There’s a farm in Barrington where horseback riding brings such joy, kids’ faces light up as soon as they walk in the door. People drive long distances, just to be part of this special place.
It’s called “Walk On Farm” and it’s a riding center designed to make life easier for people with disabilities. Six-year-old Danielle Sulaski is living with Cerebral Palsy after suffering a stroke at birth. Her family brings her to Walk On once a week all the way from Aurora.
Danielle’s grandfather, Bob Hunt, says she’s a different girl when she loses her walker and climbs on a horse. Her head lifts higher. Her posture improves. She’s in control, she’s smiling and she’s loving every minute of it. He beamed while watching Danielle take the reins. But my favorite part was seeing how confident she was after getting off her horse. When Danielle walked up to her grandfather, she was glowing.
Walk On opened its doors to students in Barrington four years ago. One of the founding partners, Mary Illing, is an Occupational Therapist and also one of Walk On’s three instructors. She says the farm’s horses are hand-picked to be gentle and kind.
But she also says there’s a waiting list of about 40 people at the Farm. There just aren’t enough places around that offer this experience, they’re hoping to expand and that’s why Walk On is spreading the word about their “Tent at The Track Fundraiser” this Saturday, August 21st, during the running of the 28th Arlington Million.
The Walk On Farm tent will be set up just steps from the Arlington Park Racecourse, right on the first turn. They’ll have a buffet, cash bar, silent auction and raffle, the event runs from 1 to 5PM and tickets are $125 per person. They use the money raised during this annual event to offset the cost of riding lessons and help keep the sessions affordable for these families. The youngest rider at Walk On is 3 and the oldest is 78.
Mary says Walk On Farm’s riders have a range of disabilities, like autism, spina bifida, head trauma and other degenerative diseases. They also offer riding sessions and carriage rides to seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Mary says you “see amazing things happen” at Walk On. She says she’s “privileged to work with this group of people. Life is never harder than when you have a disability. If you can help them just a little and make their life a little brighter, how can you not help but love what you do.”
You’ll find Walk On Farm at 26665 W. Cuba in Barrington and can learn more about their programs on their website at WalkOnFarm.com. If you’d like to attend their “Tent at the Track Fundraiser,” reservations are required. If you’re interested in attending the event or just making a donation, they ask that you call 847-381-4231. The Arlington Park Racecourse is at 2200 W. Euclid Avenue in Arlington Heights.