What has been your favourite volunteer work to date?
I would have to say my favorite volunteer work to date has been serving at the regional Special Olympics Equestrian competition. It is the work that I previously wrote about, and by far it was the most rewarding. The face-to-face time with the participants and the other volunteers made the most impact on me personally. Also, seeing the contribution from start to finish was rewarding. You pretty much know how well it's going while you're doing it.
I served the therapeutic riding center in many capacities. As I mentioned, I fed horses and cleaned stalls, but I also served on the board of directors. Possibly it was more beneficial to the organization for me to serve on the board, but it was very frustrating at times. I have great respect for people that serve in this area, but it really was not my cup of tea. I tend to be a do-er, and not a talker. It is just how I am wired. Unfortunately, there are some who like the prestige of being on the board. These particular individuals really aren't interested in doing anything. If you know me, you know this does not sit well with me. I am an outspoken individual at times and I am not afraid of confrontation. I prefer to call things as I see them, and this can be upsetting to some. I am glad that I did it, and I served my term but, never again.
I also managed one of their largest annual fund raising events, Party at the Preakness. Being an equestrian center, trying to cater to other horse lovers, they held an annal event at Lone Star Park. Lone Star Park is a premier horse racing facility, and we partnered with them to hold an event during the Preakness Stakes. The Preakness, if you aren't aware, is the second leg in the run to the Triple Crown. The event involved a catered lunch, silent auction, and a day of racing for our sponsors. We were allowed to have individuals sponsor actual races held during the day, and our sponsors were given the opportunity to name their race. They also were allowed to view their race at the finish line, and have a photo opportunity with the winning horse and jockey. This was a big money event for the facility, but it took a year to plan. The month leading up to the event was gruelling.
I mean, really long days.
Party at the Preakness was very prestigious. We usually had anywhere from 100 to 200 people in attendance annually, and it was a thing. We were able to raise a lot of money for our organization, and it was fun if you like that sort of thing. I managed the project on two separate occasions, and will never forget the experience. The downside of the deal was that it really takes you away from the people that benefit from the program. You are catering to the movers and the shakers, and the people willing to put up the big bucks.
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
It is a necessary evil.
Again, not really my cup of tea. I am not bragging, but I was good at this. We broke records both years that I managed the event. It was just not something that I could do yearly. Not-to-mention, while I used to enjoy horse racing, I have really lost a taste for it. There have been too many high profile accidents that seem useless to me. Those horses are way too young to be doing what they are doing. They are also bred for speed. This doesn't always lead to longevity.
The only horse racing I have kept up with has been Quarter Horse racing, and that is a completely different animal than the thoroughbreds. To say I have kept up with it is an understatement. I haven't seen a race in two years, and I have never followed individual horses or trainers. If you have never experienced horse racing, and would like to, I highly recommend the Quarter Horses. The races are short and fast based on the nature of the breed. To stand at the rail as they come down the track is quite exhilarating, and I don't mean from a gambling side of things. The animals themselves are amazing. To feel the power pounding the ground, the dirt flying up behind them, and to see the speed at which they move - breath taking.
Factoid: The Quarter Horse is one of the top ten fastest land animals in the world.
I come at things from the love of the animal, and while I enjoy certain aspects of things, where animals are involved, there are always dirty little secrets. There are pros and cons with everything, so take all things with a grain of salt.
I know I am getting off-point here. Back to the question. What did I enjoy most?
I enjoyed being able to provide some nourishment to exhausted volunteers.
I enjoyed seeing a rider, so full of excitement because they won a medal.
I enjoyed seeing a rider, so full of excitement just because they competed.
I enjoyed handing some one a plate of food and a cold drink.
One funny story, then I am out of here...
As I stated previously, we were able to have all of our food and beverages donated for the Special Olympics competition. Based on that fact, I refused to charge anyone. I also refused to limit what was taken. We had several adult group homes that participated in these competitions. These are adults with disabilities. Some of them had family for support and some of them did not. Living in the environment that they did, their lives were very structured. Their activities, their meals, everything...structured and managed. I know it has to be that way. It is the only way to make things work, but we had one individual that kept showing up at the food barn. He came several times during the day. He only took one thing at a time, and always seemed hesitant, like he was waiting to be told, "No." I had noticed him, and just tried to down play things. We made sure he had what he needed, and that he was having a good time.
A few hours later, I had a volunteer show up at the food barn foot-stomping mad. She was complaining because she felt people were taking advantage of the food. She felt they were taking too much and she wanted to make sure I was aware of it. She also wanted me to put a stop to it. Well, re-read the beginning of this article.
Outspoken and confrontational here.
This didn't really sit well with me. We had plenty, and we weren't going to refuse anyone. This was their day, and they were going to enjoy every aspect of it as far as I was concerned. After talking with her for a minute, I realized where her frustration was coming from. My frequent visitor was down in the main show barn. It was his turn to ride. There was just one little problem. He had on a jacket and he was refusing to give it up. They had begged, pleaded, tried everything they could think of, and he wasn't budging.
Come to find out, he had his pockets full to the brim with food and drinks.
When it finally hit me, I had to hold back the tears. I quietly asked the volunteer what she did when she got hungry or thirsty? She said she got what she wanted. It slowly started to dawn on her. We weren't talking about an individual that was just trying to take advantage of the situation. We were talking about an individual that did not have the right to eat or drink what he chose, when he chose. He was not allowed to walk to the refrigerator, at all hours of the day, and stand there with the door open while he decided what he wanted.
You know what I am talking about.
We all do it.
Sometimes at 2:00 am in our pj's.
I am not making a case for abuse or neglect. It just was not an option based on a facility that was in charge of caring for him and the others that lived there. So, I asked the question.
"For one day, can't he just have what he wants?"
He rode that horse with pockets full of food and drink. If something fell out, his side-walkers picked it up and carried it for him. When he was done, they returned his goods. He didn't medal. He didn't care. For one day, he got to have whatever he wanted. Those are the things that I will never forget, and that I will cherish the most.