Volunteer of the Year explains why she does it

Special bonds form between rider and horse through the RDASpecial bonds form between rider and horse through the RDA

Ms Gaynor Hobart, of Watanobbi , was the winner of the Adult and overall Volunteer of the Year, Central Coast, at the Central Coast Volunteer of the Year Awards, held on October 5, at Shelley Beach Golf Club.

Ms Hobart took out both categories for her extensive dedication to the Central Coast Riding for the Disabled, Somersby, where she has volunteered for seven years. Ms Hobart has worked tirelessly to better the services and experience of disabled peoples who attend riding classes at the Somersby site, and has dedicated her time to almost every aspect of Riding for the Disabled’s management, including becoming a certifi ed coach, increasing her knowledge of horse care, fundraising, and of course, helping disabled people experience the joy of riding a horse.

The Somersby centre is a part of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) which operates throughout Australia to help disabled Australians learn new skills, have fun, make friends and learn to ride. A spokesperson from the RDA said the organisation couldn’t be prouder of Ms Hobart for her efforts in Somersby and success with the Volunteer Awards. “Gaynor and the rest of our volunteers ignore the old saying, never work with animals or children. “Gaynor only sees the pleasure and confi dence the RDA gives to children and adult riders with disabilities, and does it all while tackling the uncertainties of the job with a level head and enthusiasm,” the spokesperson said. Ms Hobart said she felt she hadn’t done enough to even be nominated, let alone win the Volunteer of the Year Award.

“When I started this seven years ago, a lady I worked with told me I’d be here for life. “She told me once it gets you, you’ll never leave, and she was right. “The difference from putting a disabled child or adult rider onto a horse and watching them blossom is indescribable,” Ms Hobart said. Ms Hobart, who mostly works with children from special needs school groups, said she had witnessed fi rsthand the dramatic physical, mental and emotional benefi ts that riding could produce in disabled kids. “A lot of these times, the kids come to us with ongoing issues that go beyond their disability.

“We get kids who are frustrated with their situation, who maybe have siblings who can do all these things that they can’t, or we get kids whose parents may be divorced or splitting up and they can sometimes blame themselves and their disability for it,” she continued. “Riding helps these children in so many ways. “I’ve seen kids with cerebral palsy who couldn’t sit up straight for five minutes let alone mount a horse, gradually improve their strength and endurance until they could ride for a whole hour. “I’ve had autistic children who have never once uttered a word, suddenly start talking to me or their horse, after months of silence. “It’s really an incredible thing to witness.

“The change and the improvement in their quality of life is palpable and that’s why I do this,” Ms Hobart said, and according to Ms Hobart, it’s not only the riders whose lives improve. “Aside from all the volunteers, whose lives are enriched from the special bonds we form with the riders, other people in the riders’ lives notice the difference. “We get letters here all the time from parents, carers, teachers and even doctors, who notice the change in their disabled loved one or charge. “It’s truly a special thing,” Ms Hobart added. The Somersby centre is fully self-funded and relies on the generosity and donations of the community it services, and the volunteers dedicated to help make a difference in a disabled person’s life.

Media release, Oct 4, 2016 Jacqueline Hole, The Centre for Volunteering Interview, Oct 5, 2016 Gaynor Hobart, Watanobbi

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