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Twins make strides for donation effort

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 17, 2010
  • Sarasota
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When asking a pre-teen girl what she’d like for her birthday, the answer is hardly ever money to benefit charity.

But 12-year-old twins Devon and Reagan Sullivan, who live on Casey Key, decided five years ago that they’d reached their maximum birthday-gift intake. Now, they still throw a birthday bash each year in April, but they accept monetary donations in lieu of presents. Every penny benefits the InStride Therapy Equestrian Center, in Nokomis, where the girls have spent countless hours riding, cleaning stalls and bathing the horses.

“We had enough stuff and didn’t need everyone to come bring a present,” Devon Sullivan said. “Our best year was 2008 — we raised more than $5,000. But 2010 is the year of possibilities, so we want to raise $12,000. It makes us happy to know that we’re helping a kid smile.”

The girls’ fundraiser parties work a bit like a chain letter. Invites are sent to friends, family and every student in the girls’ grade at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, in Bradenton. This year, for the first time, the girls’ parents, Brian and Pam Sullivan, are matching the donations the girls collect.

“InStride is in such a developmental state that we wanted to help and reach out to people,” Brian Sullivan said. “We really felt like we could make an impact, and the girls took the lead on it.”

The Instride facility is recognized as the leading hippotherapy facility in the Southeastern United States and has been accredited by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association since 1984. It offers year-round equine-assisted activities such as hippotherapy, therapeutic riding, clinic-based therapies and learning programs, which promote healing, support, growth, learning and friendships for riders and their families.

The sisters have raised $15,000 since they started fundraising for the facility five years ago, which doesn’t include the $10,000 collected so far this year — just $2,000 from their goal.

“Some of money has gone to new stables and for the horses, the covered arena, hay and helmets,” Reagan said. “When it rained, the kids couldn’t ride without the covered arena, and it was so sad. They are always so excited to go riding. It’s their favorite time in the whole week.”

To view the complete needs list for InStride, visit


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