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Square Peg Foundation

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animal Protection & Welfare, Animals, Children & Youth, Education, Educational Services, Health, Rehabilitative Care, Youth Development - Agricultural

Mission: We turn “I Wish” into “I Can”

Geographic areas served: Autism Support, ABA and OTTB Repurposing

Programs: Our horsemanship program is currently serving about 100 regular students with a stable of 19 horses in Half Moon Bay (just south of San Francisco on the coast).

Community Stories

31 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

Square Peg is an amazing non profit! They truly care about my family and have an amazing staff, especially Rebecca Knopf! This program has allowed my son and daughter to connect with nature and trust something larger than themselves, thus creating positive life long memories.

Review from Guidestar

Client Served

Rating: 5

Square Peg is really an amazing organization, and Becca is the best. She has such a natural way with kids. She’s that perfect mixture of patient and fun and easy-going. My 7yo son, who has developmental delays, has a fear of horses—but she had him riding happily by the second lesson! I recommend Becca and Square Peg enthusiastically.

Review from Guidestar

Reina C.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our beautiful child has been through so much, and works so hard every day. This is perhaps the only space outside of family where he is unconditionally respected as a whole person and accepted as he is now. And I mean truly respected - where the teacher is not just feigning respect, like many teachers, therapists and even family members do. Being at Square Peg is way more than a riding lesson, although the staff's skill and knowledge in this area is very apparent - it is a space, in nature, where our child just gets to BE, to have FUN, to LEARN, to LIVE. After trying every kind of class and therapy known in two states over six years, this is the only one that has proven to be of any true value. And it is INvaluable to us now. We cannot give adequate praise nor say enough about this foundation and what it means to our whole family. Thank you Square Peg!

Review from Guidestar

Donor

Rating: 5

Square Peg is one of the aftercare partners for CARMA, where our mission is finding homes for retired racehorses. It is always a pleasure to work with Joell and Square Peg when they have accepted our horses into their program. The connection between horses and autistic kids and adults is nothing short of amazing. Square Peg is a perfect example of that magical bond. We are very proud to be affiliated with them.

1 Elizabeth Bullard A.

Client Served

Rating: 5

We’ve been coming to Square Peg for 4 years now. It is hands down our son’s favorite place on the planet. It’s easy to see why. It’s a slice of heaven. To reach it you travel a dirt road that hugs the side of a mountain and drops you down into a hilly, valley. It feels like you’ve entered another, calmer world—a realm where demands and expectations (apart from safety) on our son don’t exist. The staff are supportive, kind, respectful and fun, and create a space free of judgment where they take each child’s lead. Children can ride a horse, or not; pet a goat, or ride in a kubota; train dogs to do tricks in the horse arena or face paint; have a foam sword fight, or a water balloon fight; count lizards on the trail up to the pond, go canoeing... Words don’t do justice to the safe haven Joell Dunlap and everyone on TeamQuirky have created. It’s taken me a long time to figure out the best way to convey what the ranch means to our son and, by extension, to us: it’s the one place where our son can just be present. Thank you.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Square Peg is our happy place. We love the people, the horses, the dogs and goats, the beautiful environment, and most of all, the heart and soul of this place.

I wish there are more places like this, where kids feel safe, relaxed, valued and respected while learning horsemanship and having fun with these majestic animals. Every single one of the trainers are amazing, they are loving, kind, patient and fun with the kids. This is truly one of the most special nonprofit out there, making real, meaningful impact to the lives of everyone who comes into contact with it.

4 Sylvia Mc L.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Square Peg is not just a retreat from the madness of the world today for children who don’t fit the typical mould but it’s also a recharging haven for their parents and caregivers who get to see them in their glory where they can shake the shackles of their unique abilities.

Square peg has exceptional staff who have been handpicked for their compassionate approach coupled with good natured animals who thrive and meet the children wherever they are at any given time.

Square Peg is not just a place, it is an absolute “experience” that focuses on meeting the needs of the children. It instills as much excitement in my children as going to Disney and we know that the staff and animals will work with us to ensure we have a fabulous time regardless of what kind of day my son is having.

This is a A++++ , 5 ***** operation.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

When we moved to Northern California last year, I looked for a place where my daughter, who adores riding and horses, could both volunteer and ride. Moving a teenager is difficult, and The Square Peg Foundation was an answer to my prayers. At Square Peg, my daughter has had the opportunity to volunteer with children that she has fallen in love with, and at the same time she's had the chance to clean stalls, groom horses, and learn to ride from the best trainers I could imagine. Now both of my daughters volunteer at Square Peg, and driving up the ranch is the best part of our week. I have immense respect and admiration for all the staff at Square Peg, for I can see that they create an environment for children and families that is warm, loving, and healing to all who come. At Square Peg everyone fits. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is loved. Square Peg is a haven and a sanctuary. When I feel down and discouraged, I come to Square Peg and "feel the love" in the children's faces, in the eyes of the horses, and in the warm welcome of the staff. I am grateful to Square Peg and support their mission with a full heart.

2 Sarah A.1

Client Served

Rating: 5

It is heartbreaking for a child to be rejected from organization after organization because she or he isn't neurotypical. My gentle but autistic son was set up for failure after being removed from athletics and private schools because he needed extra attention. At Square Peg, he is greeted with enthusiasm and love, not the rolling eyes and deep sighs of his former coaches and teachers. I was worried at first that his anxiety would cause problems, but his teachers at Square Peg have coaxed and guided him with easy patience and now he faces old fears with new confidence. He gets to take his time, he is never rushed, and he is encouraged. The horses are chill even when he's stressed. He is also learning how to behave with the many wonderful dogs, and when he isn't into horses, he spends his time kayaking on their little lake. Thanks, Square Peg.

1 Harriot M.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Our dear friend Becca Knopf, an instructor at Square Peg, invited my daughter and I to tour the facility and learn more about Square Peg. What an extraordinary place! First off, Becca is a bright, intelligent, fun young woman who is deeply devoted to--and extremely knowledgeable about--horses. Her infectious smile and lively personality make her a delight to be around, and I'm sure that is conveyed when working with clients and their families. The ranch is truly impressive--beautiful and well tended, yet relaxed and friendly. The horses and other ranch critters are the stars--all wonderfully interactive and curious. We loved meeting every horse, goat, cat, and dog, and hearing Becca share tidbits about their histories and individual personalities. What a remarkable place. I'm so glad it is their for all creatures--two- and four-legged, furry and not.

2 jloraine

Client Served

Rating: 5

Square Peg is like an oasis where horses, humans, and magic work together to perform miracles on a daily basis.

Everyone is welcome, and uniqueness is not just tolerated, but embraced. On a given day, neurotypical students take lessons side-by-side and work with kids who experience the world in a completely different way. No one is less than anyone else; everyone is accepted as they are, where they are.

The staff and volunteers at Square Peg are doing a wonderful job at creating the change that the world needs to see and be, rescuing animals, valuing differences, and respecting everyone involved.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Just returned from another wonderful afternoon at Square Peg Foundation. My formerly isolated and unhappy daughter is learning and working cooperatively and happily with other youth and with the horses, and together they grow to accept and trust each other. It's music to my ears to hear her animated account of her lesson, what the kids did, what the staff did, and what the horses did. Joell and her staff are remarkably caring and patient and accepting; they willingly meet each young person in whatever emotional space they happen to be in on a given day. Parents can sit back and relax for a few minutes, pet one of the ranch dogs, or jump in and help with a project around the office or stalls...whatever they need to do at the time. I was referred to Square Peg Foundation from another satisfied family, and will happily pass along my recommendation.

1 Deborah31

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In my entire riding career, I have never come across an establishment as respectable and effective as the Square Peg Foundation. The facility is nestled in Half Moon Bay, and can best be described for its aesthetic value by the term "breathtaking". Each rescue horse at the ranch has a unique and wonderful disposition. I would accredit their friendliness to the fact that these horses are simply happy; happy to work, to serve, and to be in the care of the Square Peg staff. What is most phenomenal about these horses having such fantastic dispositions is that many of them have faced tremendous adversity prior to their arrival at Square Peg. I suppose the dark histories of many of these rescue horses are an inspiration to the students; many of whom have faced adverse life circumstances of their own. These children come from all walks of life, and despite the variation between the circumstances, personal characteristics, and physical characteristics of each child, they all fit in at the Square Peg Foundation. I fear that my review will not do the foundation nearly enough justice. One would have to experience a day at the ranch and see for themselves how palpable the love and positive energy is here.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My 13 year old son takes riding here & we love it! The Square Peg folks are friendly, caring and careful. The most wonderfully unique thing about Square Peg is that it is all inclusive - so regardless of the needs of a child, all are welcome and included and feel important here. Both of my kids (one with disabilities & one without) adore Square Peg, are challenged, comfortable, and learn new things every time. A true gem!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Friendly welcome, freedom: to be who you are as an individual and as a family, lgbtg?-no problem, a place that heals horses and people, integrity, generous, loving, challenging...and like most non-profits they do it all with not enough time or money but with love and grit. (If I took the time to write out complete thoughts this review would be way too long. Try it, if you "get it" you will love it.) My SF city boys have benefitted from Joell and the horses more than I can say.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I’m Max, i am 17 years old and I’ve been hanging out with the people and animals at Square Peg since I was five. I learned to ride during the very first Square Peg summer camps. But Joell, Greg and Sigourney didn’t just teach me to ride.
They made sure I also learned responsibility, That if we don’t care for the animals they won’t care for us. Over the years I’ve learned to get the horse out of the barn, to groom the horse, saddle the horse, bridle the horse, tie up the horse, untack the horse, groom the horse again. I’ve also learned how to do many necessary if not elegant chores such as cleaning stalls, feeding the horses, filling water buckets, and countless other important tasks. I have learned more life lessons at Square Peg then everywhere else i have ever been combined times 10 I will always as long as i live be doing everything i can to help this amazingly wonderful organization/place/second home for me and many others.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Square peg is the most unique and wonderful organization I have either professionally or personally ever been involved in. My son has been involved since he was 5 years old. He started riding and learning invaluable life lessons like caring, sharing and acceptance of others. My son has several challenges that left him feeling very different than other kids and not accepted. He found at Square Peg he was accepted, and cared about by not only the remarkable staff but other students at Square Peg. He now is in high school, volunteers all summer with helping other kids in the summer camps and continues volunteers throughout the school year. Square Peg is the place were everyone really does fit. This organization has changed my sons life. He now has groups of high school kids from his school who help out a couple of times a year as community service projects and they also enjoy it. He continues to now ride in their new polo program and has found he loves it. I volunteer whenever I can and love working with the Staff, Board members and clients.

Kelly M.

Board Member

Rating: 5

An avid rider as a child, I started riding with Square Peg after a lapse of over twenty years. Joell's unique approach (always supportive, constantly adaptive) and her amazing horses (former dressage champs, jumpers, racehorses and polo ponies-all donated) provided me with different ways to learn and grow as a rider. I ended up adopting one of Square Peg's horses. A former dressage champ, he enjoyed a second life as a lesson horse for Square Peg and now, lords it over every coyote and creature he meets on the trails around my house. My daughter, a neurotypical child, has found a place in Square Peg that both challenges her intellect and accepts her eccentricities.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a 14 year old volunteer and I have been with Joell since I was 7 or 8. This place is like my second home. I take a lesson once a week, and I LOVE it. During the summer I usually help with the summer camps and that's super fun too. The kids are sweet and I really love the learning aspect and how excited they get to ride. Joell, Greg, and Sigourney are amazing people who are great teachers and riders too. The horses are definitely amazing, the barn pets are sweet, and the kids obviously love to be there. What I love the most is the on-hands learning. At other stables barn chores are dismissed and let for others to deal with. Here, every aspect of being at a barn are learned (barn chores, feeding, medical, tack, cleaning, safety etc.) I love this place and its amazing!!!! It makes a huge difference in my life and I know it makes an even bigger impact in the kids lives :)

11

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Your time and money show immediate results. Joell Dunlop provides a sanctuary for kids with special needs and unwanted horses. At first glance, Square Pegs is a small coastside riding facility, but dig a bit deeper and you'll see so much more. Some of the kids shoveling stalls or sweeping up are 'at-risk' kids getting their first chance to enjoy the outdoors and bond with large animals. Some of them are 'special needs' kids who would never get the chance to ride in any other environment. Some are kids just out for a riding lesson. You can't always tell by looking or talking to them, and they all get the same patient and caring attention. It's truly a unique environment and I learn to be a better person every single time I'm out there.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Through the wonderful support and enthusiasm of Joell,Chris and their entire crew at Square Pegs, we were able to place a few of our students at this marvelous establishmet we called a "job site." Our program provides students with disabilities an opportunity to learn about different career options during their youthful high school years. A few of our students expressed their interests in working with horses as well as wanting to work in the outdoors. What a better place to train them but at Square Pegs!! Joell,Chris and their "patient" staff, had welcomed us with open arms and gave everyone the opportunity to learn about ranch life as well as the ability to bond with such a beautiful animal. Their entire family has made everyone feel like they are at home. What a lovely setting it is to call "home!" A few of our graduates still talk about their experience at the ranch and always ask how everyone is doing. They truly have the right motto,"Everyone Fits!" Thank you Square Pegs for your graciousness and ongoing support!

9 Philip Horsemaker

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My daughters have been volunteering at Square Peg Ranch for about six months and it has been a delightful experience as well as an invaluable learning opportunity. Joell's horses are always treated with loving kindness and it shows. After a few ground rules and common sense pointers were learned I have always felt that my girls were safe around these large animals. Because they are so well cared for, they respond in kind. In addition, learning what it takes to maintain a farm has been a privilege, hard work ( good for body and soul ) and a ton of fun. With horses, dogs, cats, and goats, Joell's place is the worlds best petting zoo, where you will also meet the nicest and smartest people around.

10

Donor

Rating: 5

Joelle, SquarePeg people and horses are magic. Every time I think of Bert my horse I donated to SquarePeg, I have tears in my eyes. I feel so lucky that Bert is in such wonderful hands and he loves the children at SquarePeg. Bert was and still is the love of my life. He is so well taken care off at SquarePeg and he contributes to the well being of all the riders in the program. Thanks Joelle

10

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I leave this place with a huge smile on my face. The environment is relaxed and low stress. The facility is well run. The horses are bright, healthy and love to interact--they are not shut down as is the case with some equestrian facilities. Joell Dunlap is amazing. Everyone is welcome. She works equally well with horses and people in just about any capacity (an unusual gift). I hope I can find time to volunteer there on a regular basis. I feel like I will take more than I can probably give.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was attracted to Square Pegs because of their slogan "Everyone Fits". Even me? A horse crazy middle-aged woman? Yes, even me! I found wonderful ways to volunteer with the organization that brought me into close contact with the animals I so love. Joell Dunlap is a force of nature... and it is a beautiful thing to watch the compassionate way she works with kids and animals. Square Pegs is an oasis of kindness in our sometimes indifferent world.

9

Client Served

Rating: 5

Joell, Greg and the volunteers at Square Peg have created a beautiful, magical place, where my 6 year old son with autism thrives. He loves Joell, Greg, the horses, and other animals. The kids who volunteer are great role models for him. Greg and Joell focus his tremendous energy on jobs at the ranch, which he loves and is very proud of. They know how to work with active boys! He is so happy there because he can be himself. He can be loud and socially awkward at times and he is not judged. At Square Peg, I have found a very special place where I can learn and grow as a parent. I have learned that my son can successfully be very independent and that I can let go there and trust that he will be O.K. I have learned that rather than trying so hard to turn my son from a square peg into a round one, I want to find more places like Square Peg, where he can happily be himself.

8

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

We just recently started riding at Square Peg. My son is five and has autism. We'd participated in horseback riding for children with special needs before we moved here from TX and my son absolutely loved it, so I knew we needed to find a nurturing environment to continue that love here in CA. Joell and her volunteers are amazing! Joell is so calm, kind and patient with my son; and a great new friend for this Mom who is definitely in need of some adult conversation! I am so happy to have met someone who accepts my child and his difficulties without judgment, but instead with compassion and the desire to help him connect with these amazing animals she has rehabilitated. We're thrilled to have found Square Peg!

9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Few times in life are you honored to meet truly special people that work tirelessly to change the lives of others. I have met those people recently. I have been looking for a chance to work with animals and special needs children for a while now.I have found that in a small ranch in Half Moon Bay where injured horses and challenged children come together to create a second chance for everyone. Under the supervision of the deciated and loving hand of Joell Dunlap.I have learned new lessons on compassion.Joell and her team have saved the lives of so many horses that were written off to injury, age, or thought not to be of any use anymore. I have fell in love with the horses spirit, their stories and learned the healing qualities of the giant gentle creatures. As they run through the open pastures with renewed joy or kick up their heals in mischievous bliss. I am forever grateful for being present on the ranch and being able to be a part of the moments that inspire the spirit in all of us. I am honored for my time as a volunteer at Square Pegs

9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What Square Peg has done for my daughter Sarah and her sister Rachel is beyond words! Sarah's face lights up at the thought of working with the horses and alongside Greg, Sigourney and Joell! Their encouragement and guidance is helping her to feel more confident in ALL she does, at the ranch and beyond! The time with the horses is magical. She asks to ride frequently but is just as happy to work and play with the horses and goats and "Sissy" and all the cats! We can't thank you enough!

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter has been riding at Square Peg Foundation for about 3 years. While we love the horses, the real reason we continue is because of the positive attitudes and nurturing environment offered at Square Peg. Director Joell Dunlap is calm, friendly, positive, unflappable, careful, responsible, fun, and extremely knowledgeable. She teaches much more than just the riding, including horse care and nutrition. The students tack the horses before and after the lesson (including brushing and hoof care), help with feeding, etc. The lesson is designed to be 1.5 hours long (but frequently goes longer -- the kids don't want to leave). At the ranch they have beautiful, well-cared for horses. Many are race-horse rescues with some amazing stories! There are also cats, dogs, goats, ponies -- it's just a fun, relaxing place to be. Square Peg has room for everyone -- kids with special needs, homeschooled kids, parents, whoever needs a chance to realize their own strengths and build confidence. The same applies to the horses. Square Peg finds a home and purpose for horses that have been considered useless by former owners.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered here for about six months, and while there, I had such a wonderful experience! It was a lot of fun to meet the people and work with the horses. This organization does some really awesome things and is a fantastic place to get involved with. It's NOT a waste of time when you're volunteering, because there's always something to learn and do. Plus, if you're tired or sick, they don't get mad that you can't work. They value whatever you can give them, no matter how big or small. I loved every minute of it, and hope that they stick around for a long time, because what they do makes a huge difference to a lot of people.