January 25, 2019

Horsepower for Kids is a 501(c)(3) non-profit farm in Tampa, Florida, that offers programs and educational opportunities for children and adults with disabilities. They have partnered with Warriors for Autism, Inc., to offer a summer program specifically for children with autism, ages 6-16.

Their current program offers activities including animal husbandry, agriculture, academics, games, swimming, horsemanship, music, exercise, field trips and family picnic components.

The directors of this program are hoping to expand it to a year-round basis, and to offer weekend respite programs for caregivers. In order to do this, they need to build a modular classroom. The program is currently run in an open tent space, which can get water-logged and bug-ridden after it rains. These issues have forced them to shut down the camp numerous times, and to rely on chemical bug sprays which can be toxic and irritating to individuals with sensory issues.

The owners of the farm have generously donated land on their farm for the building. Adding a modular classroom to the facility will provide participants with a climate-controlled, bug-free environment, which can be used in any type of weather. It would also make it possible to expand the program into a year-round venture, which would allow them to offer services to more families.

Deena Rivera, founder and chief executive of Warriors for Autism, started a donation page at www.GoFundMe.com, with the ultimate goal of raising $51,500.00. She breaks down the construction costs as follows:

  • $33,000 for the unit (14′ x 60′) (includes air and heat)
  • $1,000 for delivery and installation including hurricane straps
  • $5,000 for bathroom conversion to chemical (no septic tank)
  • $1,440 for one year service of toilets
  • $2,000 for hooking up to electricity (approx. labor is donated)
  • $1,500 for hooking up to reclaimed water system (washing only)
  • $3,220 for handicap access – wood with concrete reinforcement
  • $1,770 for permits and fees – only without unforeseen problems
  • $800 for tables, chairs and fixtures – appliances donated

Warriors for Autism was founded in 2010 by Deena and Olando Rivera, after their son, Anthony, was diagnosed. Deena says,

“We had this light-bulb moment when we realized that after all the fundraising we did for other organizations, we still don’t have the services that we need for our family or the other families that were in the community.

“We decided, ‘well, let’s try to do this ourselves.’ We know what we need better than anybody. We know from our friends what they need, so let’s give it a shot.”

Horsepower for Kids is just one of the services provided by Warriors for Autism. Tammy Matson of Clearwater is grateful for the opportunities the camp has provided for her son, Ryan, who had often felt left out in camps that were not specifically geared towards children with autism. He was also able to play with animals, which is something he normally would not be able to do.

For more information, or to donate, visit their webpage at http://www.gofundme.com/warriors4autism.

About the author 

Laurel Joss

Laurel Joss is a freelance writer with a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked as an RDI® Program Certified Consultant and has published articles in Autism Spectrum Quarterly and on her blog www.remediatingautism.blogspot.com. She is a mother to two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. You can also follow her on https://twitter.com/speaking_autism and https://www.facebook.com/speaking.autism.ca

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