MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Oklahoma School for the Blind students can’t wait for their 14th Western Heritage Day on September 26.
More than 100 volunteers are expected to help at the annual event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Silver Spur Western Lodge in Haskell.
Lodge owners Roy and Rose Anna Webb donate their facilities, stage coach, hay wagon and fish pond for the event.
As a result of their support for OSB, the Webb’s were honored with the Oklahoma Bud Breeding Oklahoma Spirit Award and inducted into the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in January.
The Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association sponsors the ponies, mechanical bull, dummy calf roping, rock climbing, bungee jumps and lunch, which is served by volunteers from local churches.
Donnie Hough from Pryor brings the ponies.
Big Rock Entertainment provides the bungee jump, rock wall and mechanical bull.
Sharon Breeding, past president and OQHA hall of fame member, matches volunteers from all over the state to help Oklahoma School for the Blind students, kindergarten through 12th grade, experience the old west with buddies by their sides.
“I tell them when that bus stops, get out there and get yourself a friend,” Breeding said. “Absolutely every student must be accompanied by a friend, so if you see somebody without a friend, get hold of them for the day.”
Most volunteers come from several dedicated groups. Many are members of Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association, and, for the most part, are either world champions or past-presidents of the association or both. Others who volunteer are youth members from the Oklahoma Youth Quarter Horse Association, the rodeo team from Connors State College in Warner, Haskell High School Future Farmers of America and local churches.
“These volunteers may get more out of it than the students do,” Breeding said. “They are naturals for caring and having the responsibility for somebody other than themselves because they have taken care of animals all their lives – they’re just real good kids.”
OSB’s Western Heritage Day was the brainstorm more than 14 years ago of Don LaPorte, who has a visual disability himself. During a visit to talk to OSB students on career day about his successful food service business, LaPorte decided to combine his love of horses and access to volunteers as a member of OQHA, with a desire to help OSB students.
LaPorte, now retired, was affiliated with Visual Services’ Business Enterprise Program. Both OSB and Visual Services are divisions of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
“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,” said LaPorte, who continues to join OQHA volunteers at Western Heritage Day every year.
“I am extremely appreciative to the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association, Don and Rose Anna Webb from the Silver Spur Western Ranch, and the countless volunteers who make Western Heritage Day a fun and educational day for our students,” Echelle said. “They provide an abundance of activities, introduce our students to special guests and treat them to a delicious lunch.”
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 2017, 89 students lived at the school during the week, commuted from home or attended summer school offered free of charge. As the statewide resource center, OSB offered statewide outreach services, including 2, 487 direct outreach services for students who attend other public schools and 1,708 services to other public schools.
For more information, call 918-781-8200 or 877-229-7136 toll free, or visit http://osb.k12.ok.us/.