Local 1st Source Bank continues their tradition of generosity and outreach to the communities they serve with a recent donation of $14,200 to Reins of Life. The organization is a therapeutic horseback riding facility that offers mounted and unmounted activities for both children and adults who have been diagnosed with a variety of physical, social, and cognitive disabilities. Today's donation was desperately needed to help defray the costs of a recent roof replacement at the Michigan City facility.
Dorota Janik serves as executive director of Reins of Life.
“We serve riders who have autism, MS, traumatic brain injury, paralysis, muscular dystrophy… you name it,” Janik says. “As long as there is no medical contraindication, we can help.”
With locations in both Michigan City and South Bend, Reins of Life serves 130 people a week with their traditional therapeutic riding program and help more than a hundred students through their school programs. They have roughly 40 animals between the two barns, including full-size horses, miniature horses, and even a miniature donkey. The equines are specially selected and trained before participating in the program.
“Our main criteria is that the animals must have a good temperament,” Janik says. “They have to be quiet and reliable. They can’t scare easily. We prefer more mature animals and when we get new ones, they spend their first thirty days in trials where we try them with noises, unbalanced riders, and more.”
Janik says that they also have side walkers - volunteers who walk beside the horse to keep the riders safe.
“Different riders have different needs, so we test the horses thoroughly before putting them in the program,” Janik says.
Participating in the program helps riders build muscle strength and tone according to Janik, who also sees other benefits.
“We had a student who was non-verbal. We put her through an eight week session and paired her with a horse named Thunder. At the end of her session, the rider spoke, saying, ‘Walk on, Thunder.’ It was emotional. Something within her connected through her time spent here with the horse, and that was amazing to see,” Janik said.
Matt Vessely, Regional President at 1st Source Bank, was proud to be on-hand to present the check to Reins of Life.
“As a bank, we are a reflection of the communities that we serve, so we are always looking for ways to become more invested in those communities. It’s important to know as much as possible about the good things being done nearby and who is doing them,” Vessely said. “This is a donation that we wanted to make to help Reins of Life defray the costs of a much-needed roof replacement here at their Michigan City location. Reins of Life helps a lot of families here and in the South Bend area and we wanted to help them continue what they do.”
Beth Bennett is a special-education teacher at Pine Elementary school in Michigan City.
“I teach 3rd through 6th grade children with moderate disabilities,” Bennett said. “We come here about once a month. The kids really enjoy it! They groom the horses, they walk them around the ring here. We’ve even had some kids ride this year. We’ve seen kids really benefit from coming here, often showing signs of tremendous growth. It’s amazing! There’s a physical element and it also helps the students with cognitive retention and even sensory needs. They get to pet the horses, they get that input and it just really helps so much,” Bennett said.
“The community here is wonderful! The help of the community, our volunteers, and local businesses like 1st Source Bank are what make all that we do here possible,” Janik said.
Reins of Life is a NARHA/PATH Premier accredited facility and a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Volunteers are always welcome. If you would like to volunteer, make a donation or participate in one of their programs, you can find more information on their website.
Don’t miss their upcoming events - Discover the Beauty of Lydick, coming up this Sunday, April 29th, 2018 from 2-5pm at their South Bend location - as well as their Kentucky Derby Celebration to benefit Reins of Life, to be held Friday, May 4th, 2018 at the Blue Chip Casino Hotel and Spa Stardust Event Center.