Early on, PALS Executive Director Fern Bonchek had been exposed to the need within the Indiana community for recreation programs for individuals with disabilities. Growing up, Fern’s Mother, Barb, had spent several days a week providing riding lessons for individuals with disabilities within the community. Upon returning to her hometown of Bloomington, IN in 2000 several of Barb’s original riders had inquired about returning to riding, an opportunity Barb could no longer provide, and inspired Fern to explore the possibility of starting her own therapeutic riding program for individuals in the Indiana community. Having spent several years training and becoming a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) Advanced Instructor while working with The Shea Center, one of the oldest therapeutic riding programs in the United States located in Orange County California, Fern felt confident in her abilities to bring the same high quality program and services to the local community and provide a unique opportunity not available in Bloomington or the surrounding vicinity for a growing population of individuals with disabilities and at-risk youth.
Since the program’s inception, PALS has grown to serve over 60 weekly clients with the assistance of over 150 volunteers. The organization has provided over 17,600 therapeutic horseback riding lessons for clients from over 11 Indiana counties. The 4 staff members and 10 horses who currently serve the PALS program look forward to the continued growth and development of the program in years to come as new opportunities arise and new clients and volunteers join the PALS family.