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Effingham Magazine

COVID-19 is impacting a special therapeutic program for children with disabilities, the Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center, Inc. The center is asking for corporate and other support.

A non-profit organization led by a retired police officer which provides therapeutic equine activities for children with disabilities who live in Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham, Effingham, and Screven Counties needs help. Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center, Inc. (FETC), which serves children with a wide range of disabilities including Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and vision and hearing impairment, has been hit especially hard in recent months due to closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and is now asking for the public’s support.


“We are asking for any level of financial support from businesses and individuals so that we can continue to serve these special needs children,” Bonnie Rachael, FETC’s founder and executive director said. A retired Savannah Police Officer who was with the department’s mounted patrol, Rachel has led FETC since its founding in 2006 on a farm in Guyton, GA. FETC is a 501(c)3 charitable organization.  


The COVID-related school closures have had a tremendous impact on FETC. “Like many other organizations, we had to shut down our program to the public due to the social distancing requirements of COVID-19 and the closing of the schools where many of our children come from for therapeutic riding programs,” Rachael explained.


“We are in real financial need. Donations, a major source of our funds, have dropped dramatically due to folks losing their jobs, struggling to keep their businesses open, and trying to pay their bills.  Our United Way funds have been reduced by a third and funds from Easter Seals are no longer available. We had to cancel our summer camp program, participation in Georgia’s Equine Special Olympics, and other revenue-generating activities. One of our biggest fundraisers of the year, our Corporate Golf Tournament, which would have netted $30,000 for our program, has been postponed and may be cancelled. 


“However, our program cannot stop operating,” Rachael added. “No matter what, we must continue to care for our specially trained therapeutic horses, and maintain the barn, the stables and other facilities we use with the children.” She further explained that they have specialized instructors, who are very difficult to find. According to Rachael, “You can shut the doors of some businesses and just stop all the activity to save money for a short time possibly, but our program is so specialized, we have so few staff members, and we work with such a very specialized group of children, that we cannot completely close and have any expectation of reopening right away, if at all. We don’t want to lose our specially trained personnel and volunteers; it is too hard to find them again.”


Horses Helping People Help People: FETC. center Is a Premier accredited member center of the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International. FETC has received the Rotary Club’s “Service Above Self Award”, the Low Country Down Syndrome’s “President’s Award”, and a Certificate of Recognition from the Social Workers Association of Georgia. 


Anyone interested in helping FETC should go to, or email Bonnie Rachael at [email protected] .


ABOUT FETC: The mission of Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center is to improve the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of children with disabilities by involving them in therapeutic equine activities that include horseback riding and equine assisted learning (EAL), a school program designed for the special needs classes at local schools that uses therapeutic riding and care of the horses to achieve the teaching goals of the required school curriculum IEP and GAA in an innovative, supportive environment.


BACKGROUND ON THERAPEUTIC RIDING: Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social well-being of individuals with special needs. It provides benefits in the areas of health, education, sport, and recreation. A horse is the only animal whose walk reflects that of the human and it can be very beneficial for riders who have difficulty and are unable to walk. Riders with sensory disorders also find that it provides input which can provide a calming effect even after the lesson is over. Riders with physical disabilities find that it offers them an independence that is difficult for them to achieve anywhere else. Perhaps the greatest benefit of the horse is its ability to see past the rider’s disability and build a bond with that rider.


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