Tag Archives: Naples Equestrian Challenge

NEC’s Volunteer Spotlight

On November 2nd, I received this unexpected email:

You have been selected by the Program Committee as the October 2011 Volunteer Spotlight. 
Your photo and tribute will be displayed throughout the month in the display case outside the Volunteer Hospitality Shed.
On behalf of the staff and volunteers we thank you for your dedication and continued support of Naples Equestrian Challenge. You help out in so many different ways and you truly deserve to be spotlighted.
I am attaching a Volunteer Spotlight bio guide for you to fill out and return tome to help us with your displayed tribute.
Thank you,
Volunteer Spotlight?  Me?

John sits on the Program Committee which elects the Volunteer and the Rider of the Month.  He had mentioned nothing.  I quizzed him later.  What did I learn?  I learned that John abstained from the vote… and that was all.

How could I possibly deserve this honor?  How could I possibly participate enough to earn this recognition?  I wasn’t there this morning when the horses were searching for their grain as the sun rose… I wasn’t there last night when the stalls needed to be cleaned.  I wasn’t there yesterday when the horses were hot and sweaty, waiting patiently for their tack to be removed and cleaned after lessons.  I wasn’t there before the riders arrived to set up the ring…  I wasn’t there as phone calls were made and invitations sent out to prepare for The Bootstrap Boogie fundraiser….  I wasn’t even there when the last dish and chair was safely put away after the fundraiser… 

My husband was there for some of it…. Each member of the Program Committee was there for much of it… I see regular faces when we arrive for Riley’s riding session who are still there each Monday evening as we pull out of our parking space… 

So very much goes into making Naples Equestrian Challenge a success.   My part is so very small.  So how could I possibly be noticed among all those amazing volunteers?  Perhaps that is the key.  All those amazing staff and volunteers do notice.  They notice that I try.  They understand that Riley, just as the many other children in the program, is a handful.  John and I made the decision back when Riley was just three years old that riding would benefit him.  This program deserves to be a success so I participate as I can.  I sidewalk with Riley here and there as needed.  My Chico’s fundraiser was successful but far from the earnings of the Bootstrap Boogie (oh, here are more amazing photo’s of the event by John: http://www.naplesnews.com/photos/galleries/2011/nov/24/naples-equestrian-challenge-bootstrap-boogie-2011/).  In fact, sometimes I’m a little overbearing.  Yeah, I know it.  Perhaps a little acerbic.  I lecture volunteers.  I preach to other parents who are unwilling to participate.  There must be more than one volunteer or parent who issues a little sigh upon my arrival.  

But, after all that, here they are appreciating me.  And I appreciate each one of these amazing people who keep this wonderful place working for our kids.

Thank you Naples Equestrian Challenge!  You bring so much to our life!

We are all special… by Stacie Wiesenbaugh

Later this week I will share the write up I shared for the bulletin board.
Smiley Face

Monday at the Barn:
Ronan makes himself at home in the hospitality shed to get his homework done.
Ms. Deb, volunteer PT, help Riley get a back stretch aboard Pick A Spot.
Reindeer for Stephanie!

To learn more about Naples Equestrian Challenge:
Melissa Saracino
Program & Volunteer Manager
Naples Equestrian Challenge
206 Ridge Drive Naples, Florida 34108
Tel:   + 1 239 596 2988
Fax:  + 1 239 514 2908
“The horses were the reason I started volunteering with NEC,however, the reason I stayed were the riders.”
– NEC Volunteer, Charlotte Newell

Our Life

It feels like we are drowning again.  John and I have been on catch up ever since the trauma of Riley’s birth and the challenging life it left in its wake.

John did an amazing job as The Bootstrap Boogie volunteer photographer last Saturday evening.  Our computer is now filled with revelers in our barn and on the mechanical bull.  We expect to discover some of the shots in the Naples News this week.  Now we may need to redefine “tired” when it comes to John.

There has been plenty of stress and not the least of it being health.  Riley had a long challenging weekend – no one needs those details.  Not long ago John suffered a bad ear infection which we treated with antibiotics.  We thought it was taken care of… We also kept him from his passion during the healing process and he has not been diving in over two months.  Sunday evening his one and only filling fell out which was very strange.  Monday morning, while waiting for a flat repair he decided to walk over to the dentist…. missing work all the while.  He then discovered the infection and spread throughout his sinuses and was destroying his teeth as well.  He has now had a root canal and will be having a crown, another round of medication, and we hope that no other teeth meet the same fate.

In the meantime, I am struggling with the demands of taking Riley so frequently to meet with medical specialists.  Monday was the Pulmonologist.  It took the entire morning and as you can expect that was all driving and waiting.  Tomorrow is the Opthalmologist, but I find I must cancel.  I cannot manage it right now.  It’s all about tracking and covering every one’s butt.  But, it’s at the expense of Riley’s energy, my time and energy, the wear and tear on the jeep and of course the incredible cost of gasoline.  Do these sound like legitimate excuses.  Likely not.  But at some point we should get to live our lives rather than shuttling around to doctor’s offices.

Not feeling so special today… Stacie

NEC’s Spooktacular

Sunday found us at Naples Equestrian Challenge for the Fall Spooktacular.  The staff and volunteers did an amazing job creating a fun event for their riders and families.

To see the horses in their outfits take a peak at the Facebook page for Naples Equestrian Challenge.  They even managed a shot of Ted the Scuba Diver before he decided he was too embarrassed by his costume to greet the kids.

>A Long & Rainy Weekend

>The boys had a long weekend.  We filled our time very well.  They even got to make an Arbonne sales call with me, my customer was so sweet to let me bring them along.

The house begins to look like Halloween with Ronan’s homemade decorations.  When he was just old enough to hold a crayon, we would create homemade crafts and art to decorate for each holiday.  I am not creative so I usually turn to the internet for inspiration.  I was out for a little while and returned home to find John and the boys immersed in Halloween decorating activities.  Now, Ronan begins the process without prompting and creations I would never have imagined adorn our home.  Below is the first of the planned flying bat, ghost and jack-o-lantern.

Window stickies compliments of Miss Donna.

Lots of therapy for Riley to Dr. Steve Stohler’s new chiropractic office location.  We are so fortunate to have Dr. Steve give his time and expertise to keeping Riley healthy.  One day soon I will share our introduction to Dr. Steve.  Then on to horseback riding at Naples Equestrian Challenge.  For the 3rd session in a row Riley performed beautifully, working hard without even being asked to push up and sit up, smiling all the while.  He does appear to perform better on the cooler, rainy days.  No pictures again… I was busy being Riley’s sidewalker.

My mother has returned from up North.  We are all glad to have her back.  Ronan brought back another tradition the moment she returned… games.  We may all be a little gamed out after quite a bit of Monopoly Junior and Rummicub which he expects to play again this evening, I suspect the day will be full enough.  I’m glad he enjoys that time together:-)

Today he has Physical Therapy and later a school conference.

When I wonder where my time goes and how I accomplish not nearly as much as intended, I can look back and remember how these moments ate up my time.  I do need to get life on track.  But, all this care for Riley is invaluable to our future.  The healthier Riley is… the healthier our family is… it’s worth every moment.  Admittedly though, I am quite challenged to put it all in perspective and time budgeted.

So, how do you all balance the needs of your special child with health care and educational needs which dominate the family life?

It is ADHD Awareness Week.  Here is a link to the current CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) newsletter with helpful articles.

We are all special.. by Stacie Wiesenbaugh

Return to Florida: Donna Lee

I would like to begin with a new years blessing.

It is going to be a Fantastic year, I can feel it!  As was this summer.

As you all know, my brother received my bone marrow, and as of today, his latest biopsy shows 91% of it being his own. Thank you God. The month of September I spent with my 14 month-old grandson, helping him to adjust to daycare and spending as much time as possible bonding with him. He rode his first choo choo train with “safta” (grandma in Hebrew). I was very privileged to have had that time with him.

Presently I am back in Naples, Florida and my first visit, after mom, was to Riley and his family. Riley had a tough summer, involving seizures and coughs, increasing his muscle tone, tightening them, as well as his tendons and ligaments. After not seeing him for 4 months, I noticed how much he has grown, especially taller. He seemed to have enjoyed the massage, because, as I pointed out in a previous blog, he vocalizes and sings to me.

I started out wishing us all a wonderful new year, or Shana Tova (Hebrew), filled with good health, happiness and productivity. This week I will resume my volunteer work at Naple’s Equestrian Challenge, become a more active participant in Freedom Waters Foundation organization, continue dancing with my buddies from the Federation For Developmentally Disabled, at Fred’s Diner, every Tuesday evening, and of course, visit Riley on a weekly basis. Being part of these activities, gives me the energy of life and fills my soul with true abundance. Thank you God.

Donna Lee
Nameste v’Shalom

New digital Parenting Specialneeds Magazine is out today.

Shared by Debby Frenkel:

FWF Made the News in Naples tonight!  Thank you to Paul Gessler who did a great job on the story at ABC!
Enjoy and please forward and share with all your friends —-

Here’s the link to the storyhttp://www.abc-7.com/global/story.asp?s=15637085

Here’s to what we do!  Thank you all who Make it Happen!

Today’s discovery for my international readers: European Disability Forum

Forget Me Not Fridays

Yesterday’s Lesson for Mommy

I know my son.

I am familiar with his limitations.  In many ways, as Riley grows life has more challenges; for one reason, his muscles cannot support his growing body and continually meeting goals is not his reality.

So, yesterday being a rainy, dreary day here with lots on our schedule including an evening meeting for Riley to set through and have me feed him his dinner during presentation… I simply went through the motions and brought only the supplies I had to have, which being special needs means plenty of stuff must be on hand.

The camera was given passing thought but left behind.  I have lugged it every riding lesson for months on end and did not plan on getting it wet for no reason.  Riley has not sat well for a horseback riding picture in some time.  Naples Equestrian Challenge is currently getting a good turn out on volunteers and once again this fall I had the pleasure of watching from ringside.  Watching without my camera as Riley performed the best he has on a horse in the past year!  Riley pushed with everything he had to sit up tall on Pick A Spot’s back, he turned at the sound of his sidewalkers Rhonda and Deb, and laughed when they trotted and he responded over the low jump.  Was it the cool weather? Was Riley simply pulling it all together?  Did having a PT as his sidewalker (Deb usually circulates the ring) help him maneuver into place?  Does in matter?  Riley worked hard, he interacted, he had fun and I got to witness it.

Yes, my son can have really great days and I never know when they are coming.  Carry that camera Mom!

No, I have no picture to share his hard work with you!  Or to remind myself how hard Riley works and that he can still improve.

I can show you a link to Parenting Special Needs for for helpful files to download including a SMILE poster for your classrooms and workplaces.

We are all special… by Stacie Wiesenbaugh

Week of Success and Childhood Heartbreak


The fundraiser Friday at Chico’s The Company Store for Naples Equestrian Challenge was a great success!  I gathered my carpoolers and arrived a few minutes after 4 pm to discover the warehouse hopping.  Our participants were serious shoppers.  By the end of our allotted time the check-out line snaked back around the clothing racks and everyone had armloads of loot.

I am so excited to discover the results and want to hear everyone’s experience.  Thank you Chico’s!


Three years ago Ronan entered Bobbi Noonan’s VPK.  As the year went on, one of the other Dad’s, Don,  and I set up regular playdates for the boys to give each other some child free afternoons.  Ronan and Ethan became inseparable and adored each other from the start, even asking for sleep overs.

SWFL has been particularly hard hit by the economy and Ethan’s parents have decided to relocate to Florida’s east coast where businesses are significantly busier and his mom has already found a great new position as interior decorator extraordinaire.  We are all so happy for the family for making so many positive changes in their life!  We will miss them dreadfully, however.  Ronan has taken his loss very hard.

“Can we move to Fort Lauderdale too?” he asked through tears last week.

“No, for now we will stay here but you will still be friends.” I tried to comfort him.

“But, I love him!”  Now I was heartbroken as well.

Friends forever pose with their teacher, the beautiful Miss Lauren.

Always the sweetest and most considerate child I have ever met outside of my own.  Ethan considers Riley his next best buddy.  Riley has a friend!  And he’s leaving…
Ronan sobbed all the way to school that morning, heartbroken.

We will still have playdates!  Better gas up the car.

Early Thursday morning after the last sleep over Ethan heads out the door to Fort Lauderdale with his new lion webkinz, “Mr. Ronan.”

Late that evening a picture came through my cell from the amazing Ms. Maija.  Ms. Maija is Riley’s other friend forever as well.  Ethan held his new buddy tight and hasn’t let go since.

Yes, Ethan you are still part of this family.  We all love you.

We are all special… by Stacie Wiesenbaugh

Improving Lives One Stride at a Time


The Charity Register 2010

BEST OF > The Charity Register 2010
Your guide to great causes along the gulfshore.

Author: Jennifer Freihofer
Photographer: Brian Tietz

As the horse breaks into a trot, six-year-old A.J. sits up straighter, tosses his helmet-strapped head back and bursts into a contagious giggle. His parents, Michon and Angel Chamorro, laugh from outside the covered riding arena. Then, A.J. leans forward onto the pillow that supports him in the saddle.

Away we go!: Volunteers Brittany Reynoso (left) and Christiane Daniel (right) help six-year-old A.J. Chamorro as he rides Spot at Naples Equestrian Challenge.

At Naples Equestrian Challenge, A.J’s time on the specially trained horse, surrounded by certified instructors and volunteers, is a form of physical therapy for his cerebral palsy. His parents say it’s worth the drive from Estero to see his upper body strength, posture and vocals improve. Plus, his dad says, he absolutely loves it. “Every time he hears the word ‘horse’ or sees a picture, he’s pointing,” Angel says.
Each week, the program serves more than 100 children and adults with developmental delays caused by disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome to stroke and amputations. Another 40 to 50 riders participate in mental health activities for autism, attention-deficit disorder and more.
Melissa Caffey, Naples Equestrian Challenge’s former executive director, says most participants are on scholarship and ride about 40 times a year. They are charged only $10 per half-hour session, although it costs the program between $4,000 to $5,000 per rider.
Stacie Wiesenbaugh of Bonita Springs brings her son Riley Buck, eight, to ride. He was born with a brain hemorrhage that caused cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia, hearing and visual impairments, and other complications that require him to be strapped to the horse. She remembers their first visit. “The wind was really blowing,” she says. “The smell of the barn hit him, and he started laughing hysterically and wouldn’t stop. It was like this place was the right place for him. There are very few opportunities for him to participate in anything and enjoy himself.”
A.J.’s dad appreciates all the hard work put in by the 270 volunteers each week. “I think it’s nice to see people take time out of their lives to help kids that need it,” he says. “It’s a great program. I hope it never ends.”
Naples Equestrian Challenge is one of so many worthy charitable organizations throughout Collier and Lee counties. The list on the following pages provides the goals of 267 organizations and offers ways for you to get involved along the Gulfshore.
—Denise Scott

Appointment Summer

It does seem as if life with Riley is all about schedules and appointments.  The production of planning, getting through the next activity and arriving at the right place and time, in the reasonable mindset, wear us out.  I find myself procrastinating with each line on my list for the day and admittedly some of the lines are left unmarked.

Riley’s schedule is packed as Summer ends very soon as Lee County returns to school on August 8.  The boys and I have spent a lot of time traveling and hanging out in waiting rooms.  These events wear my patience thin with the various people we encounter.  It takes a great amount of energy simply to show up somewhere with Riley that finding us easily disrespected vexes me (See April Fools in a Doctors Office or My Fragile Child).
The neurologist clinic appointment had been canceled on us and rescheduled to a later date and time without consultation. I had asked for a time change if possible to an earlier hour and was told Riley could be seen at 8:20 am.  We arrived with moments to spare and watched three ambulatory patients arrive after us and leave before we were called. I questioned the nurse on one of her pass through’s to make sure she was aware Riley was available, she assured me she did.  At 9:20 am we were finally called back for the same nurse to take our stats. Unhappily, I paused at the scheduling desk reminding the woman behind the computer of our allotted time.  Only then did she notice, but did not care, that we had been booked at 8:20 at the same time as another patient.  My voice raised and our Neurologist rescued her by dispensing with our stats and seeing Riley immediately.  The doctor has no fault in this and I immediately felt guilty for complaining.  Dr. O has been nothing but kind,considerate and gentle with us.  However,this treatment by office staff has become all too common everywhere we go.  Do some see a child in a wheelchair and feelthat child’s time is somehow of less value… he will not complain, he does not have a playdate planned and mom is simply a state at home mom with no value to society.
The week continues with lots of un-returned phone calls and planning to finally schedule a Neurosurgery appointment for this coming Monday.  A CT and shunt series at a radiology office.  The dreaded Ophthalmology has been delayed until Fall.  All of it adding to the stress of going through these motions to keep all parties placated in the oversight of Riley’s care.
Wednesday found us at the dental school,for both boys for teeth cleaning.  The school has been a wonderful way to care for Riley’s needs.  The young dentists are undeterred by the special needs challenge and interested in his health as opposed to some of the long-term professionals we have tried in the past.  Hopefully no one is offended by my summing them up so disinterested in Riley, I spent my early years of work in my fathers’Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Office and learned the importance of respecting the patient through observing my Dad over the years.   I maintain a “cheat sheet” of important information which I have shared with every medical office Riley enters. There are no secrets to Riley’s condition.   Upon being called back for our appointment, a previously unknown Sergeant had a copy of Riley’s cheat sheet up on the screen for review.  “Any changes to his condition?,” she demanded. “No, pretty much the same,” was my answer.  Then I added, “he seized on Sunday.”  This met with a reprimand that they must know everything right up front and she began to argue with me.  We had only just begun the conversation.  Here she was with full-disclosure right in front of her and she wants to yell at me.  She started to go down the road that he could not even be seen that day having had a recent seizure.  I was taken aback.  Perhaps special needs do not have the right to full care, it is simply too risky for medical professionals to work with them?  Maybe she does not comprehend special needs or the explanation of “seizure disorder” that I had put directly in front of her. Before the confrontation escalated, a familiar face appeared, Dr. M, Riley’s first dentist in that office before she graduated.  She had returned to be one of the leads in the office and she was a very welcome and reassuring presence.  The Sergeants’ concerns were left behind and Riley received his x-rays and cleaning which he tolerated beautifully.
Some of my frustration with all these appointments is due simply to navigating everyone we encounter.  So frequently, people block our path, quickening their step to be ahead of us or allowing children to stare to the point of causing us discomfort. There are individuals who cross our path with consideration.  Those of you who do this, I notice and I remember  and appreciate your gesture no matter how humble.  I remember the tall and handsome twenty-something Asian man tripping over his own feet when Ronan reached the door of McDonald’s off Daniels before him.  He could not help, but the intention is enough for me.  I remember the sixty-something gentleman passing by during the wheelchair unloading at NDIC asking how he could assist, this is a procedure that is difficult to explain,but the desire to help warmed my heart. Those small moments are few and far between, but they stay with me.
Robert, Burt, Heidi and Pick A Spot bring Riley around to pose for the camera.
Ronan waits patiently.  Note: both boys have added to their tie dye collection.
Thursday brought us back to Naples Equestrian Challenge for Riley’s lesson.  Currently, there are plenty of volunteers,likely this is thanks to the high-schooler’s fitting in their community service hours over the summer which gave me the chance to snap some shots of Riley aboard Pick A Spot.

 Taking a moment from the barn, volunteers rest in the sliver of shade. July 28, 2011 4:30 pm.
Better gonow and do some more planning.
Anyone else out there have appointment stories to share? I thank you for stopping by.
We are all special… by Stacie Wiesenbaugh

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