To whom it may concern,
Hello, my name is Andrew Odle and I am a full-time undergraduate student at CSUS. I was first introduced to Project R.I.D.E. through a volunteering opportunity presented in my Genetics course last semester. The purpose of this volunteer opportunity is to allow students to better understand genetic diseases that are being lectured on in class. What better way to learn about the disease than actually being able to see firsthand what the disease does. At first I was very apprehensive and uncomfortable with the idea that I would be in an environment that I had never been in before. I had neither understood nor been around others with special needs. However, I was immediately attracted to the idea of helping others who have been faced with challenging lives and I decided to volunteer at Project R.I.D.E. I accepted this opportunity without realizing that it would change my life immensely.
I began volunteering at Project R.I.D.E. last semester and I was completely caught off guard by how amazing the entire program was. As soon as I walked into the barn I realized that I had no feelings of discomfort or apprehension. Instead, the students and staff accepted me as if I were family. I volunteered weekly and found that as each week passed, I loved Project R.I.D.E. more and more. I started to develop strong friendships with the staff and students. I even had a mother of a student tell me that she would change her schedule in order to bring her daughter the same day of the week that I volunteered. I could not believe how special this program was. I cannot say that I have seen any other place quite like Project R.I.D.E. The care and love that each staff/volunteer brought and the smile that it put on the students faces is something that has changed my life.
I have since completed my Genetics course; however, I still continue to volunteer at Project R.I.D.E. I have made such strong friendships with the staff/volunteers and especially the children that I feel there is no way that I could leave. I look forward to volunteering at Project R.I.D.E. and see it as the highlight of my week. I am thrilled that I have found something so meaningful and special to be a part of. Since becoming a volunteer I have continued to learn more and more about myself as well. I have become a leader and I am now involved with not only getting the horse out of the stall, but I am also responsible for leading the horse while the student is riding. I have developed strong leadership skills that I might not have known I possessed if I had not been given the opportunity by Project R.I.D.E. I can also say that I now have a completely new outlook on people with special needs. I have a new comfort and understanding of the challenges that they face. I attribute and thank Project R.I.D.E. for allowing me to not only learn more about people with special needs, but also for allowing me to learn more about my own strengths.
Project R.I.D.E. has been much of a benefit for myself, however, more importantly it has been a benefit for the children that I have met throughout my volunteering. Watching the smiles that each child makes, and observing a child learning something new as he or she rides is something much more meaningful to me. The children look forward to experiencing the magic of learning and having fun at the same time. It’s the experience the children get through Project R.I.D.E. and the ability it has to touch the lives of the students that makes the program special.
I write to you to implore that you reconsider how you view Project R.I.D.E. This program is something much more than just “riding horses”. It is something that reaches out much further than the ring of the barn. It not only changes the lives of the students and family involved, but also changes the lives of people like me. I have been blessed to be a part of project R.I.D.E. and I hope that future students will have the chance to follow in my path. Thank you for your time.