MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- More than 30 Exceptional Family Member Program adults and children expanded their senses through touch, sight, sounds and smells at the Scarlet and Gold Riding Club aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, May 15.
The children planted potato seeds, watered carrots and met with three horses to learn about and interact with.
The EFMP is a mandatory enrollment program for active duty Marines who have a family member with a diagnosed medical, intellectual or emotional disorder.
“I think the main thing for the families with the EFMP is being connected to each other,” said Tracey M. Sosa, program manager for the Camp Lejeune Exceptional Family Member Program. “We educate the children in the program and have some science classes as well, like today with the gardening and talking about the horses. But, the most important thing is making sure the kids get the help they need while having fun stuff like this.”
The riding club and family member program staff set up a touch-based sensory activity where the children could dig in the dirt as they planted seeds and finger paint on the horses to have a better understanding of the different textures they handled.
“We love our horses and they bring so much joy into our lives that we wanted to share it with others,” said Kim A. Reid, Scarlet and Gold Riding Club president. “Having the kids here and seeing them laugh and smile really made my day.”
The parents seemed excited and elated to see their children laughing, running, blowing bubbles, feeding and finger painting the horses.
“This is pretty awesome because horses are my daughter’s favorite animal,” said parent, Ashley M. Putney. “I didn’t tell her about what was happening today until we got here. She got really excited really quickly.”
After dipping their hands in different colored paint, the children’s hand prints colored the horses’ sides into a rainbow of high fives. As the horses ate the last of the carrots, the SGRC staff walked the horses around the yard so the children could play with them more.
The time for play ended and the parents gathered their rambunctious younglings up and headed home. The SGRC staff showered their horses to clean the paint off, which they seemed to enjoy a refreshing shower after a few hours of having fun.
The riding club often works with the Wounded Warrior Battalion. Having the children around wasn’t stressful for the horses who meet a lot of Marines from Wounded Warrior.
“While we don’t have any therapeutic professionals here, we do our best to help anyone who needs it,” said Kelly E. Goetz, Scarlet and Gold Riding Club community relations manager. “Next time the EFMP kids come out, we’ll try to have more horses to interact with and maybe let the kids ride them as we walked them around our track.”
For more information about the Scarlet and Gold Riding Club, call (910)-451-4901 or visit www.sgrcnc.org.
For more information about the Exceptional Family Member Program, call (910)-451-4394 or visit www.mccslejeune.com/efmp.