You can hear the excitement in  their voices before they round the corner. Their eyes bright, their hands folded warmly in those of a trusted friend, they fidget anxiously as they await their turn to mount. Will I get to ride the big horse today? Will I get to trot? Can we go outside?

This is the highlight of their week. They have been behaving in class, they have worked their hardest on their homework, they have been wondering if they will get to play “dress your sidewalker” or basketball or the boot-matching game this week.

What have they been waiting for? The chance to be free for a few minutes.

Free from the limitations of a body that doesn’t cooperate; free from a metal chair; free from curious or pitying stares; free from competition and derision from peers. Free atop a moving marvel of power and grace, their own personal steed who responds to their commands and bends its mighty head for them to pet.

Project R.I.D.E. benefits many people in the Elk Grove community. From volunteer organizations at 10 district schools to dedicated individuals ranging from young children to retirees, our program represents a volunteer opportunity that affords a rare mix of contact with animals and children as well as an environment that is refreshing, revitalizing and as therapeutic for volunteers as it is for the children we serve.

But I address the Elk Grove Unified School District today, not on behalf of the several thousand volunteers that I oversee in my position over the course of a year, not on behalf of the adult assisted-living programs which send their clients here to learn job skills while volunteering, not on behalf of our small staff and all-volunteer Board of Directors.  I am asking Dr. Ladd, Mr. Lugg and their colleagues to reconsider continuing thethirty year partnership between Project R.I.D.E. and the Elk Grove Unified School District on behalf of the children of Jessie Baker school.

Limited by special needs, low incomes and a high proportion of foster and group care situations at home, these children are among the most vulnerable of all the students this district serves. They have very few real opportunities for recreation and absolutely none that equal the pride and self-esteem they build on horseback. They cannot speak for themselves and so I am compelled to say on their behalf: Please do not eliminate funding for our program.


Marisa DeSalles

Project R.I.D.E. Volunteer Coordinator

Valley High School Class of 1991

Parent of an entering Kindergartner in the Elk Grove Unified School District