A one-of-a-kind chance to volunteer
Renaissance Healing and Learning Center seeks help for equestrian therapy facility focusing on Hippotherapy
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By Kaydon Coburn  January 4, 2013 12:00 am

Her life’s work is devoted to providing a unique style of physical therapy for patients, and she wants help doing it.

Renaissance Healing and Learning Center is a distinct equestrian therapy facility specializing in Hippotherapy, and is seeking dedicated volunteers on a regular basis. In the past, some of owner/operator Fran Block-Sandler-Judd’s volunteers have had no prior experience working with horses, let alone providing physical therapy.

“Sometimes I find people can learn more easily when they have less experience, and we can teach them,” Judd explains.

Good therapy training
On the other hand, Judd says it’s a great opportunity for people who want to go into the field of physical therapy. Judd believes volunteering at the center, which has existed in Cotati for more than 15 years, can provide a cyclical and holistic value for the community by filling a physical and emotional need for many individuals who volunteer.

“It’s not me being selfish wanting to get volunteers help,” Judd said. “It’s more than here’s another riding center that needs volunteers. I’d like people to know there’s much more to us than that.”

Judd has plenty of experience recruiting volunteers of all ages from organizations like mental health agencies to local high schools, Sonoma State University interns and veterans groups. She wants the people who volunteer to gain personally from the experience.

“It’s (volunteering) a loop,” she said. “When you put yourself out there for other people, you get something back in a positive way…it’s kind of therapy for them (volunteers).”

Student volunteers have also completed class projects and community service hours at the center.
Judd is on a constant mission to educate the public into clearly understanding Hippotherapy, the unique equine medical therapy her experience, training, qualifications, and facilities provide for individuals opposed to a horse camp or recreational stables.

‘A medical model’
“I am coming from a medical model,” she said. “I am a therapist…I want people to know we (Renaissance) are different.”
According to Judd, she has the only facility offering this extraordinary treatment in Sonoma County. Hippotherapy treats a variety of physical conditions like autism, Cerebral Palsy, MD, MS, ADD, spinal injuries and stroke.

Judd seeks volunteers to impart a variety of Renaissance facility tasks; she specifically needs volunteers to ground drive the horses from behind, and safety side-walkers during individualized therapy sessions. She requires people who have the skills to assist in daily office work and marketing.

The center also has the need for volunteers  to complete ongoing facility maintenance and repairs.

“The barn is old and the fences need repair,” Judd said. “It’s a lot of work, and I wear a lot of hats.”

Judd was educated in physical therapy at Western Michigan University, has worked as a certified physical therapist for more than 40 years, and has been operating in Sonoma County for 20 years. She cares for her 17-year-old daughter, Sarah, who has special needs. She is a regular guest speaker throughout the county on the topic of Hippotherapy, and a registered member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship and American Hippotherapy Association.

“It takes a village to put it (Renaissance) on. The more they (volunteers) come, the more they will get out of it,” Judd said.
Contact Judd at the center website at www.rhlc.net.

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