With each step forward in 2019 we are grateful, optimistic and ready for 2020! Our relocation project is in full gear; We've been excited about the progress shown in our Barn Buddies program, which allows for continued unmounted service regardless of our temporary facility's accommodations or limitations, and we will be continuing this no-cost program in 2020 thanks to grant funding from the Bartels Family Foundation and the Jefferson Foundation. Additionally, 2020 collaborations with schools and other organizations are in the works to bring educational and interactive service events to the community.
In December we shared that our Board of Directors refined selection of 35 properties, and that select property owners have shown interest in workable contracts involving lease, lease-to-purchase, and donation options. Ride On St. Louis continues to advance this project through precise analysis and strategic planning. Our Board of Directors and Founder/Director Marita Wassman manage and prepare various aspects of the project. Key elements of recent development and activities involve land-holders/owners, attorneys, real-estate specialists, local government agencies, architects and builders, investors and grantors. "I'm really pleased with the progress we're making on all levels, and just so thankful for all the support shown," says Wassman. "Volunteers, parents, clients, everyone's been so excited and positive throughout this process and that really is something taken to heart. We've gotten a lot accomplished, but have a lot of work ahead; And are eager to see all our clients return to enjoy a beautiful, flood free home with us."
With things moving in the right direction for our relocation project, there is a possibility to seeing clients return to some our regular mounted activities in 2020. Mounted programming has been suspended (with exception to our DASA Camp WeCanDu summer camp collaboration, which serves approximately 90 children with physical disabilities) due to the limitations of our equine's temporary residences and mounted program logistics. In an effort to continue program services, we introduced our Barn Buddies program in 2019 after a successful pilot program began in 2017. This unmounted program has served participants with diagnoses including: brain tumor, cancer, depression, stroke, suicide-risk and traumatic brain injury. For more on the program's impact, click here. In 2020, we are excited to be able to continue offering this no-cost program thanks to generous grants from the Bartels Family Foundation and the Jefferson Foundation.
Also for this year, Ride On St. Louis has been invited to participate in various educational and interactive collaborations with local schools and academic institutions. More will be shared as the events approach. Through these events, Ride On St. Louis will directly affect nearly 250 area youth.
Ride On St. Louis has had exciting preliminary discussions with a company that has designed an innovative user-friendly AI technology for a people who use wheelchairs. The assistant device provides people with physical challenges the ability to communicate, control, and connect with the world and loved ones. The device is a "smart" companion that users control through either an eye-tracking device, a head-mouse, touch screen app and or joystick. Some features include face recognition, a 360° camera, touch/gaze control technology, and integrated text-to-speech API. The device aims to capture surroundings and enhance communication, making relationships and the world more accessible for people with mobility and communication challenges. Ride On St. Louis would incorporate this device into service treatments and activities to accelerate goals, expand outcomes and facilitate better client-staff communication.
2019 was a busy year with many blessings and challenges. You've helped us make Barn Buddies possible for adults with hardships, heath challenges and disabilities; volunteered with us to serve nearly 100 children with physical disabilities in June; and offered resources as we navigate through our center's crucial relocation project. With your help in 2020 we're looking to serve more clients, secure our forever home, and continue making a difference in our community.