MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association is saddlin’ up again for 82 Oklahoma School for the Blind students who are ready to ride on Wednesday (September 28).
OSB’s ninth Western Heritage Day will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Silver Spur Western Lodge owned by Roy and Rocky Webb in Haskell.
The Webb brothers donate their rodeo arena, stage coach and hay wagon for the annual event.
AQHA volunteers will help students experience what it’s like to be a cowboy with pony and stagecoach rides, dummy calf roping, fishing and other hands-on activities.
Experts will assist students in riding a mechanical bull in a safe and controlled environment.
OQHA member Don LaPorte recently retired after 20 years as owner-operator of a food service business in Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services’ Business Enterprise Program.
DRS divisions includes OSB and the Business Enterprise Program.
LaPorte dreamed up the Western Heritage Day idea at Future Shock, OSB’s annual career day.
“I wanted the children and the parents to know that it is OK to think out of the box and experience something new that might not be considered the norm,” said LaPorte, who has a visual disability himself. “Western Heritage Day teaches our kids to face challenges in life and see that if you do fall down, get up again and try again – don’t just stop.”
Don LaPorte will be inducted into the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in January 2017, earning the Bud Breeding Oklahoma Spirit Award.
“Don uses his connections and expertise with horses to help adults and children who are blind become more confident, which is one reason he was nominated for the hall of fame,” explained Sharon Breeding, Bud Breeding’s widow, who is also Western Heritage Day event director and an Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of Fame member.
“We have people who drive over 200 miles to volunteer,” Breeding said. “Once they’ve been to Western Heritage Days to help, they don’t want to ever miss it. It’s just a life-changing experience.”
“Don has always been very interested in helping OSB and our kids,” said Linda Graber, OSB Parent Teacher Association president and grandmother of OSB junior Sara Graber. “We can’t thank Don and the Quarter Horse Association and the Silver Spur Lodge enough. They give of their time year after year after year so our students can have a wonderful experience.”
The OQHA sponsors lunch, which is served by volunteers from local churches.
Donnie Hough from Pryor brings the ponies for Western Heritage Day.
J. R. Watson from Jenks provides the bungee jump and personally operates the mechanical bull.
Students from the Oklahoma Youth Quarter Horse Association, the equine program at Connors State College in Warner and area high school students will be matched up as friends for the day with each OSB student.
“Oklahoma School for the Blind students are so fortunate that the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association and Silver Spur Western Lodge give their time and resources to benefit the students every year,” OSB Superintendent Rita Echelle said. “Western Heritage Day provides a wealth of experiences that students may not ever be able to obtain on their own.
“Students have an incredible time and actually learn in the process,” Echelle said. “Whether examining historic western artifacts or calculating how far to throw a rope, the students gain knowledge and enjoyment that they will carry with them for a lifetime.”
The Oklahoma School for the Blind is fully accredited and teaches state-mandated education requirements and specialized skills that help students adapt to visual disabilities and live independently. In 2015-16, 158 students lived at the school during the week, commuted from home or attended summer school. The graduation rate from the residential and commuter program was 100 percent. OSB also provides thousands of free outreach services each year for students who attend local public schools, their families and educators.
For more information, call 918-781-8200 or 877-229-7136 toll free, or visit http://osb.k12.ok.us/.