Written by Betsy Abraham Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00
Horseability, the equine therapy center in Old Westbury, was recently home to the regional Special Olympics Horse Show. Over 80 riders from Horseability, as well as Saddle Rock Ranch’s Special Olympics training program, competed in equitation (the practice of horse riding) and obstacle courses. Winners from these games have the opportunity to go on to state, national and even world games.
Horseability’s Director of Operations, Jamie Kolodziejski, says that the Special Olympics gives special needs athletes an even playing field.
“These kids may not be able to participate in a lot of other sports, but with this, they’re all grouped with athletes of the same level. It’s a really fair playing field when it comes to competition,” Kolodziejski said.
Julie Dell’Aira is the Coordinator for the Community Therapeutic Riding Program at Saddle Rock Ranch in Middle island. She has been going to the Special Olympics for eight years and says she is continually amazed at how well the athletes do.
“It’s very difficult for some of them to maintain focus, but year after year these athletes really step up to the plate just like any other athlete would,” Dell’Aira said. “They just perform and it’s usually their best day ever. It’s amazing to see it all come together for them.
Carle Place’s Darlene Greco was one of 10 Saddle Rock volunteers who helped prepared the ranch’s 45 athletes for the competition. As a volunteer, Greco helps as needed-brushing horses, saddling them, and taking them back to the stalls. But her main duties at the ranch and at the Special Olympics were being a side walker and leading horses on the course.
As a side walker, Greco walks alongside the horse, ensuring the rider’s safety. When she’s acting as a leader, she helps makes sure the horse is walking around but that the client has the reigns to make it turn and follow directions. The side walkers and leaders allow the instructors the chance to stand back and look at the whole picture, while making sure the rider is safe.
At first, Greco was worried that her age would hold her back from being able to volunteer, as some of the tasks required a lot of physical activity. But she decided to give it a shot and now the 70-year-old has been helping at the ranch for over a year.
“It was amazing. Everyone was so welcoming and willing to teach me the ropes. My age never really entered into it,” Greco says.
And Greco has enjoyed working with the other volunteers, many of whom are teenagers.
“It’s fun to realize they are open to working with older people and it doesn’t matter that there are different age groups. We’re all there for the same thing. It’s a warm place to be,” Greco says.
This was Greco’s first time volunteering at the Special Olympics. Being at the event helped her realize how much of an impact that not only she was having on the kids, but that they were having on her.
“I didn’t realize the impact it had on the children when they saw a familiar face. This one little girl ran up to me and hugged me, and she’s never done that before,” Greco says. “I’m taking away a lot from volunteering. It makes you feel important and valued and like you’re there for a reason.
Dell’Aira says volunteers like Greco are essential to keeping Saddle Rock running. A typical training session with four riders typically requires anywhere from eight to 12 volunteers. But Dell’Aira says that these past few months, the ranch was hurting for volunteers.
“We need volunteers,” Dell’Aira said. “Special Olympics training is a challenging program to run, but it’s well worth it when you get to the horse show and see all the accomplishments of the people you’ve worked with.”
Kolodziejski echoes that, saying Horseability is always looking for volunteers to sidewalk, assist with horses, or help in the office. And experience is not necessary.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Kolodziejski says. “We’re always in need of (them.) Whether you love horses or want to work in the office, there’s a place for everyone at Horseability.”
And Greco encourages anyone from any background or age to come out and help.
“I think people my age may think they’re too old to volunteer,” she said. “But they have wisdom and abilities they may not realize so they should get out there and help.”
Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00
“Art is beautiful. It's all around us and makes you see the world in a different way. Anyone can learn to paint, it just takes time, but when you do, you never look at clouds the same way or water the same way or even at the beach the same way.” These are the words of Westbury’s own artist and teacher Laura Meshover. Her captivating oil paintings exhibit the very essence of photo realism.
“I always knew I wanted to be an artist even from way back at a young age,” explained Meshover. “I used to take painting lessons in my neighbor’s basement when I was a little girl. You can’t do that kind of stuff anymore,” she said with a laugh.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
Looking for the perfect accessory to compliment your holiday outfit? How about a one of a kind gift for someone special? Jewelry maker and designer Ofra Levin will be coming to the Westbury Public Library on Dec. 9 for a bracelet making workshop, where class attendees will be able to make a four-strand bracelet using semi-precious stones.
“Students will create a one of a kind piece of jewelry, and I’ll be there to guide them and help them bring their ideas to life,” Levin said.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The wrestling team at Westbury High School looks forward to a fresh start this season. Last year, they struggled to stay atop the Nassau Conference, but this time, the team has a lot of valuable pieces that are crucial for them to flip the script and potentially climb to the top of the standings.
One of the shining stars in the school’s team this year is the dominating Raeco Jackson. For the past two seasons, Jackson has had an extraordinary winning record in the 113 and 120 weight classes. “Last year, my record was 28-5 and the year before that it was 30-5,” he said. With a total record of 58 wins and 10 losses, he has won 85 percent of his matches. His impressive feat helped Jackson receive all-county honors last season.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The Carle Place boys’ varsity soccer team made school history on Nov. 17, when they captured the NYS Class B championship title. It ended a long journey during which the team never lost a game. Carle Place was the only team in the state to go undefeated — and that includes all classifications. The final statistics were an impressive 18 wins, 0 losses, and 1 tie; 56 goals for, 6 against, and 14 shutouts.