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One Hoof in Front of the Other

Adapted from an article by Brandon H. originally published in the River Rush Review, the newsletter of Neponset River House in Norwood.

Riverside Clubhouses are all about building skills, resilience, and opportunity for members, who have struggled with mental illness and are working to achieve their full potential through employment and recovery.  Their progress and persistence is celebrated all year long, especially as they persevered through the challenges and interruptions of the past pandemic year.  And this particular individual success story just seemed to gallop up to the forefront and neigh, er… stay!

In the early months of the pandemic, Neponset River House member Marisol M. experienced one of the roughest patches she’s had in quite some time. Following a series of alternative living arrangements, she made a pact with herself to go six months without a setback.  She accomplished that, but then felt stuck, because she lacked a goal to reach for next.

Thinking back to her youth, Marisol wondered about working again with horses, something she had once enjoyed immensely. It just so happened that Clubhouse assistant director Paul McAlarney had connections at a nearby horse farm, and reached out to see if Marisol could volunteer there. The two waited patiently for a reply, Marisol bracing herself for the chance that the farm opportunity wouldn’t materialize. Fortunately the good news came – the farm manager texted Paul that they’d love to have Marisol help care for the horses – bringing her to tears of joy!

Elated, Marisol journeyed down to meet the farm owners accompanied by Clubhouse employment coordinator Connor Simonoff.  She and the horses hit it off immediately — that was the easy and expected part. But Marisol needed a reliable way to get to the farm in Sharon, several miles from Neponset River House in Norwood.  She had no means of transportation and lived within a strict budget.

With help from the Clubhouse community, Marisol drew up a list of options: she estimated the cost of an Uber ride to Sharon, the time a bus ride would take, and she even began looking for a bicycle.  Whereupon Neponset River House director Dannielle Ford-Allen had an idea — why not obtain a few bikes for anyone in the Clubhouse to use?  (With a collective slap to the forehead, Clubhouse staff and members wondered, “Why did we never think of that before?”)

So now there’s a plan in place: a bike at the ready for good weather, a subsidized Uber account for Marisol, a bus route mapped out — along with a delighted Marisol and a stable full of happy horses!

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