“Horse and Rider 2009,” as it was styled, drew a large crowd that lined the covered arena to watch rider demonstrations.
Students, their instructors and volunteers took part in the demonstrations, which vividly illustrated how the horse and his movements are used in the Windridge program.
It was founded at a location eight miles east of Gilmer off Gardenia Road by Margo Dewkett, who visualized a center that would be open to children and adults with disabilities throughout East Texas.
It is now an NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped) premier accredited center, and has grown dramatically with support from many civic organizations, businesses, foundations and families from around the area.
Trained instructors and therapists and numerous volunteers work with the students.
A patriotic theme was followed Saturday, starting with the noon opening, when the flag was presented and America the Beautiful was sung.
More than 30 veterans, including several women, were welcomed into the arena at 1:45 p.m. when Mrs. Dewkett thanked them for their service and, with several volunteer helpers, presented each with a flag pin. Carissa Amberly sang I’m Proud to be an American.
Mrs. Dewkett singled out three individuals for special honors.
She said that Dr. Conrad Winborn, Longview pastor, inspired her as a young Christian; the late Judge Henry Atkinson encouraged her at a time when no one in the area understood what therapeutic riding was, and her husband, Bruce Dewkett, had supported her at every stage of Windridge’s development.
Judge Atkinson’s son, Daryl Atkinson, stood in for his father when Mrs. Dewkett presented three bronze desk-sized sculptures of a horse and rider in appreciation for each man’s help.
Many of those attending the annual fund-raising event Saturday enjoyed lunch at outdoor tables on a sunny spring day, bid on silent auction items and bought raffle tickets.
Master Phrumjuntu and students from the American TaeKwondo Association demonstrated martial arts to conclude the program.
Current officers of Windridge are Jim McClain, president; Stewart Green, vice president; Randy Monk, treasurer; and Rose Benedict, secretary. Additional directors are Daryl Atkinson, Brenda Buck, Phyllis Winn and Russell Fisher.
A Friends of Windridge Committee chaired by Lori Atkinson and co-chaired by Lynda Morse is in charge of the annual fund-raising event.
For more information about Windridge, visit www.windridgetexas.org.