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SonRise Equestrian Foundation

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animals, Children & Youth, Mental Health, Mental Health Treatment, Youth Development Programs

Mission: SonRise Equestrian Foundation is a free, non-profit organization making a positive difference for children living with social, emotional, or physical challenges including terminal illness.

Target demographics: children facing social, emotional, and physical challenges

Geographic areas served: Alameda & Contra Costa counties

Programs: In the Saddle - a horseback riding program geared towards children facing physical and developmental challenges. Lessons partner one child, one mentor, and one horse for a 45 minute session, which includes some grooming and saddling if the child is able. Lessons are personally tailored to accommodate the special needs of each child.

Team Equine -a working ranch program geared towards children facing social and emotional challenges. Supervised by adult volunteers, the kids participate in chores, horse science, riding, and arts & crafts. The activities incorporate life skills like responsibility, work ethic, empathy, and manners. SonRise fosters an environment where the kids can build solid relationships with each other and with positive role models in a healthy community..

Traveling Tails - a program that brings miniature horses into children’s hospice and care homes to visit children who are near the end of life or facing serious medical issues. The minis also visit special needs schools and camps, working with children who have autism and other developmental delays.

Helping Hands provides the opportunity for teen volunteers to learn ranch chores alongside teens who may be facing challenges such as high-functioning special needs, bullying, or difficulties at home. This builds a supportive community through small-group interaction, teamwork, and learning life skills from adult mentors.

Community Stories

101 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Danna P.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Sonrise has helped our daughter in so many ways:
Her speech- she has to call out commands to the horses
Her motor skills- She has to have proper form and know how and when to work the reins. Also, latching and unlatching the horse.
Her ADHD- She has to pay attention & focus in the moment when on and around the horses.
Her Anxiety- She has to remain calm when she's around the horses.
Her Social Skills- She interacts with the volunteers & other kids. They have to work together.

Claire V.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a happy volunteer with SonRise since its inception 10 years ago. It is a very special program making huge differences in the lives of children with all kinds of special needs, both physical and psychological. The results are immeasurable and the pleasure as a volunteer to see this difference is priceless. The best part there is no charge for any of the programs with SonRise-children ride the horses and receive consistent mentorship for free, and other community programs benefit from SonRise as no additional cost. Almost all of the staff at SonRise are dedicated volunteers and the program is run with tremendous financial accountability.

Lisa484

Client Served

Rating: 5

Sonrise Equestrian Therapy has helped my Twelve year old Autistic son feel awesome. Sonrise offers free riding lessons to my son. He loves the connection he has with the horses there. The volunteers treat everyone like family and are so caring. I never met such loving people like those at Sonrise.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a volunteer Horse Handler and Travelling Tails volunteer..I love everything about Sonrise, the ranch, the people who work there, the horses are amazing and the kids are so sweet.

trod

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Sonrise is an exceptional non-profit organization. They do so much for developmentally disabled kids. It's incredible to see the children approach a horse with such trepidation, then to see them grinning ear to ear and laughing when they start riding. I've read a letter of gratitude from an autistic young man's parents who said the boy started speaking (to humans) for the first time after joining the program. And, all kids seem to come out of their shells around the horses. I feel privileged to have witnessed a tiny baby in a hospice program reacting to a mini horse's presence. It's magical!

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Their mission is to "make a positive difference for youth living with social, emotional, or physical challenges, including terminal illness. Participating children develop confidence, integrity, and responsibility through mentoring and peer relationships centered around the care and enjoyment of horses." Sonrise Equestrian Foundation is doing just that, every week, every day. I'm so proud to be associated with this organization. When I saw the smiles on the faces of some of the developmentally challenged students when they mounted the mini horses, I knew what extraordinary people had created Sonrise!

Bill108

Donor

Rating: 5

SonRise is a very special organization that changes lives for the better. I have observed it from the outside looking in and also experiencing it from the inside looking out as a volunteer, team leader and former Board Member. The Executive Director has been steadfast with her commitment to making SonRise the best possible with programming and safety for the kids in last 10 years. The staff, volunteers and board members are top drawer. The kids and their families are the benefactors of this great organization.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I could see that riding at Sonrise gave my autistic son such a feeling of pride and
competence. The volunteers are patient, kind and encouraging. They are so
experienced, and calm and clear in their directions, that they achieved amazing
cooperation from my son....who can have really difficulties with maintaining attention.
I'm deeply grateful for their work

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Love the people, the organization and the way healing is done with horses.

Katie111

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Sonrise provides an incredible place for volunteers to interact with their organization, horses, and children with development or physical disabilities. They make it so easy to volunteer your time, their training is great, and they provide ample opportunities that best fit your schedule, needs, skills, and passion. An incredible nonprofit with a very generous staff who cares about their volunteers, their horses, and most importantly the kids they work to serve!

Client Served

Rating: 5

SonRise is an amazing organization!! My daughter is very lucky to be a part of their program! The volunteers and the horses bring such joy to the kids! This organization is a blessing to many and I am thankful and grateful for all that they do. I love SonRise!

Client Served

Rating: 5

SonRise is a wonderful organization that my daughter has been lucky to be a part of for over 4 years. She's gained so much through this program and it's volunteers. I don't know where she'd be without it. Everyone is so generous and caring.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a volunteer for several years, I have seen wonder in the eyes of ill children, smiles on the faces of those who have known sadness and pain and the thrill of accomplishment. Son rise has put happiness in the hearts of children and profound joy in the lives of their parents. Sonrise volunteers (and their well-trained horses) strive to add a little sunshine into the lives of those less fortunate - it truly is a wonderful, caring non-profit organization. Sylvia Coburn

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Having recently retired, I was in search of a volunteer experience that would not drain me of all my time and energy. I was also highly selective in choosing a non-profit that served both the target population and the community in a kind, humane and obviously beneficial way. SonRise has lived up to my needs, standards and expectations. The blending of children with special needs and horses trained by people who deeply care about forming and sustaining relationships is magical.

My first experience with the "Traveling Tails" program sealed my resolve to maximize my volunteer opportunities with SonRise. As a neurological physical therapist, I bring unique skills and contributions to the children I encounter. My lessons in natural horsemanship are serving to facilitate my developing relationships with the SonRise horses. I am confident that I am in one of the best and most creative nonprofit organizations around serving children with special needs.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

For the past 6 plus years, our family has been on both the giving and receiving end of this extraordinarily uplifting program. Using horses to work with these precious children provides much needed hope and radiates an amazing amount of joy. Everyone gets blessed. It’s genuine, powerful, and healing.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our 15 year old intellectually disabled son, Matthew, rides horses at Sonrise on Saturdays. Because of this training, he has been able to horseback ride with our family on trips to Half Moon Bay and Costa Rica. He has no fear and is proud to show off his riding abilities. Thanks to all of the Sonrise staff and volunteers!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the opportunity to serve with SonRise Equestrian Foundation for 1 month. During that time, I saw how big of an impact this organization has on their community. Every volunteer I met was a selfless and kind individual, who gave of their time and energy to help those who truly need it. I had the opportunity to be a sidewalker during their riding lessons, and get to know the children and see how the connection with the horses and volunteers has changed their lives, as well as hearing the parent's stories of where their child has come from. I was one of the volunteers for their program with for children with social and emotional difficulties, and over my time there I was able to develop a relationship with several of those children, in an atmosphere that was fun for them and safe, free from bullying and the chaos of life. I also participated in Travelling Tails, during which they bring their pony and miniature horses to locations to meet children, including a camp for children with chronic and terminal illnesses, and George Mark's Children's home, a hospice and respite care center.
In between programs, the volunteers continue to give of their time and energy, whether it's cleaning the stables or the grounds, making sure the horses are taking care of, doing office work, or mailing newsletters to keep the public updated on what is happening. I truly believe this is one of the most valuable organizations that exists, and I was proud to serve with them.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My twin girls are benefiting greatly from the Sonrise program. Both girls struggle with many issues relating back to trauma from their pre-adoption situation. Sonrise has given them a place where they feel they belong and they absolutely love their time with the horses. The volunteers are good role models and pour into my girls a sense of accomplishment as they do the various chores and learn about grooming and riding. Sonrise is truly a gift to our family as my girls can be themselves and do something that they love. I can see their self confidence increase as they are more and more comfortable with being with these wonderful animals. Thank you so much Sonrise!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have had the privilege to be associated with SonRise Equestrian Foundation for many years, originally as a friend of a participant's parents , then an occasional volunteer and now as a donor and Board Member. The work the SonRise staff and volunteers do with very limited resources is truly exceptional, not to mention the incredibly positive impact they are making in children's lives.

I commend the entire SonRise team for the hard work, dedication and committed service to children and their families that SonRise serves.

Review from Guidestar

Client Served

Rating: 4

My daughter has struggled with many issues, including dyslexia, a mood disorder, depression, a major family loss, social issues, and more. On her first day at Sonrise she met other kids with the same issues and finally felt that she could be around people who understood what she goes through. A 10 year old doesn't understand their diagnosis, they just feel terrible and misunderstood. The only time she felt happy was around animals, so Sonrise has given her not only the chance to care for animals, but to also be with peers who understand her, while the staff offer so much more. She often comes home with small awards, that boost her self confidence, for example, she was given a horse puzzle because she was the hardest worker that day.

Cindi G.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter has type 1 diabetes and was accepted into the Team Equine program at Sonrise. It has helped her gain confidence and she has made new friends. She loves the time she spends there and the staff that volunteer are WONDERFUL positive role models.

Andrea37

Volunteer

Rating: 5

it was fun working with the horses and learning how to ride and take care of the animals@ sonrise.

Jamie P.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The very first day I volunteered with SonRise Equestrian Foundation, I knew I was a part of something incredibly special! I have never worked with both horses and challenged children before. My first session I worked with a girl with autism and watching her interact and connect with the SonRise horse, Teddy, was an unforgettable experience. This young girl, who showed no emotion upon her arrival, was smiling and laughing while riding Teddy. She responded to verbal commands from the volunteers, and truly connected with her horse. I have seen this connection over and over between the SonRise kids and the horses, and every time its wonderful to experience. SonRise is a truly blessed foundation, with amazing volunteers working so hard to help make a positive difference in these kids' lives. I only wish we were able to help more kids!

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Being recently retired, I was looking for a new opportunity to stay active, become involved with the horse world, and do something meaningful. When a former co-worker told me what a difference that Equestrian Therapy has made for his physically challenged son, I decided to look in that area. My wife mentioned to me that she knew of Sonrise through church and had been favorably impressed with the founder when they had met. I signed up to volunteer through the website and was soon contacted for an orientation. At this point, I have only worked as a volunteer for a few months, but I can say that Sonrise has fit the bill for me on every count. I am privileged to work on a ranch respected for its training methods and with people that care tremendously for both children as well as the horses that enable this fantastic approach to therapy. It seems to me that the values of the organization are well represented by the staff I have worked with, and I feel lucky to embark on a new challenge with such a group.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was introduced to SonRise through a dedicated volunteer a couple of years ago, but this spring I decided to volunteer my time helping with a rescue horse. I began going out to groom and hand walk Molly a few months ago. My experience at SonRise has been wonderful. I feel that the organization has its mission and purpose clearly in mind in everything they do and decision they make. They keep safety a priority, as well so as a volunteer I have learned how to be more effective without being nervous I will do something wrong. I am not a big "joiner", because many times I have found that petty motives can take over in group dynamics, but this is not what I have found at SonRise. I have learned so much about horsemanship from the other volunteers and the Executive Director, Alana and how to give my time and energy to an animal that needs someone. The Executive Director and volunteers are warm, straight forward, and welcoming! When I volunteer at SonRise I feel appreciated and needed and that I can make a difference . I feel as though I am in therapy when I volunteer there! I have become healthier, happier and enjoy knowing that I am learning more every time I volunteer!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We work with disadvantaged youth who may also have physical and mental handicaps. Our therapy is through the use of horses some that may have come from similiar backgrounds as the children.We teach them horsemanship and with this comes more self confidence .It's a wonderful enviroment and i am a better person because of SonRise Equestrian Foundation.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization not only helps children who are suffering from disabilities, but gives them strength, hope, and a sense of belonging. Everyone is treated equally and with unconditional love. It is amazing seeing the joy on a child's face light up when riding a horse, or even brushing a horse. This volunteers here are diligent, committed, and full of love for SonRise. The experience here at SonRise is like no other. :)

Michele25

Client Served

Rating: 5

The staff members and horses at Sonrise have positively influenced my children's lives. As twins, they struggled with competition between each other. They now provide encouragement to each other when riding. Their self confidence has grown and anxiety has decreased. They look forward to all activities at Sonrise. I am so appreciative of what Sonrise has done for my family.

1 Cyndi D.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I served as a Summer intern for SonRise spending 40+ hours a week. What an amazing experience.

The volunteers are some of the best I have ever met, always positive, always ready to learn, and always giving their all for SonRise, the horses, and most importantly the children. They are always working hard to make SonRise the BEST it can be day in and day out.

The clients served are of the greatest variety of any of the places I have had the opportunity to learn from. Yet the horses are prepared for anything that comes at them, whether the day involves just grooming, games, or actual riding lessons. These horses are some of the most well-trained horses I have seen working at a therapeutic riding facility.

The mentors are incredible. I had the opportunity to observe each of them and the connections they were able to make with the students as well as the horses. I was always impressed with their ability to assess and adapt games and lessons to each students abilities, encouraging them to grow and try new things, stretching their current limitations.

I would recommend SonRise to any one looking for a wonderful group of people to welcome them, horses with the biggest hearts I have ever seen, and the chance to learn and grow around horses.