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Small Miracles hoping to corral volunteers

Elizabeth Saulsbury • Jul 20, 2014 at 9:21 PM

Encouragement and comfort don’t always come from a therapist. Sometimes, they can come from an animal.

Small Miracles Therapeutic Riding Center in Kingsport provides special needs individuals, at-risk teenagers and veterans with equine-assisted activities and therapies that help to instill confidence, courage, social interaction and emotional stability. Small Miracles in currently in need of volunteers.

“We always need volunteers,” said J.R. Russell, equine and barn manager for Small Miracles. “But as soon as school starts next month, volunteers will start dropping.”

Volunteers can have the opportunity to work with the students, as well as the opportunity to assist with barn work. Volunteer work can take place Monday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with student’s lessons beginning around 3 p.m. each day.

“It’s not necessary to have experience with horses, and it’s not necessary to have experience with special needs individuals,” said Linda McBride, volunteer coordinator for Small Miracles. “We give everyone the training to do barn work, as well as the training to work with the students.”

Russell said that he is actively seeking volunteers, especially with program’s fall session approaching in August.

“What I start doing is reaching out especially to people who live close to the Kingsport area who can help out on weekends and also to college students who will need community service hours,” Russell said.

According to McBride and Russell, time and a devotion to Small Miracles’ mission are the two primary requirements for interested volunteers.

“We look for someone who is willing to make themselves available,” said McBride.

“You have to have a heart that loves the horses and cares for the children,” said Russell.

McBride said that volunteers for Small Miracles will not only be giving back to the community, but learning valuable lessons and skills themselves.

“We definitely benefit from people in the community dedicating time to our program, but I think the volunteers benefit even more than we do,” said McBride. “The volunteers that work in the barn gain experience with horsemanship and other skills there, and volunteers that work with the students get a better understanding of the special needs community. If you’ve never had that experience with a special needs individual before, you receive a better appreciation for them and empathy for their families. The appreciation you gain for that special needs community is priceless.”

For more information about becoming a volunteer, email Linda McBride at lindamcbridesm@yahoo.com or call 349-1111.

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