WINDSOR, ONT. -- The group, ASSIST - Putting Kids in Sports, presented a $5,000 cheque to the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) Saturday.

“I believe every kid deserves a chance to be a kid and financial barrier shouldn’t be stopping them,” says ASSIST president, Mike Dugal.

ASSIST has been helping financially vulnerable families register their children in local minor sports associations for more than a decade.

Dugal says the federally registered charity which promotes the benefits of physical activity has raised more than $100,000 for hundreds of children in basketball, hockey, baseball, football and other sports associations.

WETRA runs a variety of equine-assisted programs to help people with orthopedic, neurological, medical and psychological problems. Nearly 200 persons with special needs receive therapy at WETRA each week. About 80 per cent of those who are enrolled in the program are children who have developmental, emotional or physical disabilities.

WETRA Executive Director, Becky Mills says today’s donation will help pay for the organization’s hay harvest bill for the year.

“When they have no people coming in, then bills still have to be paid and this is our opportunity to help them by paying their hay bill and they can put their money towards the kids where it belongs and not towards paying bills,” says Dugal.

“When he said $5,000 to help pay your hay bill we were thrilled,” says Mills.

She says the donation comes at a much needed time as the organization has been struggling financially during the pandemic.

“It’s been tough, we have kept our lights off and air conditioner off and the heat in March it’s been so long we went from the heat cycle to the air conditioning, kept everything shut down, minimized our staff, but we had to use our reserves,” she said.

“We only had reserves because our community is so supportive and we tried really hard not to shed some tough light on things but we are struggling here. But we are going to be okay, we are going to make sure this comes through because the community has been so supportive. Our kids are getting back on horses for sure. In September we are back rolling again.”