The Stoneybrook Foundation proudly announces the hiring of Tonia R. Richardson as it’s Executive Director, to guide and lead the organization into its next period of growth and expansion. Richardson will operate from the organization’s Stoneybrook Foundation Therapeutic Riding Center in Acme, PA, that provides its community of riders, students and patients a wide range of equine-facilitated therapies and services.
Founded in 2008 by John and Deborah McCain, celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, the Foundation has grown considerably from humble beginnings, when it started with only 3 horses, a volunteer staff, and 20 students. Today, the steadily expanding center employs 10 staff members, has 15 horses, 6 owned and another 9 free leases, and provides nearly 2,000 therapeutic riding lessons, across a wide variety of rider challenges and conditions, each year, with a waiting list of nearly 100 more riders who await program availability.
Stoneybrook Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of children and adults who face mental, intellectual, or physical conditions and/or special challenges in a therapeutic partnership with horses through therapy, education, sport and recreation/leisure. The organization’s riders range from ages 4-92 and include a diverse group of people that includes all sexes, orientations, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, and interests. Each rider receives a custom program, designed to meet his/her highly individualized needs, that include a selection of focused physical, cognitive, social or emotional goals.
“The inclusion of Tonia Richardson to our leadership team is a very exciting next step for the Board, as we have such great confidence in her talents to drive the center’s operations and as a partner to us,” said Suzanne Ward, chair of Stoneybrook’s Board of Directors. “She has amazing passion, dedication, a high level of energy, and an ideal background to understand our families, our staff, and our strategy. She’ll achieve her goals, help us target new ones, and be a strong source of support, to ensure that the rest of us we do, as well.”
Richardson grew up on farms in northern Virginia and central West Virginia and is well-acquainted with what’s required in terms of commitment and dedication to run a farm. Additionally, she’s spent the last 18 years working in the non-profit sector, including leadership roles with both Pressley Ridge and Adelphoi where she worked directly with children dealing with behavioral emotional issues and/or autism, so her background is very uniquely matched for the qualifications the organization sought in the executive director role.
Richardson earned her bachelor’s degree in Family Studies and Education at Seton Hill University and her master’s degree in Education Administration at California University of Pennsylvania.
“I’ll focus to ensure that our central operations are of the highest quality and our program offering continually evolves and adapts to meet the needs of our growing and changing constituency base,” Richardson said. “I’ll also play a key role to fortify our business back office to ensure that our administrative functions, such as financial, grant, record, and data management, along with their corresponding technology, scale to support that evolution.”
Leading the Center administration is only a part of Richardson’s role; a larger part of her focus will be on raising awareness of the organization, raising funds to help move those on the waiting list to the active student roster, and raising capital investments for the physical facility. Additionally, as the most active ‘face’ of the organization, Richardson will spend a great deal of time in the community, as both educator and advocate for their student base, to create awareness of the Stoneybrook organization and ensure that their services are known, accessible, and available to those in need of them. Not an easy job when non-profit fundraising is highly competitive and so many organizations are seeking the dollars they need to survive.
Richardson will work to expand the volunteer base, as many of the lessons require 1-3 volunteers to assist and ensure the safety of the rider during the lesson, depending upon the challenges the specific rider faces. The organization welcomes volunteers and/or interns who want to work with students, with horses, with the facility, or with the administrative team. Training is provided and learning is encouraged, as volunteers have the opportunity to choose to advance from one area to the next and possibly even consider becoming a formal Path, International certified instructor, as part of staff. Path, International, is the accrediting body that ensures that both their facility and every student receive the highest possible quality experience available. Three of Stoneybrook’s staff instructors are certified through PATH International.
“Now that I’m settled, I plan to be a very active presence in the community to drive awareness, support, engagement and investment in our mission,” she said. “One of our greatest challenges, aside from funding, is awareness – there are many people who see our center, but don’t realize what we offer. Once they do, they are immediately interested and generally extend help, in whatever way they are able. Our Board is very active and works hard to help produce the much-needed funding to expand our mission; I’ll work closely with them to ensure that we have the tight alignment and flawless execution needed to deliver on plan.”
“We hit our 10-year mark this year, with consistent growth year over year, and that’s significant for a non-profit,” she said. “The demand for our programming continues to grow with funding being our largest obstacle to expanding capacity, as the insurance companies do not yet cover Therapeutic Riding, despite the extensive and growing science to support it.”
Follow the Stoneybrook Foundation on social media for more information about their organization, upcoming events and the services they provide to those who need therapeutic riding.