New mayor names Riding for the Disabled his charity for the year

This Is Local London: Charity appeal: The new mayor Councillor Mike Bennison Charity appeal: The new mayor Councillor Mike Bennison

The new mayor of Elmbridge was unveiled at the annual council meeting on May 15.

Councillor Mike Bennison, who served as the deputy mayor for the past municipal year, launched his charity for the year on his first day.

Coun Bennison has selected Riding for the Disabled Leatherhead and Horsley and Bookham, which takes riders from Elmbridge, for his mayoral year.

Coun Bennison said: “The number of volunteers within this area is just out of this world. I think it is wonderful for the youngsters as it gives them a lot of hope.

“My wife Mary and I were inspired by last year’s Paralympics and hope in some way, by supporting Riding for the Disabled, to be able to continue the spirit and legacy of the games.”

The charity, which has two branches based at Guildford Road, Bookham, aims to provide people with disabilities the chance to ride to benefit their health and wellbeing.

The riding helps with physical development because the movement of the horse strengthens muscles and improves balance and co-ordination.

The RDA has had a presence in Surrey for more than 40 years and is entirely staffed by volunteers.

Margaret Bentley, from Leatherhead RDA, said: “The children just like to be with the ponies. They get so many benefits and there is so much for them to learn.

“The problem at the moment is we have nowhere for them to sit safely in the winter while waiting for their turn. What we would love is somewhere the children could sit with chairs and somewhere warm so they can do some activities while they wait.

“That would make such a difference. If we could achieve that, we would be very, very happy. We are so thankful to the mayor.”

Liz Bebington brings her grandson, Daniel, 5, who has cerebral palsy, to the RDA every Thursday.

She said: “He loves coming riding. When he gets excited, he gets quite tense. The riding is really good for him because it helps him to astride because he finds it quite difficult.

“It is so good for his balance because he does not sit up unsupported anywhere else.

“The animal contact is very important. As the horse moves you have to use all your core muscles. The physiotherapist said it would be good for him to come here. The volunteers are so lovely and Daniel has the same people help him each week.

Ms Bebington said having the chance to come to the RDA was “a wish come true” but said there was not enough provision for the number of people who would benefit from it.

Helen Pattison, whose son attended the RDA, said: “A lot of children with disabilities have poor gross motor skills. This is like physiotherapy in the sense it is getting used to the horse and improves their balance. It is very good for children who find communication with humans difficult.”

Donations can be made by cheque to Mayor's Charity, Civic Centre, High Street, Esher, KT10 9SD.

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