The Community Association for Riding for the Disabled (CARD) and Glendon students enrolled in Professor Rafael Gomez’ third-year Marketing course in Economics are about to launch a partnership destined to reap great benefits for all concerned. How can it be otherwise, when the fundraising coordinator and the program director from CARD join up with an enthusiastic team of students under the guidance and supervision of their dedicated professor.
Left: Left to right: Abbey Simbrow and Bonnie Hartley of CARD with Glendon students.
The project is a key component of the course work of Economics 3245, their major required assignment for the second semester. Gomez chooses a different class project each year, aspiring to benefit the community at large in various ways. He runs these projects as a simulated consulting business venture. Students in this year’s class have been divided into work teams and expected to come up with solutions to “real-world marketing problems” in areas such as website re-development, new and innovative fundraising and donation techniques, increasing volunteerism, new promotional techniques for enhancing the organization’s visibility, and extending a positive brand image of CARD to a wider audience.
In existence since 1969, CARD is a very important but little-known organization which provides therapeutic horseback riding opportunities in the Greater Toronto Area to children and adults with many different physical and psychological disabilities. CARD’s publicity materials bring home the organization’s significance for its ‘clientele’ when you read about some of their successes. Among these, a 12-year-old girl whose mother heard her daughter’s voice for the first time ever, as she repeated the commands for leading a horse. Another young boy, considered non-verbal, pronounced his first words in a complete sentence, in reaction to seeing his riding instructor on television. Or how about the 4-year-old with no core trunk muscles, who learned to ride prostrated over the horse and went on to develop muscles enabling him to sit up.
Clients are referred to CARD by medical professionals for rehabilitation, psycho-education and adapted sport. Individuals with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, autism, Down Syndrome and other conditions can greatly benefit from this opportunity to establish a relationship with a therapist, a horse, and acquire a host of new physical and psychological skills. Their feelings of accomplishment can sometimes break through huge barriers that they are not able to overcome in other ways.
While CARD employs fully-trained therapeutic specialists for the professional aspect of the program, it is also highly dependent on corporate and individual financial support and a constant supply of volunteers. For every rider who mounts a horse, at least four volunteers are required; volunteers are also needed to look after the animals. All the horses are donated, including one that used to belong to program director Abbey Simbrow. The horses undergo a great deal of assessment and training to ensure that both riders and horses function in safe and suitable circumstances.
CARD has some important corporate partners, such as the Bloorview Children’s Hospital, the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, Parks and Recreation, Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities and the Ontario Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club, to name a few. They hold fundraisers and other events for increased visibility. In addition to their staff of 12 employees, they have 300 volunteers and a volunteer Board of Directors, which includes Professor Gomez.
Clearly, in order to keep the program going, CARD needs to get the word out about its wonderful achievements, as well as its unfulfilled needs. On February 7th, Abbey Simbrow and fundraising coordinator Bonnie Hartley visited Gomez’ class at Glendon to offer the students some background information and answers to their questions. Their devotion to the program provided a great deal of motivation to the class for coming up with as many good, workable ideas as possible in order to help CARD fulfill its mandate of making “a magical connection […] to improve the lives of adults and children with disabilities through quality therapeutic riding programs”. Said Bonnie Hartley, “volunteers come to CARD for the horses, but stay for the riders”.
The Glendon Economics class “faces tough challenges but also huge opportunities”, said Gomez, “by working on such a multidimensional project”. They will visit CARD’s facilities for a first-hand experience in late February, and then it is time to get to work and develop their group projects.
By taking on the CARD marketing project, the Glendon Business Economics course enables students to have a real marketing experience with all its challenges and complexities. But this project has another major impact on the students in Dr.Gomez's class – a realization of the importance of community work and of helping those in need, those who can’t do it alone. It is an important lesson, an enriching and validating experience.
This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny