First RDA groups receive emergency funds from charity appeal

14 Riding for the Disabled groups get funds for immediate crisis relief

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) has sent emergency funds to 14 of its centres around the UK from the crisis fund launched two weeks ago.  The charity is trying to support some of its worst hit groups following its nationwide shutdown. With the situation set to worsen in the coming weeks, RDA is appealing for donors to help build another round of funding as soon as possible.

Many groups, which rely on income from riding and carriage driving sessions, are facing financial hardship and the very real possibility of permanent closure without a vital injection of funds. In this first round, groups from London, Essex, Bristol, Cornwall, Exeter, Derbyshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Yorkshire and Argyll have all had a boost to their funds with grants totalling £60,000.

Funding welcome

At Gareloch RDA in Scotland, the fund has proved a lifeline, as group organiser Kate Bennett explains: “Thank you so much from us all at Gareloch RDA for your support.  We have a very active group with a waiting list for riders and drivers.  Our second pony, and new carriage, will be coming on stream as soon as the restrictions are lifted.  Our team are busy planning fund raising activities as soon as we are able.  We have every hope that we will arise better than ever thanks to your lifeline.”

At Park Lane Stables in London, news of the grant was especially welcome: “This will mean we should, hooves crossed, survive the next few weeks and still be here when this is all a horrible memory,” said Natalie O’Rourke.

Uniting the RDA community

RDA has a network of nearly 500 community groups, supporting over 25,000 disabled children and adults of all ages and abilities. Each group is its own individual charity, with support services provided by the umbrella organisation, RDA UK.

At a time when so many community charities are struggling, the RDA network is pulling together to help other groups in need. Offers of financial assistance and gifts in kind – such as offers of stabling for horses or spare bedding – have been received from around the organisation, and donations have been coming in from riders, parents and volunteers, who all understand the vital contribution RDA makes to local communities all over the UK.

Accompanying her donation to the appeal, RDA rider Julie Ashby wrote: “I am a member of an RDA group, and have reason to thank the RDA for all that they have done for me. From being helped on a pony by 4 volunteers, to competing at the national championships years later, I have reason to believe they are the best in the world and played a massive part in my recovery. I wish we could do more, but please accept this donation with heartfelt wishes, that no groups anywhere would have to close, as I know only too well they would be missed so very much.”

Desperate plea

Activity at the charity’s 500 centres around the UK may have stopped, but care for its horses and ponies, including feed, hay and vets bills, must continue. The fundraising appeal will direct funds to groups most in need, and help to provide vital care to the 4000 horses who are central to RDA’s life-changing work – and help to ensure RDA can continue its unique services once the crisis is over.

The closure has affected around 25,000 disabled adults and children, many of whom rely on their weekly RDA sessions for physical therapy, health and wellbeing. RDA groups are also a vital community space for volunteers and participants to socialise, get active and have fun.

“We have already directed existing funds to this appeal, putting much of our planned activity on hold in order to support our groups. But we desperately need more money to make a real difference in the long term,” explains RDA UK Chief Executive, Ed Bracher. “With so many groups relying on income from weekly sessions to pay their running costs – including looking after their horses – this appeal is vital for the survival of the organisation around the UK. I urge everyone to do what they can to support us at this extremely difficult time.”

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