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Main Stay's Annual Appeal

Caitlin Annual Appeal

Dear Friends,

I remember when Caitlin started riding last summer. I always knew when she arrived— her crying resonated through the halls and she often dropped to the floor as her mom encouraged her to make her way down the long hallway to the riding arena.

Caitlin is a very active 11 year old girl who has autism spectrum disorder and uses non- verbal communication which can make the world a very frustrating place for her.

Even though Caitlin loves to ride, the first several months of coming to Main Stay weren’t easy for her. Caitlin has a hard time expressing and managing her emotions in an appropriate manner. Her sheer excitement and anticipation for riding was expressed by crying in frustration as soon as she and her mom came through the door.

Sensory issues made wearing a helmet very difficult for Caitlin. It took two people to put on her helmet and carry her up the mounting ramp to her horse. She was overwhelmed by her desire to ride and would cry and throw herself down on the ramp when she got to her horse. Caitlin’s mom shared there were times she “went and hid in the bathroom until Caitlin was safely in the saddle and calm”.

However, once she was on her horse and they began to move, all became right in Caitlin’s world. The gentle, rhythmic movement and sensory input she receives from riding soothes and centers her.

Caitlin’s instructor, Joanne, along with her supportive volunteers, Frank and Carole, immediately began searching for ways to make the transition to riding easier for her. Waiting can be very difficult for individuals with autism so they made sure they kept Caitlin moving. They discovered Caitlin loved playing basketball and would shoot ball after ball from the back of her horse, Beau. Joanne taught Caitlin to touch Beau’s neck to signal him to walk on.

What a difference a year makes.

Today I looked up from my computer to see if it was time for Caitlin’s lesson. Not hearing any sobbing to herald her arrival made me wonder if she was here yet. I walked into the gathering room just as her mom was putting on her helmet while Caitlin quietly played with one of the stuffed rocking toys.

She waved at Joanne, her instructor, and they quickly walked up the mounting ramp where she paused, swung her leg over her horse and gently touched his neck to signal him to walk on.

Caitlin’s mom was quick to point out what a huge change this was from where she started. She shared that coming to Main Stay is the highlight of Caitlin’s week and it’s helped her make huge gains in her strength, motor skills, and communication skills. Caitlin’s progress has carried over into other areas of her life, like transitioning from one activity to the next. For example, riding in the car is one of Caitlin’s favorite activities but getting out of the car previously triggered anxiety and caused tears of frustration. Now, transitioning from one activity to another has become less traumatic for her and she is able to get out of the car with less emotional struggle.

Thanks to you, riding has truly helped Caitlin with managing her emotions. And it’s not just the act of riding that helped Caitlin, it was our individualized approach and attention given to identifying her needs so she could be successful.

Caitlin is just one example of how your support allows Main Stay to provide a safe place for clients. A place where they can face their challenges head on with the caring support of highly trained staff, dedicated volunteers and our kind and dependable animals. Each person who comes through our doors is treated as an individual—we see the person, not the diagnosis.

Because of your support, Main Stay’s diverse programs help in so many ways. Our therapeutic riding program strengthens the body through movement as well as providing a sensory experience that challenges the entire body. Equine and Animal Assisted Learning Activities are designed to focus on the social, emotional and behavioral needs of clients. The Adaptive Gardening program is a nature- based program that provides clients with an accessible, sensory-rich educational experience.

Main Stay serves individuals across all life stages. Your support allows us to offer programs to McHenry, Johnsburg, Woodstock and Harvard school districts in addition to community agencies like Independence Health, Options & Advocacy, One Hope United, Refuge for Women, Turning Point, NAMI, Allendale, NISRA, Pioneer Center and the Lake County Mental Health Department.

You should be proud of what you’ve helped Main Stay accomplish.

Each and every dollar you give creates a positive ripple effect that stretches beyond our clients. Being part of the Main Stay community has a lasting and positive impact on not only the clients we serve, but also their families, agency support staff, volunteers and donors. Volunteers share how much their life is enriched through supporting the success and progress of the client they work with each week. This sense of goodwill encourages and creates a stronger, healthier community. The same success is felt by clients’ family members and caregivers, providing a sense of hopefulness along with respite while at the farm. Collaborating agencies, and their staff, are inspired to see a side of their clients they have never witnessed before, leading to more positive expectations and interactions when away from the farm. We hope you know and feel the tremendous impact of your gifts and are confident that every dollar you invest will have a far- reaching return on the greater community.

Please consider making a gift to Main Stay today to help support our mission of enriching lives and helping individuals achieve their full potential through horses, animals and nature.

Wishing you a beautiful holiday season and a happy and peaceful year ahead.

My Sincerest Gratitude,


Annual Appeal Letter (PDF)


How You Can Help

Your support is greatly appreciated.

Contact information

Main Stay Therapeutic Farm

6919 Keystone Rd., Richmond, IL 60071

Tel: 815.653.9374  Fax: 815.728.1224

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