By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
TJ Stables received an exceptional donation for its Acceptional Riders.
On Friday, 100+ Men Who Care presented the Chatham-Kent equine facility with a cheque for $8,600. Every quarter, the men’s charity group chooses a community non-profit to donate funds to.
The money will not go toward the overall business, but rather TJ Stables’ charitable therapeutic riding program for children to adults with disabilities, known as Acceptional Riders.
“These kids are really going to benefit from this,” said owner Terry Jenkins.
Since the COVID-19 lockdowns began, TJ Stables had been struggling to secure a stable source of income which could pay for enough food for the horses and the staff that had to stay on to take care of the livestock. As a result, Jenkins had to sell off 20 of her horses, but managed to keep some of her programs running.
“We saw the need here and loved the goal of the program and that’s why we chose to donate to them,” Dane Appleton, co-chair, 100+ Men Who Care. “I just love the mission of the program. To help kids who need a little bit of extra help, and what they’re doing is a unique way to give these kids confidence and a new way to learn.”
Mayor Darrin Canniff, who is a member of the men’s charity, was the one who nominated TJ Stables for the donation.
“Kids just light up. (Acceptional Riders) takes kids out of wheelchairs and when you see them get in there, they just feel empowered. I’ve been touched by this charity for years,” he said.
More than 130 kids are put through the program every year but because of COVID-19 precautions it has now been reduced to private sessions.
Jenkins was able to open up at reduced capacity during the summer but had to cancel camps. Recently she shook things up by starting new services such as the family farm tour where children can visit the ponies, pet animals and collect eggs.
TJ Stables also offers a Spirit Horse Teepee encounter, where local First Nations people come and provide talks, drumming, singing and medicine walks.
“We hadn’t expected that but it was kind of refreshing to think up some new ideas,’ Jenkins said. “Of course it was difficult to get over it in our minds but as soon as you shift to what you can do mentally, it’s a lot easier to move forward.”
TJ Stables is also giving back with 200 horseback riding coupons being donated to the Salvation Army, the equivalent of a $5,000 contribution.
“We can’t financially do it this year but we can do our services,” Jenkins said. “So that’s what we’re doing to pay it forward.”
For anyone looking for last minute Christmas gifts, a two-for-one sale on a pony ride is on until Dec. 23.