The Fidelis Foundation
The Fidelis Foundation

Horry County 4H spring horse show May 12, 2018 9:00

Fidelis Foundation featured on WPDE's morning show! Horsing around: Myrtle Beach foundation helps non-verbal special needs girl sing, laugh by Amanda Kinseth The Fidelis Foundation offers horse therapy to help at risk and special needs children. (Amanda Kinseth/WPDE)AA MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WPDE) — It only happens when she's with a horse--a non-verbal special needs girl comes to life when she rides. Every Friday, Maureen comes to Heart Ranch. "Maureen has Down syndrome and autism and many sensory issues," said Virginia Ballestero, Maureen's mom. "She is not comfortable with people." But, she is comfortable with horses. So comfortable, in fact, the extremely rare, and exceptional, happens when she rides. "With the horses, she is verbal. She laughs. She sings. She relaxes," said her mom. "I can't express it any other way than it's just sheer joy to hear her express herself and to laugh." Maureen's horse therapy is provided through the Fidelis Foundation. "We help them learn to groom the horses, we help them learn how to tack them up, and we help them learn to ride," said Teresa Vassar, Fidelis Foundation. The organization is always looking for volunteers and donations. They're auctioning horseshoe ornaments, handcrafted by the children who benefit from the Fidelis Foundation. Their goal is to raise $5,000 to buy a lift to help children with special needs mount the horses. "We'll have a ramp and they will go on the ramp and they will be able to be lifted on a horse, and they may have never been able to do-so before." They'll be able to help more children with physical disabilities, giving them opportunities like Maureen's. "They are just so happy being on the horses. It's amazing what horses can do for people with disabilities," said Vassar. The horseshoe ornament auction is at Scotties Beach Bar Saturday, Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. For info on the event and how to volunteer, visit the Fidelis Foundation of Myrtle Beach on Facebook.

Horry County Special Olympics   'We just have to do them a different way': Special Olympians take on horseback riding by Madeline Montgomery Special Olympians take on horseback riding (Madeline Montgomery/WPDE)AA Horry County, S.C. (WPDE) — A sport that takes balance, confidence, and communication: Special Olympians from Horry County will be competing in horseback riding for the first time this year. "I love riding horses because it's a bonding experience," said Danielle Kitrilakis, a Special Olympian. "They will go in and out of cones, they will cross over some logs, there's a bridge that they have to cross over," said Linda Gurley, a coach for the Special Olympics. Horse riding gives these athletes the chance to be in control. "I think this is an awesome thing to do. They had the opportunity to be independent on a horse, they're in control of that horse, there isn't a lot of other things they're in control of," said Gurley. "I just love when we get on the horse and have all the confidence. It's you alone on the horse so you've got to do all the work," said Special Olympian Eric Purcell. The Heart Ranch hosts the riders and employees of the ranch help train them. "The people that help are from heaven. They are special people," said Karen Kitrilakis, Danielle's mom. "I want to thank everybody for doing a lot of this," said Danielle. Volunteers with the Special Olympics also help out. "It's just something I love to do and make a connection and make a difference in their lives," said Gurley. The volunteers are working on making it where anyone with a disability can ride. "They need some financial help. It's called the Fidelis non-profit. If people could open their wallets and help, they need a ramp, they need a hoyer lift, and that would keep this program going for all the kids, not just half of them that can stand and walk," said Karen. That way, more Special Olympians can show how capable they are. "We all do things, we just have to do them a different way," said Purcell. You can help donate to the wheelchair ramp and lift at


The Fidelis Foundation
Heart Ranch

6700 St Peters Church Rd

Myrtle Beach, SC 29588

Hours of Operation

We meet from 2-4 on the first Sundays of the month. We ask that all volunteers arrive at least 15 minutes early.

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