Mansfield Courier

Mansfield, and then the world - riding for Mansfield Autism

- By EMMA OLIVER

NOVEMBER will see Mansfield Autism resurrect its commemorat­ive rideathon, with an event launch on October 28 to honour some of the key contributo­rs to the service over the last 50 plus years.

Past president and life member of Mansfield Autism, former local MP and cattleman Graeme Stoney will be participat­ing in the launch ride, which begins at the Mansfield Showground­s from 11.30am, taking a route through the town centre up to the Mansfield Autism Statewide Services (MASS) farm on Ogilvies Road before returning to the showground­s.

One of 14 riders, other participan­ts include Deputy Mayor James Tehan representi­ng his mother Marie, who herself was a politician and assisted Dr Joan Curtis to start the service back in the late sixties, as well as Martin Hunt a current board member at MASS, Simone Reeves the chief executive officer, Justin Meadows representi­ng APEX, and Mike Davies representi­ng Mansfield Pony Club, who were key contributo­rs in the early days.

MASS student Ross Vincent will ride having developed confidence from MASS’ equine therapy program, along with Mark Calvert-Jones who will be representi­ng grandmothe­r Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, who was a key benefactor over many years, with all participan­ts riding horses kindly supplied by Hidden Trails on Horseback for the event.

“We are also hoping that Dr Joan Curtis, our founder, along with her son Jonathon, will be able to join the few kilometre round trip in a horse and jinker provided by Kylie Egan,” said Ms Reeves.

The first Mansfield Rideathon took place in 1971 to raise funds for the organisati­on’s travelling teacher service, with the rideathon running annually for many years before a long hiatus.

This year will see the event return to Mansfield Autism’s fundraisin­g calendar to celebrate its 50 year anniversar­y, as well as generate funds for the centre’s expansion plan, Operation Gamechange­r.

No longer one specific ride; the rideathon has changed so riders anywhere, anytime can register to ride and contribute their kilometres and dollars raised to a combined total.

With a projected cost over $30 million, Operation Gamechange­r includes a new term therapeuti­c school campus, residences for students, respite and crisis care, recreation­al facilities, family camp, equine therapy centre, swimming pool, walking and cycling tracks as well as profession­al developmen­t training facilities on Mansfield Autism’s recently purchased 100 acre farm.

On top of the significan­t state and federal government funding received, Mansfield Autism will also contribute up to $8 million to Operation Gamechange­r, which as a not-for-profit, makes every extra dollar raised or donated vital.

Director Simone Reeves said that fundraisin­g was a critical part of Mansfield Autism’s contributi­on to the plan.

“Our Mansfield Rideathon target is to raise enough to build one of our accessible six person family camp cabins, which is about $450,000,” she said.

The Rideathon asks horse riders to contribute their distance ridden in November toward a collective total, with the goal to ride ‘Around the world in 30 days’, covering over 40,075 kilometres to achieve this feat.

Riders of all discipline­s, ages and abilities are encouraged to participat­e, whether they own their own horse, borrow a friend’s or sign up with a trail ride operator.

There is also no limitation on location, so that any rider can register for the event whether they are local, national or internatio­nal.

Riders can donate a lump sum, a per kilometre ridden amount or gain sponsors for the event.

“Part of the fun will also be seeing everyone’s images with their steeds riding for autism,” said Ms Reeves.

Local trail riding businesses including Hidden Trails, McCormack’s, Watson’s and Buckle Up Bushrides, Mansfield Riding Centre as well as other local clubs are among those that have thrown their support behind the fundraiser.

“Globetrott­ing Internatio­nal Rides and Watson’s Mountain Country Trail Rides have put on a special November departure for their Howqua River Ride, and the Mansfield Pony Club and the Equestrian Club have teams entered,” said Ms Reeves.

Running throughout November, the rideathon is the main annual fundraiser for Mansfield Autism, that includes the Man From Snowy Movie Night on November 1 and the High Country Bush Dance Ball on November 27.

So if you’re not up for a ride, there are other ways you can support the service, whether that’s through a donation or sponsoring a rider, buying a commemorat­ive cap or attending one of the other events planned in November.

 ?? ?? ACHIEVEMEN­T: Students like Perry Netherclif­t develop confidence through MASS’ equine therapy program.
ACHIEVEMEN­T: Students like Perry Netherclif­t develop confidence through MASS’ equine therapy program.
 ?? ?? COMPANIONS­HIP: Blade Forrester enjoying a moment of quiet contemplat­ion.
COMPANIONS­HIP: Blade Forrester enjoying a moment of quiet contemplat­ion.
 ?? ?? EQUINE THERAPY: Evie Sferco spends time grooming one of the ponies.
EQUINE THERAPY: Evie Sferco spends time grooming one of the ponies.

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