Sharon Semeluk - January 2021
Started April 2015
Sharon came to WindReach Farm back in April 2015, to inquire about volunteering with the wool program. She has a very demanding, and often stressful job working in international patent law in downtown Toronto, and needed a way to de-stress. She attended a volunteer orientation with her husband, Derek, who came as a driver, and ended up deciding to volunteer with the therapeutic riding program. They wanted to commit to a full day together, so initially Sharon spent her days at the Farm with the wool group in the morning, and helping with farm tours in the afternoon, stopping to enjoy lunch with Derek in between. She also helped with a Beyond the Farm Gate visit (it was chicken day) and has helped out at various special events, including a riding demonstration at the Royal Winter Fair.
Working with horses was not something she was comfortable with initially, but it didn’t take long for her to be drawn to it. Sharon decided to make the switch to join Derek with a full day at the Stables, thinking that at least she could be a side walker. She was worried about being put with one of the larger horses, and didn’t want to tack up or clean horses’ feet. As fate would have it, she started out working with Alex, the gentle giant, as a side walker. Sharon is now proud to say that she has, with the kind guidance of Kendra, Pat, and Andrew, progressed to being able to also tack, lead, and work with any of the program horses.
Sharon had the opportunity to take lessons when it was open to volunteers, and although she is more comfortable with her feet on the ground, found that riding provided her with a valuable insight into the experience from the program participants’ perspective.
One day, when Sharon was still very green, the team at the stables found themselves short handed for the school program. Kendra asked her to lead a horse for the first time, and Sharon was terrified. “The horse could tell, and kept giving me strange looks”, said Sharon. She lived to tell about it and like some of our riders, “I did it” was all she could say when the ride was over. Sharon learned early not to put limitations on herself or the riders, to be open to opportunities, to celebrate the accomplishments, and learn from the mistakes. Another lesson learned was to know when to just get out of the way.
“It has been such a pleasure being able to volunteer at WindReach side by side with my husband, and we have come to call the staff and our fellow volunteers our Farm family”, she said. She had no previous experience with therapeutic riding or working with people with disabilities, but Sharon tells everyone and anyone who will listen, that if they have any free time, the WindReach Farm therapeutic riding program is the place to volunteer. There is no need for previous experience. You will be appreciated, never taken for granted, and someone will always be there to help you out.
The total experience at the stables, coupled with the fresh air and exercise, turned out to be exactly what Sharon needed to de-stress from work. The riders, and the struggles they and their families have to overcome, have given her an appreciation for all that she has, and a drive to continue to give back where she can.
In 2019, Sharon expanded her role further at WindReach, starting a crafting group that operated out of her home on weekends, where WindReach volunteers, and their friends and family could get together to make things to sell, to raise funds for WindReach. The group first showcased their wares at the 2019 Holly Jolly Jubilee. Their table included bake sale and craft items, all of which were made and donated by WindReach volunteers, riders, and their families. It was an amazing success, and we were looking forward to a repeat in 2020. Obviously COVID-19 changed a lot of the Farm’s plans for the year, but we were able to feature Sharon’s group’s crafts at the Halloween drive-thru pop-up shop, as well as through WindReach’s first online craft auction, where the volunteer crafters added their creations to those made by the Learning-4-Life participants.
Sharon looks forward to returning to volunteering at the Stables once the therapeutic riding program is in full swing again. In the meantime, she continues to work with interested WindReach volunteer crafters (remotely for now) to ensure that they are ready when the next fundraising opportunity presents itself.
Thank you, Sharon, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.
One person CAN make a difference!