COVID-19 has impacted businesses and organizations across Kern County and it doesn’t stop at just restaurants or places of worship. 23ABC’s Kallyn Hobmann explains how the virus is affecting one nonprofit that helps veterans and people with special needs or disabilities.
At the M.A.R.E. Therapeutic Riding Center, there are usually 15 different riding sessions plus summer camps and events happening every day. But when COVID-19 hit, they had to close their doors. However, they are finally able to slowly reopen.
“It felt really exciting to be able to have some people back," said Kimiko Kobayashi, executive director of M.A.R.R Therapeutic Riding Center. "You know, I know having our veterans, they were, you know, literally chomping at the bit, no pun intended.”
M.A.R.E stands for Mastering Abilities Riding Equines. They say the name itself describes the way the center helps people with injuries, disabilities, and special needs.
“Due to just restrictions and masks and things like that and the nature of the kids that have certain disabilities, it’s a little bit harder to adhere to those restrictions,” explained Kobayashi.
Due to COVID-19 volunteers and staff had to cut their hours and fundraising events were canceled.
“Seventy-five percent of our revenue every year comes from fundraisers and donations, and we’ve already had to cancel and postpone two of our fundraisers,” said Kobayashi.
The staff members weren’t alone in their disappointment when the stable closed. Riders who rely on the horses for therapeutic needs could no longer come to see their four-legged friends.
”It was kind of a shock because I really do enjoy my time out here and then all of sudden we just couldn’t come out at all,” said Dan Miller, a M.A.R.E rider and volunteer.
Miller is a veteran and has been riding and volunteering at M.A.R.E. for about three years.
“I fell in love with the horses, with the people, with our riders.”
The center has only been reopened since July 2nd and with new state guidelines in place, M.A.R.E. is seeing only four riders a day. Kobayashi said many of their usual riders are children with compromised immune systems so for now, only able-bodied people like Miller are able to visit. But not without face masks, social distancing, and extra sanitizing.
“We’re just trying to do it with CDC guidelines and get back into it slowly. Hopefully, you know, before too long we’ll be able to get all of our riders back because they’re really the ones that we’re here for.”