Circle of Hope truly shines . Leslie Shear, the founder and chief worker/instructor, sets the tone. Patience and love are her watchwords, and the volunteers whom she recruits take their work very seriously. That doesn't mean no one laughs, but no one ever laughs at anyone. And what wonderful laughs we all share!
I cannot praise Circle highly enough. I have had chronic progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) for 35 years. I've been riding with them for over 15 years, from the days of Zoe (the wonder horse) and Sam(antha) through good times and bad, and even on my worst days I am never tempted to skip a lesson.
When I am there, I feel real, alive again. I can rejoin the human race.
I became a volunteer in 2008, after retiring from professional nursing for 41 years. All these years later, I am continually amazed at the progress our clients make with the help they receive from riding our marvelous horses. Having been in a helping profession, what I see happening over time is amazing. I will continue to volunteer as long as they need help and I can offer my help. I urge anyone to try us out and volunteer---you will nor regret doing so.
This program has been a life changing experience for my daughter who suffers from autism and cerebral palsy. When she started 20 years ago she was in leg braces and a walker. Her first lesson she looked in at the huge horse and cried. Through Lesley Shear's teaching and guidance she has ridden for 20 years. She now walks though with difficulty. Horses are her LIFE!!! I travel all the way from Annapolis for her lessons as they are so important. I simply can't say enough great things about the program. We even looked at a program in Crownsville since it is closer but it was a factory. At Circle of Hope everyone knows Ashleigh and what her needs are as well as our goals. Lesley and the staff are phenomenal!!!
My daughter who has Cerebral Palsey has been at Circle of Hope since before she could walk. It has been the single most important and beneficial therapy in her life. The Director, Lesley Shear has been phenomenal working with Ashleigh as has the staff over the years. Even though we have moved we continue to drive an hour to therapy. It is the high point of her week.
My son with autism spectrum disorder has been riding with Circle of Hope for just over 15 years. The therapist and volunteers are very attentive to his needs and what we are working on at home & school to incorporate it into his riding program. The riding helps to build his confidence as well as a social connection with the people & horse. Circle of Hope has been an invaluable program for his development.
Our son Spencer is on the Autism spectrum and has been riding at Circle of Hope for a number of years. It has been a wonderful experience for him, and we can really tell the difference that riding makes in calming him down and centering him. Although quite skittish with smaller animals, Spence has no problems with 'Papa' [his riding partner, a horse of infinite patience!] I must also say that the staff, volunteers and others whom we've met in our time with COHTR have all been quite wonderful to get to know. I would highly recommend therapeutic riding and Circle of Hope to anyone who has a child with special needs.
I've been volunteering with Circle since 2005. Nothing else I do - either in my professional or personal life - fills the same unique place as what I do there. I've met great friends and I've gained a sense of connection with my community. We have a wonderful organization in Circle of Hope Therapeutic Riding that all of us, volunteers, instructors, clients and families are lucky to be a part of.
I've been involved with Circle of Hope Therapeutic Riding for more than ten years - first as the parent of a client, then as a volunteer, a board member, a fundraiser, and a donor. For the last five years the majority of dollars my family gives each year in charitable donations is given to CHTR. In all my roles in connection with them I have seen that every dollar goes to serve clients and that the fees charged to clients for the services CHTR provides cover only a fraction of the actual cost of those services. At a time when every day brings a new scandal about large national or world-wide charities that are not good stewards of the donation dollars they are given, Circle of Hope is my gold-standard.
This is a place that provides incredibly effective therapeutic interventions for children and adults facing challenges brought by disabilities of all kinds - physical, developmental, learning, emotional. The bonus is that the interventions at CHTR are FUN! They are delivered in a context that is joyous, beautiful, and supportive. Well-trained volunteers, expert staff, and remarkable equine partners really work miracles here - improving clients' social interactions, fine and gross motor skills, emotional stability, executive function, memory, and self-esteem. I've seen children with autism who are largely non-verbal, increasingly speak with volunteers and staff, children with no core muscle strength learn to sit up and stabilize themselves, adults with intellectual disabilities enjoy the respect they deserve for all their abilities, military veterans who arrived at the barn tense and withdrawn leave smiling and laughing, and volunteers of all ages and backgrounds grow and blossom as they get huge rewards through giving.
I will continue to support Circle of Hope Therapeutic Riding with my time, my funds, and my heart forever and I would recommend it to anyone who has time or funds to give or a need for what equine assisted therapy can provide!
Upon retiring from my nursing career, I saw ad in local paper re: Circle of Hope. Five plus years later, I am delighted with everything this organization does, with everyone. Lesley Shear is so very committed to heading everyone----volunteers, staff, in the right direction to see the marvelous results we see in each client----I continue to be amazed at what effect riding our wonderful horses have with these people, young and old. As a volunteer(now somewhat disabled), I am always delighted to see our clients complete their sessions!!! Finally, my volunteering has been an essential part of my retired life, for which I am so grateful!! Sue Moon
I have been volunteering at Circle of Hope for about a year and a half, and I have enjoyed every second of it! The work that Lesley and the staff at Circle of Hope do for the clients is incredible, and the difference this organization is making in these people's lives is amazing. Being able to help with this program has been such a blessing to me, and has had a huge impact on my life.