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Friday, March 1
The Indiana Daily Student

city bloomington

PALS community event spreads awareness on therapeutic programs

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People and Animals Learning Services will host “Halloween with the Horses" to spread the word about their nonprofit from 4-7 p.m. Oct. 28 at 7644 W. Elwren Road. PALS is an adaptive riding center that provides equine-assisted services. The event will allow members of the community to learn more about the therapeutic benefits for people with disabilities, veterans, senior citizens and at-risk youth. 

At the event, participants can dress up, interact with horses and participate in Halloween themed activities. There is a $7 entry fee for general admission. However, the event is free for kids 3-years-old and under. 

PALS offers local residents an opportunity to create physical, emotional and social connections with horses. The organization has different therapeutic programs available depending on the group of people. For example, they run a program called “Equipt,” for at-risk youth and a program called “Silver Spurs,” for senior citizens. 

According to the website, “PALS promotes joy, quality of life, better health, and empowerment by providing therapeutic programs with horses.”  

Kate Oliver, development director at PALS, said the event will have a sensory trail with themed stations, such as Maleficent, throughout the barn. The sensory trail will work to engage with each of the five senses, creating a multi-sensory journey. In the barn, the horses will also be wearing costumes to go along with each theme. 

“The kids can trick-or-treat along the trail, and then we'll have pumpkin decorating, face painting and a photo booth,” Oliver said. “We’re going to have food trucks here as well.”  

Kids will receive a “passport,” where they can earn stickers once they have completed each station. Each station includes games, such as “dunking skeletons.” 

She said when PALS first held this event in 2021, it was a public open house with the intention of spreading the word about their organization. There were about 700 people in attendance, so they decided to continue bringing together people from the community every year. 

Although the event is catered toward children, there are volunteer and internship opportunities available for IU students. Interested students can visit the website to sign up for the volunteer orientations each month and learn about available positions. Volunteers have the chance to become a leader, barn help, or sidewalk help.  

“We offer opportunities for students in public health and other areas to come out and work here with us to obtain those required internships,” Christine Herring, the executive director, said. “So, that would be of more interest to them to learn about our mission.” 

PALS also works with other nonprofits in the community, such as Centerstone Recovery Center, Wheeler Mission and the Boys and Girls Club. Working with these other organizations gives them the chance to come together and share what they contribute to the community, she said. 

“We recently received a community foundation grant,” Herring said. “It was based on providing programming to other nonprofits in the area who engage in addiction recovery.” 

As opposed to humans, horses cannot hide their emotions, they are able to mirror what people are feeling, she said. PALS believes that is one of the biggest benefits when people engage with their horses. Having therapeutic programs like this in the area offers people the chance to create these relationships with animals that they may not have access to otherwise. 

“There is a very strong healing component, not just physical, but emotional, social, cognitive,” Herring said. “Horses do a lot for us just by connecting with them. 

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