DRACUT — Sage Rabito, an eighth-grade National Junior Honor Society student at Lakeview Junior High School, knows a thing or two about how horses can help a person with a physical disability simply by supporting them with a walking motion. He knows because he’s one of the volunteers who lead the horse that supports that person.
Rabito, who hopes to become a veterinarian, volunteers with Challenge Unlimited, a nonprofit program at Ironstone Farm in Andover. The program has made a difference in the lives of countless children and adults with physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities by using the horse’s unique ability to enhance a person’s movements and touch a person’s heart.
Ironstone is always looking for donations to keep changing lives, Rabito said. And so when it came time to launch a service project for National Junior Honor Society, Rabito looked no farther than the Ironstone gates.
Q: How did you get started with Ironstone?
A: My cousin was volunteering there and she convinced me to give it a try. I was old enough to start volunteering, so at 13, I went to a workshop. I thought it was fun and it taught me the basics on how to lead a horse. Now I volunteer every Thursday from 4:30 to 5:30 (p.m.).
Q: What items are you collecting for them?
A: Cash and checks (checks made out to Challenge Unlimited or Ironstone Farm); gift cards to Staples; office supplies of any kind; gift cards to Dodge Grain in Salem, N.H., where they buy the feed for the horses (59 North Broadway); and Thud-Guard Baby Protective Safety helmets, which can be ordered at Amazon.com. I started collecting money at lunchtime in the cafeteria two days ago and already collected $50.
Q: How long will the collection take place?
A: Until Friday, March 2. People can drop off donations at the school anytime after 7 a.m. and before 3 p.m. They can also mail it to the junior high (1570 Lakeview Junior High, Dracut/Attn: National Junior Honor Society).
Q: What is your favorite thing about Ironstone Farm?
A: Mainly seeing all the clients, children and adults, who seem to enjoy riding horses. It helps them with therapy. At first they are scared, especially the younger kids. We give them toys to help them relax and we play games with them, and they end up having a good time. I saw clients that were petrified, but as weeks go by they have a great time and it really helps them. There is a student in this school and I walk with him. It makes me feel really good to be able to help him. Another 11-year-old girl is blind in one eye and partially blind in the other. This helps her so much.
Q: What is the best reason for donating to Ironstone?
A: Think about if you had a family member or close friend who needed their help. You would want to help them out as much as possible. So we should treat everyone as family and give Ironstone the help that they need.