Carousel Ranch hosted its 10th annual pancake breakfast with a Valentine’s Day theme to kickstart its month of fundraising and to further shed light on its enrichment programs and the community it serves on Saturday morning.
Carousel Ranch was founded in 1997 with the mission of helping to improve the lives of children and adults with special needs. What first started as equestrian therapy has now expanded to also included a “Ready to Work” program in which Carousel Ranch students receive guidance and mentorship to prepare them for life after high school.
“There’s so many benefits to equestrian therapy, obviously the physical but there’s also the cognitive, social and behavioral benefits as well,” said Executive Director Taylor Adachi.
The equestrian therapy program is geared toward children, added Adachi, but the older students participate in the Ready to Work program in which students are taught basic life skills so they can succeed as individuals in regular everyday life.
“We have three different levels. We teach them steps to get a job,” said Adachi. “We teach a lot of independence skills.”
The students cooking and serving pancakes were practicing the soft skills taught in the program at Saturday’s event.
Aaron O’ Dwyer was practicing his customer service skills and communicating with the attendees. He was serving pancakes topped with syrup, berries and whipped cream. He was also making sure attendees had their utensils and was greeting them politely.
O’Dwyer has received equestrian therapy from the program since he was a 5-year-old. Now almost 23, his favorite thing about being a part of the organization is working at the onsite store.
He sells merchandise and food, and has the chance to learn how to handle money.
The idea of the theme was developed by Carousel Ranch President Missy Carter.
Most of the nonprofit’s fundraisers take place at night and attendees don’t have the chance to witness the ranch during the day, and see everything it has to offer, including the scenic views, horses, and how well the students connect with them, said Carter. That is why they focused on making their pancake and pajamas breakfast a fun event catered to all age groups.
Those in attendance included board members, family and friends, and those interested in learning more about the programs and supporting the organization’s mission.