- August 29, 2018
When most think of a kissing booth, they imagine two people.
At Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy’s open house, one of the nonprofit’s horses, chickens or goats will be waiting for a smooch.
The kissing booth is one of the activities available at the Lollipop Lane Open House on Dec. 11. Other activities include a cakewalk, writing letters to Santa, ornament making, face painting and wagon rides. Mr. and Mrs. Claus also will make an appearance.
Rebecca Blitz, the executive director of SMART, said the open house will give people an opportunity to learn about the nonprofit and the new events and programs SMART plans to offer in 2022.
“I’m looking forward to letting people know we’re in the community,” Blitz said. “This is an opportunity to get volunteers because we need them. We’re completely driven by volunteers. They are the backbone of what we do. We also want to let the community know we’re here for them.”
SMART held an open house in May that about 150 people attended. Blitz said several people signed up to become volunteers. The nonprofit needs 30 to 40 volunteers each day to support riders during lessons and help around the barn.
“I would say a majority of the people that came (to the open house) didn’t know we existed, and we have been here for 35 years,” Blitz said.
Blitz said SMART is planning to start a book club, a dining club and an art club. SMART also will have yoga classes.
Money from the open house support the nonprofit.
SMART is starting to offer its services and programs to those who do not have disabilities as well.
Blitz said SMART decided to transition to being more inclusive because the horses need to be utilized all the time, and the nonprofit “didn’t want to leave anyone out.”
“What we were finding is a brother or sister would be sitting there wanting to ride, and (the parents) didn’t have a place for them to go,” Blitz said. “We had horses here that also needed to be exercised. We thought this is a great opportunity for them to participate as well.”
SMART offers private and group lessons in Western and English riding as well as trail rides, which Blitz said are great team builders.
For the first time, SMART is offering a winter horse camp Dec. 22-24, Dec. 27-31 and Jan. 3-7 for children who are at least 8 years old. Participants will be riding every day while learning about how to groom horses, muck stalls, put on a saddle and bridle, and more.
“It’s basically everything you need to know about a horse,” Blitz said. “It’s fun because they get to meet new friends. We’re excited to have families come and join the fun that we get to do every day, especially during the holiday season.”