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For mom Chris Bajner, it was especially worrying. Her son Jimmy, just 4 years old at the time, has a condition called chromosome 18q deletion. The rare disorder leaves Jimmy unable to walk or speak, Bajner said.
After hearing about the benefits of equestrian therapy, Bajner had brought Jimmy to Ready Set Ride, a horseback riding service for children with special needs and terminal illnesses. The barn is located at 13056 Essington Rd. in Plainfield, between 127th and 135th streets.
"We were a little skeptical," she said with a laugh. "These aren't ponies — they're big horses."
Five years later, Bajner has become a champion for the therapeutic riding stable after seeing the way it's helped Jimmy. Although the services aren't covered by insurance, "You see the benefits in your kid and you find the money to go," she said.
Over the summer, Bajner launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Ready Set Ride.
She said staff at the Plainfield barn were struggling financially as they looked to meet the increasing costs of caring for the horses without passing the additional expense on to parents.
"It was super easy to set up," Bajner said of her campaign, aptly named "Help Keep the Barn Doors Open."
"I was very surprised, because very quickly I raised $2,000," she said. Last month, she renewed her efforts, inspired by an effort dubbed "Giving Tuesday."
"First there was Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Do you know what today is? It’s Giving Tuesday, a day where you can give to others less fortunate before the Holidays," Bajner wrote on the site.
She's hoping to raise $5,000 by the end of the year and is just less than $2,000 shy of her goal.
Bajner also hopes to raise awareness of the benefits of Ready Set Ride. "Most of the people in Plainfield have no idea that this little barn exists," she said.
Now 9 years old, Jimmy is making strides thanks to the organization, she said.
"When the horse moves, his hips actually move in the position they'd be in while walking," she said. "His hips are getting used to that movement," which is also helping strengthen his core muscles, Bajner said.
But it's not just therapy — it's also fun, she said.
"You take kids to therapy and they hate it because it's not fun," she said. At Ready Set Ride, Jimmy does activities such as coloring pictures or reaching and grabbing things from a basket, all while riding a horse — not realizing he's doing therapy, she said.
"They're using their mind and they're using their fine motor skills," Bajner said. Jimmy is also learning sign language.
"He'll sign to the people that are walking the horses," she said. "It's amazing."
To learn more about the "Help Keep the Barn Doors Open" GoFundMe campaign, click on the widget or follow this link. You can also learn more about Jimmy's story on his website.
Read about more Plainfield-area GoFundMe campaigns.
Look for more local and Chicago-area campaigns on GoFundMe, which has partnered with Patch to help draw attention to your neighbors in need.