Mikayla Pauley, daughter of Jason and Kim Pauley of Waldoboro, has taken part in the Freedom Riders program since spring 2008. Freedom Riders is a nonprofit organization established in 1984 that provides equine assisted activities and therapies for children and adults with special needs. Freedom Riders is located at the Hidden River Equestrian Center, 105 Atlantic Highway in Warren.

Mikayla’s mom, Kim, was hoping that the lessons would help Mikayla cope with her sensory issues, learning disabilities and social interaction. “I had no idea what a major role this program would play in the physical, mental and spiritual development of our daughter,” she said.

“Through Freedom Riders, Mikayla has experienced the best occupational therapy she has ever had,” Kim Pauley said. “During the lessons, the instructors coordinate a variety of fun games and riding exercises designed to encourage right and left brain activity as well as social development. Mikayla is so focused on the joy of riding horses, that the work she puts into strengthening her weaknesses doesn’t seem like work at all. She has built some wonderful friendships and self-confidence through Freedom Riders and is excited to continue for as long as it is God’s will.”

When asked about Freedom Riders, Mikayla said, “I love horses” and “It is the best place to be.” She also described Freedom Riders as a place where she “feels happy and free.”

Unfortunately, running an equestrian program is not free, and the lesson costs may prohibit some families from being able to participate.

“We would not have been able to afford the lessons without the help of Karl’s Kids,” said Kim Pauley. “Our family has been so thankful for the help from Karl’s Kids, which has made it possible for Mikayla to continue the program. Karl’s Kids answered Mikayla’s prayers when we were notified that they would sponsor her lessons. Words cannot express our gratitude for the people behind Karl’s Kids and Freedom Riders. They have made an unbelievable difference in our child’s life.”

Damariscotta-Newcastle Rotary Club’s Karl’s Kids program helps children and teens with financial need in Lincoln County to participate in athletics and physical activities that will help them develop healthy lifelong habits. Karl’s Kids raises money for local kids and teens with an annual event held at Sugarloaf. The fourth annual Karl’s Kids event will be held Saturday, March 5, 2011, at Sugarloaf. For more information on Karl’s Kids, visit damariscotta-newcastlerotary.org or contact founder Mike Hall at 832-5541. For more information on Freedom Riders, call 273-2282 or e-mail freedomr@midcoast.com.