Lesley Hewitt

Riding for Disabled (RDA) Daylesford’s future is secured for the next financial year with the generous support of our local community. Cost of living increases have impacted on everyone in the community, including RDA. The costs of running the program have increased over the past financial year and fund-raising opportunities have declined. So, it was with relief and gratitude that RDA Daylesford volunteers were told recently of generous sponsorship for the next financial year from the Community Bank Daylesford and District, the Daylesford Foundation and Daylesford Rotary.

RDA Daylesford were also told this week that they had been re-accredited by assessors from RDA Australia. This is a bi-annual requirement. Accreditation involved an extensive process where the Centre’s activities, including it’s riding program, volunteers, coaches and administration were assessed as complying with RDA Australia policies, standards and legal requirements including child safety procedures. All RDA coaches must pass the Australian Sports Commission qualification to teach equestrian riding to children and adults with a disability. Daylesford currently has three qualified coaches and another in training.

In 1994 Stephanie Ashley, then Daylesford Secondary College student welfare coordinator, and Wendy Hogben, the integration officer, thought that an RDA program would benefit students at the school. And working with Chris and Steve Clare (the inaugural coach) the first riders started in 1995. Wendy is still a coach and vice -president at RDA Daylesford having served as president for many years, before handing over the presidency last year to ensure the next generation continues the work. Since 1995 RDA Daylesford has been continuously supported by Boomerang Ranch, the Glenlyon Sports Day Committee and the local Freemasons.

RDA Daylesford offers the only disability specific sport and recreation opportunity in the Shire and punches above its weight. Riders can achieve their own goals – it may be improved communication, having fun or working towards competing at the highest level they can. Over the years riders have made Victorian and Australian teams (RDA and Special Olympics teams) travelling interstate and even to Taiwan.  A small centre numbers wise, but great achievements.

Volunteers assist the riders to achieve their goals and get a lot out of it themselves and as one rider said last month “you guys are awesome”.

If you are interested in volunteering or giving a tax-deductible donation to help RDA Daylesford email rdadaylesford@gmail.com.au

Lesley Hewitt is a Daylesford resident and currently Deputy Mayor of the Shire. She is a past president of RDA Victoria.