Driving down an almost unmarked winding dirt road, passing long and then longer grasses with birds playfully flying overhead, it seems like one is approaching an idyllic country scene. You’d expect to see horses, hear the buzzing wildlife, and smell a traditional picturesque farm.
Spend a day in a scene that serene, and you would find yourself refreshed from the fresh air, but what you might not expect is to find the power of rejuvenation on a ranch down that road that gives to those who have disabilities.
“It has added meaning to his life. He’s more animated, self-confident, he realizes he’s capable. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Matthew Redhead is one of those individuals changed by the power of this place. As a young adult with Down Syndrome, Matthew’s parents knew his road into adulthood would be unmarked and different than his peers but they didn’t know it could lead to his maturation and development. But that is exactly what happened.
Before graduating high school, Matthew’s future was uncertain but he turned to EmployAbility to help his job search. While his counselor found what sounded like the perfect placement at Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center, it required him getting a little dirty to fulfill his responsibilities. Matthew was in for the challenge! What made the most impact on Matthew and his family was that the job and support for him was available. His mom shares that, “I don’t think he’d be anywhere if it wasn’t for Faith [Equestrian] or United Way… if it wasn’t for y’all contributing, I wouldn’t know where he would be to be honest.”
While Matthew is usually shy and quiet outside of his family, he tells us that his favorite part about working is being with the people there. Mr. John, the main facility caretaker, has taken Matthew under his wing teaching him how to scoop the horse manure with a pitchfork, feed the horses hay bales and roaming ducks their seeds, and how to brush the horses’ manes. Matthew works three days a week for three hours at a time and has become more than just an employee there.
Matthew is now starting to participate in the equine therapy available at Faith Equestrian. He has begun to address his fears of riding a horse and can hold the reins while walking a horse around the arena. More importantly, he is making his own life path that he will eventually ride down.
While the bigger picture might show he has opened up his future, his mom says that the change in him also affects his family on more micro levels that still make an impact, “[Matthew] now cleans his room, he’s willing to take part and be a part of the family with his own responsibilities…He’s overcoming fears as they are working with him.”
“My hope for him in in the future would be to be stable, [I’d hope] that if anything should happen to me or my husband that he can continue on. And I hope that United Way would always be there.”
The growth Matthew has experienced is because of the care and support of people around him; those people are his family and the United Way funded agencies. The local Savannah community has rallied around improving people’s lives by donating to United Way, and they are committed to that mission through supporting local agencies with the Community Fund.