Reaching out to not-for-profit organisations in the district to see how the Freemasons could help, Colac Freemasons received a reply from Colac Riding for the Disabled. The club has about 12 clients who visit weekly to ride in the wheelchair horse carriage, pony riding and the mechanical horse, or equicizer. For people with severe disability, getting out to the RDA is a huge event. It’s no small feat for the volunteers also. Joyce Howcroft, Secretary RDA Colac said their RDA volunteers are proud to be able to offer a quality equine program incorporating learning, physical activity, involvement and enjoyment for the participants from the Colac community.
“For safety reasons, we are required to keep the horses a distance from the clients who are waiting for their ride/drive. But for years, we have had difficulty pushing wheelchairs across grass to where the horse and carriage are tied up.”
Colac RDA found a company that manufactures roll up mats that can be used on sand or grass for wheelchair access, and this was deemed to be a great solution for their access problem.
Jim Prigg and Brendan Scanlon worked together on the application, and was supported by FFV to make sure the correct details were included. Together FFV and the local Freemasons donated $3550 and the Colac RDA Colac was able to purchase the new special surface material.
As for writing the application, Jim said there’s no need to be a grant writing expert. “You draw from the talents around you. Neil was incredibly helpful, he gives you the feedback to help you rejig it if it needs work.”
The RDA is very pleased with the outcome of safety and easy of access for their clients. While a small, simple project, it allows members in wheelchairs to make their way safely across the grass to reach the horse carriage in all seasons, no matter what the ground conditions are. “That’s the great thing about what the Foundation does, it doesn’t have to be bigger than Ben Hur,” Jim said.
Joyce Hoycroft, Colac RDA Secretary, thanked the Freemasons for supporting their cause.
“Both our clients, as well as volunteers, will benefit from easier and safer access to the horse drawn carriage area. With some clients either being wheelchair dependent, or experiencing some mobility impairment, suitable access enables participation. Their participation to drive a horse drawn carriage delivers a strong sense of achievement within our equine program.”
When local Freemasons visited to see the project in person, they were struck with its importance.
Jim Prigg said that this activity brings young people so much joy. “It’s a highlight of their week – and for those who coordinate the activity. Just to have one ride on a horse, you need nine people to marshal in case the horse rears.
To many of (the Colac RDA clients) the weekly trip to what this wonderful group of volunteers provide is their major outing. To see the looks of gratitude and enjoyment on their faces was truly worthwhile and inspiring.”
As Jim remarked, “If this is what makes freemasonry such a wonderful organisation with the support of the Foundation, then I will continue to look for opportunities in my local community to support such organisations and groups. Thank you to Neil Cripps and the Freemasons Foundation of Victoria”