Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2018 – Special Needs, Special Hearts

Name: Amanda Woods
From: Medina, Ohio
Grade: 11
School: Medina High School
Votes: 6

Three
years ago I thought volunteering would look good on college
applications but nothing could be better than the experiences it has
taught me. I have spent about 500 hours volunteering at Medina
Creative Therapy Ranch where I have helped people of all ages with
disabilities learn to care for and ride horses. Horses became a
passion of mine in 6th grade, so what better place to volunteer than
one where I could share this love?

It’s
not always easy. Some riders have physical limitations that prohibit
them from being able to complete tasks which frustrates them. Other
riders have mental limitations where they have little control of
their emotions and my responsibility as a volunteer is to protect the
safety of both the horses and the riders during the extreme
outbursts. It doesn’t help that horses have minds of their own and
don’t always feel like complying with requests. My biggest
challenge is that I have to know when to help riders push past their
fears, when to let things go, and what I can do to help each rider do
their best. Despite these challenges, nothing touches my heart more
than knowing I have made a difference for the better. I’ve cried
happy tears right alongside riders when they accomplish a goal they
never thought possible. I’ve hugged parents who tell me with giant
smiles and tears in their eyes that they are seeing a positive change
in their child that they have only been able to dream about until
now. I’ve never been more proud to say that I have helped riders
discover such a love for their times at the barn that they willingly
choose to ride over other activities. These riders have taught me to
care about others with love so big it continuously spills from the
heart, that you can overcome any challenge because there is always
someone by your side, and never hesitate to help because there is
nothing better than knowing you have made an impact in someone else’s
life.

Even
as I head off to college, these experiences are something I can’t
imagine leaving behind. They have made such an impact on me that I
plan on minoring in Therapeutic Riding so I can gain more knowledge
to continue on with what I love. This work is forward looking because
it does not end. It keeps giving back to those who have experienced
it. For me as volunteer, these memories and lessons are ones I will
continue to embrace as the future goes on. For the riders, they have
experienced a connection, a joy, a sense of belonging that will never
go away. This is what I seek to do through my volunteer work: to make
a difference for someone that will always matter to them. I have been
blessed with the opportunity to connect with so many special
children, teens, adults, and families which is something I can never
forget.


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