Equestrian Team Gears up for Special Olympics
Local chiropractor Marilyn Peterson uses horse therapy to help special needs children. Her team will compete in this weekend's Special Olympics.
Dr. Marilyn Peterson is equal parts chiropractor, equine therapist and mother. The biological mother of three and adoptive mother of another three, she said she finds herself surrounded by children on a regular basis.
Fifteen years ago come October, she received a call from a caseworker. She and her husband were already considering adoption, but they weren't quite expecting this: three children, ranging between the ages of 16 months and five years, needed a permanent home. Immediately.
The call came on Thursday, and by the following Tuesday they were the children's legal guardians.
The children came from a very bad situation and had their share of emotional challenges, but the youngest, at 16 months, exhibited more than the other two. He was diagnosed as severely autistic, and no therapy seemed to be effective.
Until he encountered animals.
"We tried a lot of different therapies but saw no dramatic change," she said. "Then, when I came out to horse therapy through the speech pathologist, everything got better."
Just a few short years later, in May of 2002, she purchased Parkwood Farms, and she and her family have been there ever since. The property is nearly 10 acres and includes riding trails and a large barn. Dr. Peterson hopes to offer a program for veterans soon, along with the therapy she already offers to children with special needs.
This weekend, Aug. 24-26, she will take her team to the Georgia Special Olympics in Perry, Ga. Dr. Peterson is the Equestrian coach for Gwinnett County. They held their dress rehearsal on Saturday, which you can see in the video above.
The children who Dr. Peterson works with at the center suffer from a variety of challenges, including Down Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, emotional issues and learning disabilities.
Parkwood Farms has no paid staff. All the work is done by a team of dedicated volunteers. Each of the six horses she keeps at the farm costs around $350 per month. That doesn't take into account sickness or other miscellaneous items.
"Everything we need is provided," she said. "I don't know how it happens, but it happens."
There is a seventh horse currently at the farm who needs to find a home and family of his own soon. Contact Dr. Peterson if you're interested.
A few opportunities are coming up soon to help Parkwood Farms with their costs. First, they are offering an Adopt-a-Horse program. A family could pay, for example, for one horse's hay one week out of the month. Or, if you're able, consider taking over the cost for an entire month.
In October, the farm will host a Safe Halloween the Saturday before Halloween. Additionally, beginning in September, they will sell Christmas trees online, a portion of which will go directly to the farm.
They also need supplies, like saddles, bug spray and grooming supplies.
Other ways to help are by sponsoring a child, or sponsoring a family as they attend the Special Olympics. You can donate through PayPal on Parkwood Farms' website.
Finally, you can donate your time, like volunteers from Snellville United Methodist Church did this past Saturday.