By Lindsay Carey
The ARC of Southington presented a start-up proposal to the Town Council recently for partial use of the Pleasantview Stables to offer life skills and therapeutic services to people with special needs between the ages of 18 to 21.
Trish Gibney, from the ARC of Southington, explained that Southington High School must provide transitioning opportunities for special needs kids starting at age 18 and ending at 21. However, according to her there aren’t many places that employ people with special needs.
“There are just not enough opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Gibney. “Imagine finding out that after all those years of school that only one place that you can find to work will result in a paycheck of less than ten dollars.”
The program that ARC hopes to provide incorporates opportunities for therapy, education and real job skills. Gibney said that not only will the group be able to ride horses, but they will learn how to care for an animal, how to get a job at a farm, and the duties of the job such as cleaning the stalls and upkeep of the grounds.
“We as a community have the chance to provide transition opportunities, therapeutic and recreation endeavors, education and most importantly a sense of purpose to this most deserving group of men and women,” said Gibney.
According to the presentation, if approved, ARC would use the existing structures at Pleasantview Stables, specifically the front barn, one of the riding rings and the paddocks on the right facing DePaolo.
Gibney also said that this program would be of no cost to the town, because ARC would seek out donations and grants as well as recruit volunteers to help run the facility. Gibney said that they have not yet begun this process, because they wanted to reach out to the Town Council for the green light first.
Another challenge Gibney shared is the experience required to run a therapeutic riding program. Gibney said that they need someone to become PATH certified in order to run the program. The certification requires an experienced rider and educated about horses.
She also mentioned that the PATH certification takes a year of training and then four to six months of mentoring someone who already has a therapeutic riding program.
Gibney said a group from ARC visited a therapeutic riding program in Naugatuck and that they have taken an interest in mentoring them.
When Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio asked about a proposed start date for the program, Gibney explained that it is dependent on all of these factors.
“There’s a lot of i’s we have to dot and t’s we have to cross in order to make this project successful,” said Gibney. “We don’t want to go in and say in four to six months we can make this happen. We’re not sure.”
Riccio also suggested that the Town Council might have some questions for the town attorney regarding the insurance and safety liability for this program.
“There are areas that could use improvement, but it’s got all of the infrastructure in place right now that’s safe,” said Town Attorney Mark Sciota, who invited the group to share their presentation.
Sciota said that the town would treat this project the same way that they treat most of the other organizations and non profits that use town property. He mentioned the baseball and football teams, which have insurance.
Some Town Council members shared their excitement and support for the opportunity.
“It sounds dynamic and worth while and a valuable thing for our community,” said Town Councilor Dawn Miceli.
Riccio said that he would try to get someone from ARC to be included on the LEAF Committee, because the programs could possibly work together.
“The LEAF program is community based farming and their setting aspects of that program up for exactly the same type of people that you guys would like to service,” said Riccio. “I think this is an excellent thing that we kind of intended when we bought this property.”
Despite support from a few council members, the proposal was unanimously tabled. The ARC of Southington will return at a later date with another presentation, including more information.
By Lindsay Carey