COLUMBIA - Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center hosts a fundraiser each year called Ride-A-Thon to keep its equine therapy program up and running. And while it's nothing out of the ordinary for most riders, this year’s Ride-A-Thon is special for one Columbia boy.
Isaac Vandepopuliere, 13, said he has set his own fundraising goal.
“I told my mom I wanted to raise $3000 for Cedar Creek and that’s what I’ve been trying to get to,” said Vandepopuliere.
He's been working with Cedar Creek since he was eight-years-old. At that time, he had been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Before that diagnosis, Isaac was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, ADHD and anxiety.
“Cedar Creek means a lot to me, it’s shown me a lot about myself. It’s helped me get through things I’ve faced in life,” Vandepopuliere said.
Karen Grindler, founder of Cedar Creek, said the riders aren’t required to raise a set amount. “We’re satisfied with any amount a rider brings in. There’s been times where I’ve had sponsors contribute so that someone could ride.”
Some of the regular riders at Cedar Creek have diagnoses like asperger's or autism, others have physical disabilities. Most riders have helpers who walk alongside the horse to ensure the rider’s safety. There are a few who ride independently, Isaac is one of them.
Vandepopuliere's mother, Stacie Pottinger, said the family was new to working with a child with special needs. They tried to get him all of the therapy and support they could get funding for. Cedar Creek had a great reputation, so they gave it a shot.
Pottinger said since her son has been riding, he’s seen amazing improvements.
“I wasn't really sure what he was going to gain from it, honestly. When they did the registration we learned that his muscle tone was weak so it was going to be beneficial for that,” Pottinger said. “Everything that we have gained from being at Cedar Creek has been amazing. I mean it's hard to even put it all into words. It was our first 'home away from home'. The first place we all felt we belonged.”
Currently, Vandepopuliere has raised more than $2,000 toward his goal. He used Facebook Live to bring in a lot of donations. But he’s also been making presentations to groups of donors.
Grindler said she couldn’t be more proud of his efforts.
“He’s always so excited and enthused about his fundraising. Each year. It warms my heart to know that he came up with this all on his own.”
Each year the program helps about 200 patients through therapy on horseback. Anyone can be a part of the program as long as they have a note from their physician that says the patient could benefit from riding.
This year’s Ride-A-Thon will be held on October 29. With donations and pledges, Ride-A-Thon allows people to come and ride on 60 acres of land. Riders can bring their own horses, and Cedar Creek’s riders can ride their normal equine partners.