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A Horse’s Stride is Very Special.

March 31, 2010
This week I’m evaluating and advising Special Strides Therapeutic Horseback Riding Center on its social media activities.  I previously volunteered for this organization and strongly support its mission. Located in Monroe, New Jersey, Special Strides is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children with physical and developmental disabilities.

The program is registered for operation through the North American Riding for the Handicap Association and the American Hipponotherapy Association

Hippotherapy (originated from the Greek word “Hippo” meaning horse) is a therapy where the natural movement of the horse promotes awareness, communication skills, strength, mobility, balance, and coordination for people with disabilities.

~Children with communication and auditory problems find companionship with horses.

~Children with low muscle tone/ poor motor skills can find treatment through the horse’s gaits to improve the child’s physical ability.

therapists working with a child
“Horse therapy is used as a strategy to elicit change and rehabilitation as part of a physical and occupational therapy program for children who have Cerebral Palsy, Autism, and many other sensory and motor conditions.”

Recently Special Strides was the subject of an episode on Table for 12, a TLC program that films the life of the 12 members of a New Jersey family.  One of the children, Rebecca Hayes, has cerebral palsy and has improved her muscle functioning drastically since she began treatment at Special Strides.

Now for Social Media

I had the opportunity to speak with Laurie Landy, director of Special Strides organization.  She informed me of the current social media tools the organization uses.  The woman who heads-up the social media activities for the organization is Karen Goldberg, director of marketing and development.

Audit and Recommendations

The Special Strides Web site is its most prominent and utilizable social media outlet. Sub-pages include information about the therapeutic program options, rider testimonials, donation information, and volunteer information.  A few suggestions I would make are to include a forum for parent support, a gallery of photos, an option for people to upload their own photos, a blog covering topics relating to equine therapy and how to train horses for equine therapy, media mentions, and more details about fundraisers (currently it just lists general information on fundraisers)

I recommend Strides, a nonprofit with a similar mission, as a case study of a valuable Web site and Online news letter.

Special Strides’ Facebook page is up but does not have much activity.  It has 91 fans, but the content on the page is lacking.  It must be updated with news and contest opportunities in order to keep it alive.  There is no description of the organization, videos of therapy, discussions/testimonials, or news updates.

Special Strides also has pages on Razoo and Guidestar, sites that allow individuals to search for organizations for their donations.  I would suggest that these pages include links to further information on the organization.

The Special Strides Junior Committee, a group of teenagers that meet to improve the organization, are good candidates for running a social media campaign.  They could help to create new content, create new accounts on Twitter and equine networking sites, and create personal blogs about their experiences at Special Strides.

If  you are interested in sponsoring Special Strides as a corporate sponsor or private/individual donations. Please call 732-446-0945 or email Karen Goldberg at KGoldberg@specialstrides.com.

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