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Making a Difference
Photo:David Playford
When Ariel Kravitz first started working with animals and the handicapped in 1999, she was not sure of the value of her work. “At first, it seems like I was doing unimportant things,” she said. She stuck with it, because—well—working with animals was fun, handicapped kids needed some fun, and Ariel felt that what she was doing needed doing and she felt good about doing it, regardless of it's importance.

Ariel has always had an affinity for animals. As a toddler the petting zoo was one of her favorite places. Barbie dolls ended up in the corner or a closet, while stuffed animals stayed on the bed and desk. Ariel started horseback riding when she was six. While karate, softball, and dance came and went, riding was forever.

In 1999 Ariel’s mother learned that the Long Island Riding for the Handicapped Association (LIRHA) needed teen volunteers. They ran a program where both the physically challenged and mentally disadvantaged ride horses. It is a great opportunity for handicapped kids to do something exciting, different and rewarding. Since the LIRHA students ride free—and these youngsters require lots of supervision and help, volunteers are critical to its success.

Won a Place with the Volunteers

While Ariel was younger than most volunteers, her equestrian abilities won her a place with the volunteers. And Ariel’s unstinting efforts as a volunteer soon won the hearts of everyone at LIRHA—from director to students.

Madeline Buglione, the President of the LIRHA put it this way: “[Ariel] is always a pleasure to be around. The students react well with her. She is very knowledgeable about horses, which helps very much. A horse needs someone to lead them that they feel they can trust.”

Those “unimportant” little things Ariel did, really mattered.  “She comes earlier,” stated Buglione, “to help out by getting the horses tacked and helping the students get their helmets and waist belts on.”

Buglione added, “Our Volunteer Coordinator Ms. Toni Milano said that whenever she is short of side walkers she will ask Ariel if she would mind helping out as a side walker and she [Ariel] would gladly do what she is asked. Her cooperation helps greatly in making a class run smoothly.” Leading a 1000+ pound horse is a lot of responsibility, but Ariel’s knowledge of and affinity for horses lets her take a role many older teens would find daunting.

People noticed. In February, 2004 the Humane Society of the United States recognized Ariel Kravitz as their “Humane Teen of 2003.” “I was totally shocked,” said Ariel “that I was recognized for something that I loved to do.”  Her home town of North Hempstead, New York, got in the act, placing her on their “Women’s Roll of Honor” in 2004.

Does Ariel have any advice on how you can make a difference? “Follow your heart, and don’t let anybody get in the way of your commitment,” she says. “And don’t think what you are doing is unimportant.  Whatever you do is worth it.”

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By Mark N. Lardas, copyright 2007, Mark N. Lardas, all rights reserved. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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