Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy schedules special autism event April 23.
Kawida Turner of Sarasota always has been a little afraid of animals, but now when she and her dad pull into Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy, she gets excited.
Turner is one of many children who have been helped by SMART’s therapy classes.
“It’s nice to see her relax on a big animal and enjoy herself,” said John Turner with a smile on his face as he watched his 5-year-old. “We didn’t know how she would react, but now she gets excited for a ‘horsey’ ride.”
Kawida is a student at Beyond the Spectrum, an educational and therapeutical center for children with autism. She and her classmates are participating in a six-week program at SMART.
SMART is partnering with Matt Bruback, creator of the weighted therapy belt, Miracle Belt, to host an autism awareness campaign for the month of April.
Included will be a special April 23 event at the SMART facility for those with autism, along with their families and friends. On that day, with the help of community sponsors, SMART will give 25 Miracle Belts to those enrolled in its programs. The event will have kids activities, live music, food and a bounce house.
The campaign began as the brainchild of SMART Event Coordinator Jody Jorgensen and Bruback a few months ago, when they
decided to find a way to promote both SMART and Bruback’s belts while also raising awareness for a mutual cause. Jorgensen had learned about the benefits of Miracle Belts for children with autism during her time at SMART and reached out to Bruback to collaborate the campaign.
In conjunction with the campaign, Bruback coordinated with Natalie Palumbo, a Ringling College of Art and Design student, to create a mural for one of SMART’s barns.
The two parts of the mural depict a young boy and girl making an emotional connection with a horse.
For Brandi Ezell, the administrative assistant at SMART, seeing her workplace promote an autism awareness campaign hits close to home. Her 9-year-old son, Austin, attends therapy classes at SMART, as well. Austin Ezell has autism.
“I live the awesomeness and the challenges that go with the autism community,” she said. “For SMART to be able to host this is pretty cool.”