Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

Quantum Leap Farms helps vets with therapeutic horseback rides

RECOMMENDED READING


ODESSA — Mark Lalli fell in love with Quantum Leap Farm.

The 30-year-old veteran, injured nine years ago while serving in Italy, soon became a client after his first visit to the nonprofit that offers therapeutic horseback riding as part of the Wounded Warrior Project.

But he never expected to be put to work.

Lalli now serves on the board of directors and takes photographs at events for the 16-year-old organization that includes former military members, children and adults with special needs and pediatric cancer patients among its clients.

He also met his wife, a Quantum Leap volunteer, at the farm.

"They keep motivating me; they keep challenging me and it keeps me going," Lalli said as he finished a horseback ride, assisted by a volunteer, in a covered arena.

Founded in 2000 by Edie Dopking with the help of friends, the first clients were the volunteers in Dopking's study about the benefits of horseback riding for mobility, the topic of her doctoral dissertation in aging studies at the University of South Florida.

The nonprofit grew with more programs, especially for the military veterans returning from service with physical or mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

"What happens with PTSD is they feel that no one understands them, that they are isolated, not good at anything," said Dopking, 56, who earned her doctorate in 2003. "With horses, you have to earn their trust. Horses are non-judgmental and you have their unconditional acceptance.

"We have had people with PTSD who sometimes haven't hugged anyone in a long time but can then throw themselves around this big, huge horse. They realize, if you can do it with a horse, you can do it with a human being."

The farm in northwest Hillsborough County now sees 1,500 clients a year, has 16 horses, two donkeys, a staff of 19 full- and part-time employees and 600 volunteers.

Some goats and chickens also live on the 20 acres — the farm owns 10 of the acres and leases 10 from the county. Visitors can spot wildlife, including deer and wading birds, in the pastures and on the adjacent 1,700-acre preserve.

The farm offers programs, individualized and in groups, for all ages and various disabilities. Clients pay part of the costs (starting at $35 for a half-hour of riding) with most expenses covered by donations from individuals and corporations, fundraising efforts and grants.

"Scholarships are available," said Sarah Page, program relations coordinator. "We don't turn anyone away who can't pay."

The farm operates on a $1.1 million budget with most of the horses donated and "some are in their second career," having previously resided at riding schools, Page said.

The nonprofit is among those organizations that have recognized the growing number of military veterans committing suicide. September serves as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which promotes resources and awareness around the issue.

Warrior Mission: At Ease, a five-day retreat for veterans and family members, stands as one of the farm's newest programs. It is designed to help those suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, mild traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma.

The 2-year-old program is offered about six times a year, and the goal is for it to be once a month. The participants, usually about eight to 10 in a group, come from across the country with the farm covering the cost of air travel, hotel and other expenses.

It focuses on education, coping and peer support.

"Some have come at really low spots and some have attempted suicide," said Jenna Miller, the farm's program director. "We try to shift their perspective while receiving peer-to-peer support, too."

As for Lalli, he rides at least once a week and "it takes my mind off things. I think only what I do on the ride."

From his rides, he "fell" for one of the horses, Sonic, and decided to be her sponsor and provide for her care.

"I'm her sugar daddy," Lalli said. "But I am the one who is lucky."

After the rides, he returns to his wheelchair with the help of a power lift.

Contact Lenora Lake at [email protected]

 
Comments
Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

CLEARWATER ó The former Pepin Academies executive director who died in a watercraft and boat collision on Sept. 23 had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the level at which the state presumes someone is impaired, a toxicology report showed. Just befo...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

NEW PORT RICHEY ó A man who ended a series of burglaries by breaking into the home of a sleeping woman, where he climbed into her bed, was arrested Monday afternoon, the Pasco County Sheriffís Office said.Russel Smith, 42, now faces three felony char...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

TAMPA ó The Bucs face the defending NFC champions twice in their final six games. As they prepare to go to Atlanta on Sunday, former Tampa Bay first-round pick Adrian Clayborn is enjoying quite a two-week run.Clayborn, 29, had six sacks Nov. 12 in a ...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

TAMPA ó Itís the biggest football game in USF history.Itís two days and 90 miles away. USF at UCF. The 9-1 Bulls against the 10-0 Knights. Itís USF coach Charlie Strong against UCF/Florida/Nebraska coach Scott Frost. Itís the best these two programs ...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida man bites police officer during warrant hearing

Florida man bites police officer during warrant hearing

Miami (AP) ó Authorities say a man bit a police officer who was taking him into custody during a hearing in a Miami courtroom.Miami-Dade police spokesman Argemis Colome tells news outlets the officer suffered a "severe injury" when Godel Leveille bit...
Updated: 1 hour ago

University of Central Florida suspends sorority for hazing

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) ó A University of Central Florida sorority has been suspended after its members were accused of hazing, underage drinking and providing false information to law enforcement.The university placed Alpha Xi Delta on an interim suspens...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Michael W. Smith talks about Texas shooting, Christmas music and Bono

Michael W. Smith talks about Texas shooting, Christmas music and Bono

On the morning after the mass shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Michael W. Smith had pain in his voice. "Itís awful, itís just awful," said the Grammy-winning Christian music superstar. "Everybodyís going to have their opinio...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Life in prison, not death, for Adam Matos, Pasco jury decides

Life in prison, not death, for Adam Matos, Pasco jury decides

NEW PORT RICHEY ó The 12 men and women on Adam Matosí jury were chosen from a pool of nearly 300 people in part for their responses to a single question: Could you condemn a stranger to death for a crime?On Tuesday, the panel said "no" four times, re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

ST. PETERSBURG ó Not all sinister toys are as obvious as a Chucky doll. Many present more subtle threats ó choking hazards, high lead content, privacy concerns. And as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks off, consumer advocates are urging s...
Updated: 1 hour ago