CP&R Therapeutic Rec Program holds barn party on Saturday

Amy Leonard

CULLMAN – The Cullman Parks and Recreation (CP&R) Therapeutic Recreation Program hosted a Barn Party at HOPE Horses, Inc. on Saturday, April 30. With the perfect mid-spring afternoon weather, fun games, face painting, hot dogs and horses, the party was an event that couldn’t have been planned any better.

Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen and a feeling of trust. Its synonyms include optimism, confidence, assurance and faith. For our young ones who have special emotional, physical, social and/or cognitive needs, hope can be elusive.

Yet, at HOPE (Horses Offering People Encouragement) Horses, Inc., providing recreational activities and play for the special needs community is the order at hand and fun is the name of the game. Specialized, safe therapeutic horsemanship programs for individuals with various diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, autism, down syndrome and many others are conducted and supervised by Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) instructors.

Ed Huddleston, a local parent, explained how therapeutic riding has benefited his daughter. “It’s given her more confidence. It’s definitely added to that and it’s actually helped with her speaking by giving the horses commands on what to do.”

HOPE Executive Director and Cullman native Kelsey Rice brings enthusiasm and a strong passion for service to the nonprofit organization which she joined in November 2015 upon graduation from Auburn University.

“Families who are interested in participating in our programs can download an application from our website, get it filled out along with the physician’s portion as we want to make sure we work in conjunction with their medical doctor, and then we can take a tour at that time just to make sure it’s something the child is interested in. We can make an appointment so the family can watch a lesson to really observe exactly what we do. We set up an evaluation and the family tells us what they expect their child to gain from the experience and we explain what we expect their child to get out of the program. It’s a great opportunity and our staff and the families work together to make sure we provide the best experience for the child.”

CP&R’s Therapeutic Recreation Program offers numerous activities for Cullman’s special needs community and the Barn Party was just the latest! Normally, every Monday night is free swim night at the Cullman Wellness and Aquatics Center’s (CWAC) indoor pool from 6-8 p.m., although this is on hold now while the indoor pool is undergoing renovations.

Cullman’s favorite and most inspirational summer league, the Miracle League, kicked off its baseball season earlier in April at the Field of Miracles in Heritage Park. Birmingham has its Barons, but we have our very own team of champions who play every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 1630 Field of Miracles Drive in Cullman next to Ingle Park. If you’re looking for a local team to support this summer, check them out!

Volunteer opportunities are endless at HOPE and in the special needs community. HOPE volunteers must be age 14 or older and are encouraged to visit the website at www.hopehorses.org and visit the  volunteer link where the options range from helping with lessons to barn chores and special events. The volunteer application is available for download as well. HOPE Horses can also be reached at 256-841-6290.

For more information on CP&R’s Therapeutic Recreation Program, please visit http://cullmanrecreation.org/programs-events/therapeutic-recreation, call Kelly Pulliam at 256-734-9157 or email kpulliam@cullmanrecreation.org.