federal financial blunder: trillion dollar deficits, billions in bank bailouts, welfare for the wealthy, military industrial complex spending running amuck, etc. What you never hear about though, is the little guy, the grass roots non-profits going under because they can’t raise a few thousand dollars in America’s heartland.
Such is the case of the Flint Hills Therapeutic Riding Center in Wichita, Kansas, a non-profit organization that currently provides equine assisted activities and therapy for 70 children and 12 adults with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. They will shut down on April 30, 2011 because they just don’t have the money to continue.
In an interview with Wichita Eagle reporter Hurst Laviana, the president of the nonprofit group’s board of directors, Dan Caliendo, said financial problems are forcing the program, which has operated since 1999, to close until September 15, 2011.
“We’re stopping on April 30 because that’s when the money runs out,” he said. “We’ve kind of put the inevitable off as long as we can, we’re just out of money.”
Valerie Taylor, the center’s executive director, said hard economic times have caused the grants and donations the group relies on to dry up.
Caliendo said closing the center will disrupt the lives of many who have grown to depend on the weekly sessions.
“Some people just thought we were giving horseback rides to disabled kids, but it’s more than that,” Caliendo said. “These kids gain balance…. They’ve gone from not walking to walking.”
The Flint Hills Therapeutic Riding Center operates on a sparse annual budget of just under $150k and even then, they operate at a loss. A therapy session is priced at only $30 but it costs the center $80 per session in expenses.
A news release on their website reads “the Board of Directors cut back on every expense we could in hopes of riding out these hard times in our economy. Unfortunately, not even those drastic cuts were enough and only bought us slightly more time. Even scaling back our expenses to absolute bare bones necessities, we still have roughly $6,000 per month in operating expenses.”
“ In spite of Valerie submitting nearly 20 grant requests, much hard work on the part of the Board of directors seeking out donations, brainstorming about possible fundraisers and a plea to our clients for help, FHTRC is out of operating funds has now reached the point where we are no longer able to sustain the organization. The Board of Directors feels the only prudent course of action to take at this point is to suspend FHTRC’s operations through the summer months, and resume our client services starting September 15.”
This is a terrible crisis for the organization and more so, for the community and the people that rely on them. It is not surprising however; it seems par for the course.
We send billions in aid overseas yet, we have no money for education and social programs for our own people. We give away billions in corporate bailouts to corporations who have made billions more in profit and yet, they don’t pay a single penny in taxes.
I guess the question really is, now that you know this, what will you do about it? Will you ignore the needs of more than 80 disabled people as your needs are met or, will you give up a little time and a few bucks to help? Do what’s right.
Please send donations directly to:
Flint Hills Therapeutic Riding Center
P. O. Box 782622
Wichita, KS 67278
Please share this with everyone you know and let’s work together to help these folks out.
UPDATE: The Wichita Eagle reports that the center has received a last minute anonymous gift will keep the financially struggling Flint Hills Therapeutic Riding Center open through the summer. Dan Caliendo, president of the group’s board of directors, said the $15,000 donation came Friday with two stipulations: that the names of the donors remain anonymous, and that the donation be used to keep the program running through the summer.
The center is still seeking donations to keep operating after summer.