Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Service to disabled recognised

Benalla Riding for Disabled long-standing volunteers were honoured for their dedication to the cause.

November 26, 2012 4:55am

Harry Dennis, Clare Fox and John Wilkie at the Golf Club on Saturday night,

Without the selfless volunteers working behind the scenes, Benalla Riding For Disabled wouldn’t have enjoyed more than 30 years of success.

On Saturday night more than three decades of service was recognised with a special presentation made to John Wilkie and Harry Dennis, who have been described as ‘‘the backbone of Benalla’s RDA’’.

John has donated more than 32 years of service to the organisation, but the decision to take a back seat came earlier this year.

‘‘The reward for us is the kids — seeing what they get out of it and the smile on their face is so inspiring,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

Harry Dennis is another long-standing volunteer who praised John’s work.

‘‘If we didn’t have John, then we wouldn’t have Riding for Disabled,’’ Mr Dennis said.

The group has been teaching horse riding to students from Benalla East, Benalla West and Benalla 31 primary schools with mild and severe disabilities including autism and Down syndrome, during the past three decades.

During their time with RDA volunteers the students learn riding skills but they also learn what is involved in caring for a horse. This gives the children the chance to develop self-confidence and social interaction skills, as well as physical benefits such as working muscles that are often restricted due to their disability.

But Benalla RDA needs your help now more than ever. Facing a huge financial struggle, the organisation is hoping more businesses and community members can support the work they do.

In recent months a host of letters were sent out seeking donations, but with only three coming back, the group is struggling to meet operating costs.

Benalla RDA head coach Carolyn Walters said without the dedicated volunteers and the community’s financial support, the group would not be able to run its Wednesday morning sessions.

‘‘We rely solely on local businesses’ support and donations, as there is currently no government funding to support our cause,’’ she said.

Ms Walters has praised the support of Bendigo Bank, which has allowed two of its staff to assist with the running of RDA in Benalla.

‘‘RDA Benalla are grateful for the special support and donations of so many people who have done their bit to help out.

‘‘I would like to personally thank farrier Neil Harvey, Clare Fox from Horse Massage Therapy and Clipping Services, dentist Sarah Wynd, Benalla Veterinary Clinic, Horse Habits, and North East Produce,’’ she said.

RDA Benalla presented Clare Fox and Meg Pigram with a bunch of flowers donated by Blooms on Bridge for their continued support.

Mr Wilkie and Mr Dennis each received a trophy they can treasure along with the many happy memories RDA has given them during the past 30 years.

Anyone wishing to support RDA can do so by visiting Bendigo Bank and speaking with Georgie or, if you can’t provide financial assistance but can spare a few hours, phone Carolyn Walters on 0415123938.

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