When I first met Ben, three adjectives came to mind-sweet, talkative, and inquisitive. However, after meeting his parents, Tom and Mary, I learned that Ben is not always this chatty. Ben has difficulty expressing his thoughts, but not when he's riding at Circle of Hope!

Ben and his family first came to Circle of Hope nearly five years ago. Living in Washington, DC, they heard of Circle of Hope from a brochure that was at Ben's school. The family did some research on therapeutic riding, was put on the waiting list for a year, finally got into Circle of Hope a chance, and never looked back. They now attend a half hour riding session ever Sunday, sometimes with Ben's sister, Sarah, in tow.

In talking with Ben's parents, they stated the obvious benefits of riding-improvements in balance, coordination skills, sense of control and physical strength. However, for Ben (as with many Circle of Hope clients) riding is much more than that.

"Ben engages when he's on the horse. He has conversations with the volunteers as they ride. He even works on academia with Lesley by identifying letters, numbers, and objects in the environment. This type of interaction with people doesn't happen in a lot of other settings."

When I ask Tom and Mary why they thought Ben is more engaged at CHTR as opposed to when he' sat PT or OT, their answer was simple yet indicative of the program... "Circle of Hope is unique. It's an experience he can't get anywhere else." And if you stop to think about it, how many kids can say they get to go horseback riding every week?!

Beyond the benefits to Ben, the family returns again and again to Circle of Hope because of their confidence in the safety of the program, the expertise and compassion of its leader, Lesley, and the enthusiasm and professionalism of its volunteers.

"Everyone at Circle of Hope is generally interested in building a relationship with Ben and our family. They also understand the importance of providing a sense of freedom to special-needs children while balancing it with the limits of such independence. This place is special and unique in every way."