A new non-profit organization in Fort Smith is looking for help to make a difference in the lives of disabled children. Manes & Miracles at Chaffee Crossing received its non-profit status in April 2018. Now the organization needs $3.5 million to go from a dream to a reality.
Once completed, the non-profit will provide therapeutic riding, hippotherapy and aquatic therapy to those with a wide diversity of physical, cognitive, mental and emotional disabilities, its website states.
“Horseback riding mimics the human gait, therefore the rider shows improvement in posture, muscle control, sensory motor skills, balance, and much more. Internally the rider makes progress towards self-awareness, self-confidence, self-discipline and concentration. The horses’ legs become those of the rider, giving them a feeling of freedom and mobility that they are unable to experience in other aspects of their lives. Almost always, these riders and animals establish a very strong bond allowing the rider to experience unconditional love, trust and self-worth,” the site said of the benefits of equine-assisted therapy.
Manes & Miracles will be located near the intersection of Highway 59 and Highway 22 in Chaffee Crossing, north of Highway 22, east of Highway 59, south of the Arkansas River, on land donate by Cliff and Marcy Cabaness, Cliff Cabaness said. Once constructed, the state-of-the-art equine-assisted therapy center will include 20,000-square-foot covered arena, 7,000 square feet barn and 6,500 square feet therapy facility that will include aquatic therapy pool, therapy rooms and offices, shows information provided Barbara Durkee, development director.
The facility will be built in stages with phase one being the arena at a cost of approximately $900,000; phase two being the barn with an estimated cost of $500,000; and phase three being the therapy facility with a cost of $2.1 million, Durkee said.
The costs include:
• Land development — 115,000, which includes 15,000 for site survey and $20,000 for soil testing, both of which were tested, along with environmental impact at $5,000 and pre-construction preparation at $75,000;
Plan review, permits and fees — $20,000;
• Construction costs — $2.4 million, which includes $900,000 for the arena, $1.85 million for the therapy facility and $442,000 for the barn;
• Architectural, engineering and design fees — $361,000, which includes $236,000 for architect, mechanical and electrical; $35,000 for structural engineer, $35,000 for civil engineer, $35,000 for project manager and $20,000 for interior design; and
• Additional items — $345,000, including $75,000 for therapy FFE, $50,000 for barn FFE, $5,000 for inspections, $10,000 for reimbursables, $50,000 for construction finance and $155,000 for a 5% contingency.
“Several donations have helped. Like the $20,000 for soil testing was donated. Now we only have to buy or get the nutrients needed for the grass donated at an estimated $3,000-$4,000,” Durkee said.
Organizers have received close to $250,000 in in-kind donations, she added. Land survey and architectural designs have been finished and were donated by Darriell Mathis. Forsgren donated land clearing and Bekaert Steel donated fencing as well as agreed to install the fencing, Durkee said, but the facility needs fence posts.
“We really need the pipe (for the fence posts) donated. It’s $1.05 a foot. That’s $25,000 we need to get the fences finished,” she said.
Though some of the horses will have to be purchased, said Jodi Kusturin, executive director, she believes many of the needed horses will be donate.
“In all the years I’ve done this (at an equine-assisted therapy center in Russellville), we’ve only had to buy two horses. The rest have been donated,” she said, noting that all horses have to be vetted carefully in order to be used for the program.
Along with equine-assisted therapy for disabled children, the center will be the only one in the state offering the Hooves for Heroes program, which helps armed forces veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We will partner with local therapy clinics and Developmental Therapy Centers to allow access to the patrons with disabilities,” Kusturin said.
The therapy center also will partner with the University of Arkansas for clinicals and therapy research, Kusturin said. There are also ongoing talks with Arkansas Colleges of Health Education for research work with therapy students once the college’s programs for physical and occupational therapy begin, she added.
Equine-Assisted therapy provides a three-dimensional movement pattern that is unlike other conventional therapy approaches in which neurodevelopmental progress is often achieved more quickly. Research has showed progress in allowing the child to speak, walk, talk or even eat solid food for the first time after receiving equine-assisted therapy, Kusturin said.
Along with the executive director and development director, the center looks to employ a riding a therapeutic riding instructor at a salary ranging from $25,000 to $40,000 annually, Durkee said.
“We are looking at grants. There is grant money available for salaries, which we are looking into,” she said.
The therapy will rely heavily on volunteers once the program is running fully, Kusturin said.
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 2012-2016, the prevalence of disability in Arkansas for non-institutionalized male or female persons is 16.9% (492,769) of the total population. In Sebastian County, that number is higher with disability representing 18.35% of the population (23,082),” Durkee said.
The program hopes to have phase one completed in April, allowing them to work with a small group clients — three to six riders a week, Kusturin said. Ideally, phases two and three would be finished by the end of the 2019.
“Our vision is to work with 120 clients a week once we have the facility finished,” she said.
Through the Hooves for Heroes program, there is no charge for the equine-assisted therapy for veterans, Kusturin said. Insurance does cover the cost of hippotherapy, she added.
“We will not turn anyone away who needs this. Fees are minimal, and we have offer scholarships, where parents volunteer to cover that fee, and we have sponsorships,” she said.