This week marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA). It seemed the perfect moment to hand over a donation from the proceeds of Stranger In My Heart. It was an inspiring and heartwarming event at Berriewood Riding Stables, seeing so many dedicated volunteers and happy riders on beautifully turned out horses. There were also many familiar faces from my childhood, women who were stalwart volunteers back in the day, who saw a need and responded to it, fundraised, kept things going, inspired others to help, were generous with their time and enthusiasm. Here is the write up that appeared on the Rea Valley Group’s Facebook page:
REA VALLEY GROUP 1 OCTOBER 2019 “…and we ALWAYS have Cake”! So were the proud words of the Rea Valley Group in Shropshire in their celebration of 50 Years of RDA. This came at the end of a very energetic, well delivered and most positive morning where a dozen riders were put through their paces. Whether Visually Impaired, carrying a debilitating physical condition or recovering from severe injury, each and every rider was given care, attention and every encouragement to progress and feel good about themselves. Each was presented with a commemorative Golden rosette and their Endeavour and Achievement Awards brought especially by Marissa Brereton-McKay of the National Office Team. “It was a truly excellent session in every respect and a smashing exhibition of what RDA delivers”.
Surrounded by a host of supporters including some of the “Founding Sisters”, Carla Howarth, the Group Chairman, gave a warm welcome and praised the foresight of these ladies who had the vision to “provide an opportunity for those that had a need” and that they “should feel deeply proud of the foundations that had led to the Group that is still flourishing today”. Diana Baart, June Whitaker and Mary Anne Richey recalled with enthusiasm that they were driven by a need to support riders from the local Rowton Castle Blind School, a brave move back in the early ’70s. Such was the success that the Group “morphed” into the Rea Valley Group with the ladies giving around 30 or so years service each and who remain active supporters today.
Among many highlights was a short insight into her father’s life given by Mary Monro who had made the journey up from Bath for the day. Mary has written a fascinating book recalling the challenges, exploits and dogged determination of her late father, Lt Col John Monro MC Royal Artillery, who had escaped the Japanese by crossing 1200 miles through China following capture at the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941. As a Shropshire farmer and keen horseman post War he dedicated his life to creating opportunity, “freedom and agency” for others who suffered, bringing children from the Condover School for the Blind to ride ponies at the family farm. His efforts all those years ago were at the root of what became the RDA and Mary was delighted to present Rea Valley with a generous “cheque for £850 in support of the wonderful work you do and to continue the legacy of a truly heroic and self effacing man”.
“I love coming to this Group, you are so positive, have such great team spirit, and you look after both rider and their supporters so well. It’s a joy to see so many smiles and such a professional approach from a dedicated team of volunteers and so much lovely cake, it is a wonderful RDA experience”, summed up Anona White, the Regional Chair, in adding her thanks and congratulations on a superb day.