Pal-O-Mine’s roots date from 1993 when Lisa Gatti started a therapeutic riding program for individuals with disabilities. Our mission is to provide a comprehensive therapeutic equine program using horses to facilitate growth, learning and healing. Our population includes children and adults with disabilities, those who have been abused or neglected, the military and the economically compromised.
In addition, Pal-O-Mine operates a full-time program, 7 days a week, 12 months a year.We support 18 program horses on an 8-acre facility serving 320 individuals with disabilities weekly. Currently we have a staff of 6 full time and 13 part time contractors.
Volunteers are an integral part of our program. Over 150 volunteers give freely of their time, they believe in their community and they share in the humanitarian spirit that lives at Pal-O-Mine. Pal-O-Mine, in turn, improves not only the lives of our students but we strive to improve the quality of life among our volunteers as well. The integration among students, volunteers and staff continue to be a vital part of our program. It heightens disability awareness, promotes the concept of mainstreaming and lends sensitivity within the community itself.
Pal-O-Mine uses the community to assist in its mission. We visit local nursing homes and VA Hospitals with our therapy horses; we partner with local business’ to teach high school students the importance of giving back; the Brownies, Boy, Girl and Eagle Scout Troops have all earned badges here and hundreds of high school students have done their community service hours at Pal-O-Mine and, we partner with the Red Cross as well.
Nothing is Impossible
Thus Pal-O-Mine operates on four levels; as a recreational and leisure activity, as a sporting and competitive opportunity, as an educational tool, and as therapy. This is what makes the program strong and successful. It allows us to attract and keep the best instructors and teachers, and the accomplishments of some of our students inspire and encourage other students. There is truly a ‘nothing is impossible’ attitude that pervades Pal-O-Mine! Both staff and volunteers draw inspiration from the accomplishments of students.
Pal-O-Mine has a stable of specially trained horses sensitive to the needs of riders, and dedicated staff and volunteers committed to providing the best possible total learning experience for each student. Participants are encouraged to become as independent as possible, and each rider’s program is tailored to make that possible within the limits of his/her disability. Pal-O-Mine Equestrian currently teaches over 200 students weekly. There are a broad spectrum of disabilities seen at the center. Students include those with cognitive (mental retardation, autism, down syndrome), physical (multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, stroke), sensory integration disorder (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, attention deficit disorder), and multiple (traumatic brain injury) disabilities. Clients are almost equally divided between male and female, and range in age from two to sixty-eight.
Over the course of the last several years Pal-O-Mine has made significant strides in advancing its mission. The number of students has increased by thirty percent, our horse population has grown to eighteen, and we have settled in a facility conducive to growth in both quantity and quality. In September 2008, Pal-O-Mine will host the 14th Long Island Invitational Clinic and Horse Show, a national level competition at which able bodied and riders with disabilities compete against one another.
A Pal-O-Mine student, Keith Newerla, competed at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Greece, turning in a noteworthy performance in the Grade I Dressage Individual Championship, receiving fourth place. Due largely to the dedicated efforts of Pal-O-Mine’s staff and volunteers, all of our current students are making strides towards becoming more independent.
Founder and Director
Lisa A. Gatti, Founder and Executive Director, began her career as a special education high school teacher. Today, she uses her horses as her teaching tool rather than books. Lisa’s accomplishments do not go unrecognized on local and national levels. She was chosen as the US Team Leader for Equestrian in the 1996 and 2000 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia and Sydney, Australia. From 1997 – 2000, she also served as the National Sports Technical Officer for Equestrian under the auspices of the US Cerebral Palsy Athletic Association. In 2002, Lisa was one of three nationally invited guests to Warendorf, Germany to participate in an international certification course for coaches involved in therapeutic riding.
Her credits also include an “on air” award as “An American Hero” by the CBS Early Show, in 2001. In 2003, Lisa was presented with the Theresa Award and honored by the Theresa Alessandra Russo Foundation and, in 2004, Lisa was named one of Long Island’s 40 rising stars under the age of 40 by the Long Island Business News. Most recently, Lisa was chosen as one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Business on Long Island and yet again, in 2007 Ms. Gatti was inducted into the Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame for her philanthropic endeavors.
Along with Lisa, Pal-O-Mine is often seen in the media. The program and its volunteers made its debut on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2002 and following that, NBC’s Today Show in its “Forever Young” section where Pal-O-Mine was highlighted and given a seven (7) minute spot. In October 2005, Pal-O-Mine Equestrian was nominated as Business of the Year by the Regional Commerce Business Partnership of Huntington. So, you see, a successful business is often judged on its budget, stock options or retail sales.
Success at Pal-O-Mine is measured by a smile, first word or improvement in eye contact. Pal-O-Mine touches the lives of many and is most certainly successful in improving the quality of life on Long Island.