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By Dr. Jillian Stewart

Featured image: Courtesy of Surf & Turf Therapy

In 2021, Unidos South OC was the first recipient of the 100 Horseman Grant, which they received based on their vision to provide 100 under-resourced children from San Juan Capistrano with an introduction to horses. Surf & Turf Therapy, a local nonprofit organization committed to bettering lives through nontraditional therapeutic activities, including horseback riding and surfing, and Unidos partnered together to execute this dream. Participants received an introduction to all things equine, from grooming and feeding to tacking up and riding.

After just one afternoon at the barn, we witnessed kids transforming from shy and unsure to confidently interacting with the horses and eager to return. The work Unidos inspired started an entirely new pathway for community growth in San Juan Capistrano, one that cannot be disregarded. Through this collaboration, people with disabilities from under-resourced San Juan Capistrano communities have been identified and are already receiving pro bono services through our original therapy programs, both in hippotherapy and therapeutic riding. The partnership has even spread to include a pilot program this fall where 12 children received free surf lessons for three weeks. Currently, Surf & Turf Therapy and Unidos South OC are working together to secure funding to ensure these programs can continue supporting our San Juan Capistrano community by breaking down financial barriers for those who are under-resourced.

Dr. Jillian Stewart is the founder and executive director of Surf & Turf Therapy.

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