The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Minneapolis 2013,

River Valley Riders

HORSES! KIDS! SMILES! River Valley Riders was founded in 1999 by several dedicated volunteers who saw the positive therapeutic effects of horseback riding for people with disabilities. In the first year, eighteen children were served with the assistance of two instructors and a small group of volunteers. In 2012, sixty individuals per week participated in therapeutic riding and driving with the assistance of seven certified instructors and 200 volunteers. Lesson are held April through October at three sites: Afton, MN; Scandia, MN; and East Farmington, WI. River Valley Riders is registered in Minnesota as a nonprofit organization with tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Volunteers perform all programming, administrative, and fundraising responsibilities of the organization.

What new functionality we are looking for

We would like for our 60 riders to be able to sign up for lessons by completing online forms, apply for scholarships, and pay for lessons on the website. The majority of our 200 volunteers help our riders during lessons. We would like the volunteers to be able to sign-up by completing online forms, notify us of their availability, check their schedules, and enter their volunteer hours. We would like the opportunity for people to donate online and buy the t-shirts, hats, and fundraising dinner tickets that we sell. We would like a calendar for lessons and other important events. We would like a photo page (or pages) where we can easily add photos that can be easily downloaded. "Easy" is what is missing in our current website as well as many of these functions.

How the new functionality will help

Our website is where we first direct people who are looking for more information. We would like a website that will encourage these individuals to become involved - as riders, volunteers, or donors. 2013 is a milestone year for River Valley Riders. Programming is expected to expand significantly in the next couple of years. Domations are critical to our growth so that more lives can be improved by our special horses. Having a website that can effectively handle the future will make River Valley Riders programming run smoother for the riders and the volunteers. Volunteers are so very important - from the horses to the board of directors - and everyone in between!

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

Before & After Snapshots

Thumbnail_1 Thumbnail_2

32 Messages from Supporters

2013-01-24 06:46:46 UTC
Mary Willis

I have volunteered at River Valley Riders for about ten years, and it is my absolute favorite summer activity. The progress that each rider makes is huge; I have seen riders go from being in tears at the sight of the horse to literally running up the mounting ramp in order to get on the horse. The therapeutic benefits of horseback riding are proven and wide-ranging. It improves riders' confidence, strength, flexibility, and self-esteem, just to name a few benefits! Our website now is functional, but it's difficult to use and confusing. It could use an update, and it would make many of our (absolutely wonderful) instructors' and volunteers' lives much easier. I cannot think of a better organization to benefit from this service.

2013-01-24 17:32:05 UTC
Heather Johnson

Having been involved with River Valley Riders since the beginning in 1999, I have had the opportunity to work with all involved; horses, riders, families of participants, volunteers, instructors and board members.

It is absolutely amazing to me, after 13 years, just how much EVERYONE benefits from being involved in the program. Riders gain balance, verbal skills, social skills, and confidence, just to name a few benefits. Families of riders and drivers are happy knowing their family member has an activity they can be involved in where they are cared for and are benefiting from the social, emotional and physical aspects of being around horses. Volunteers often feel like they're receiving more than they give by seeing the smiles and changes in those they help.

River Valley Riders has had a huge impact on my own life, as well. As a volunteer who has participated in several capacities including horse leader, sidewalker, committee member and instructor, I've been blessed to meet so many different people and see how the horse can connect them, regardless of differences.

A new website for RVR would help streamline administrative duties and help us become more organized. It would also allow for better and faster communication with volunteers and riders and their families. In the end, less time spent on administrative duties means more hands-on time with the horses in the arena!

2013-01-24 18:05:51 UTC
Stacey Vogele

Please support this organization. They do such amazing work for children with special needs, and their volunteers become so passionate about the cause that they keep returning as well. Our daughter participated in horse carriage driving with RVR and loved the experience immensely. Our daughter is severely physically and developmentally challenged and finding opportunities for her to participate is limited. RVR never once hesitated to allow her to participate in the program. We bonded so closely with the staff, and the horse, we consider them part of an extended grandparent family for our child. She loves her horse therapy and giggles and laughs with joy when she rides. Please support and choose this website!

2013-01-24 23:00:58 UTC
Yvonne Ecklund

I am a 10 plus year volunteer and current board member with RVR. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and happened to see a flyer hanging in our pet store. I pulled off the number and called. Little did I know that one phone call would change my life. I really had no experience with special needs children and didn't know what to expect once I got to the arena. But oh did I get pulled in, by all the friendly faces, the smiles of the children, the thank yous from the parents. As I continued to become more and more involved, I found that RVR gives me an inner peace that I experience no where else. After a long, hectic day at work I head out to the arena, see those smiles, smell those wonderful smells and I am thinking of nothing but my rider, the horse and my surroundings. What more can one ask for.

The parents are so thankful and there are many nights I leave with a tear in my eye from a parent that is so appreciative for what we do and their child is able to be involved in an activity that helps them grow and become more confident, stronger, independent.

With the above said, RVR needs your assistance in helping us obtain a new web site. Ours is workable, but we need a little better than workable. If we are to continue growing, we need a website that offers more than we have now and can continue to grow with us.

Thank you for your consideration.

2013-01-25 13:24:03 UTC
Sandy Ward

Horses are truly special beings. They have the capacity to heal in so many ways. This year will be my 6th year volunteering with RVR. It is my favorite thing to do! I started the first year just bringing one horse. Since then I bring 2 or 3 horses every week! RVR is a wonderful organization. Never have I encountered so many amazing people from the riders, the parents, the instructor, the board members and all the other volunteers. Ove the years I have seen so many almost miraculous transformations with our riders, not only physically but emotionally. This program is truly a blessing to all who participate. Please help them with a new website. Please help us grow so we can help more riders!

2013-01-29 23:54:12 UTC
Gail Olsen

The above listed testimonies resound with the joy and enthusiasm that both families and volunteers bring to River Valley Riders. I will tell you that we are an all-volunteer organization. Almost all of the administrative work is done by one amazing person, Kathy Jo Hanson, who found this contest and wrote the appeal above. She spends countless hours with her many talents to keep RVR going. Anything that can help administratively will be greatly appreciated so that we don't burn out this amazing volunteer! Thank you for your consideration for a new and improved web site!

2013-02-03 18:20:16 UTC
Dan Reed

I am writng in support of River Valley Riders.
It is a great organization does wonderful things for peope with disabilities.
I whole heartedly support their request for an updated website.
River Valley Riders has a great story and with an updated website it can be told with pride.

Please help them help others!

Thanks for your consideration.

Dan Reed

2013-02-03 21:08:35 UTC

Every year River Valley Riders will give several children and adults the opportunity to enjoy themselves by getting on a horse and demonstrating that their abilities will shine through. Commmunication is crucial for RVR as we begin a capital campaign. A web site that is professional will allow many donors and corporations see how serious RVR is about sustaining the excellent service we have given for 13 years. This organization is all volunteer. We are driven by the love of horses and what they do for every person that touches them. Please consider our organization for a new improved web site.
Joan Berg

2013-02-06 04:01:56 UTC
Susan & Dennis (Parents of a Rider)

10 years ago in our continuing efforts to find fun and therapeutic activities for our daughter with a severe developmental disability, we stumbled upon therapeutic riding and River Valley Riders. But most importantly over the years with RVR’s amazing dedicated volunteers, both people and horses (too many to name), our daughter found herself!

Wednesdays from spring to fall has been the night our shy little girl has grown and found better coordination, confidence, pride in her accomplishments and new friends. She looks so forward to these evenings! RVR is all volunteer run, serving so many with passion and commitment and has in turn inspired many others to volunteer, but could do even more with a new website!

RVR is so deserving of this website make over! If you had a chance to spend even 5 minutes with the volunteers, children and horses you would totally agree! Please vote RVR in for the Nerdery Overnight Web Challenge!

2013-02-08 02:30:28 UTC
A Horse of Course! :)

My name is Stormy...I'm a 4 legged volunteer and have been volunteering for RVR for 12 years. I love seeing the smiles the accomplishments of all the riders, just makes me whinny with pride for them and for me! I am one of 24 horses volunteering each week. My owners transport me to each riding event volunteering their time to this wonderful work, work is what some call it, I call it my 4 legged fun! Please help them get a new website so the human Volunteers can do even more for those with disabilities or as we like to say Able-lities!

2013-02-08 03:58:17 UTC
Dawn and Mike McLaughlin

Our daughter has been involved with RVR since its infancy (some 13 years) and when asked by someone what she does in her free time, the first thing she mentions is horseback riding. She is involved with a few other groups that serve individuals with special needs and over the years each of these organizations have made somewhat of a big deal about doing surveys, answering questionnaires regarding "what is your child getting out of his or her association with OUR group?" They want to know what short-term goals we have set for her and have they been met. How about long-term goals for her and have they been met? Give us specific suggestions as to how we can better serve your child (many times our suggestions are ignored) and how has our group enriched your family's quality of life? Our daughter is a perfect example of being involved with a loving, caring group of people simply because she has fun. What's wrong with that as a single motivation? Yes, she has developed independence, overcome early shyness and fears of trying something new; but that pales when compared to just plain having fun and laughing.

She considers several of the volunteers at RVR personal friends. When she arrives for her session or when she sees them at another venue she gets enormous pleasure out of being greeted with an enthusiastic "Hi!" It's simple but awfully effective.

When she leaves in the evening for her session the last thing I say to her is "Kiss your horse!" She responds with "Oh, geez" which translated means I've said something dumb, but it's a little tradition that we share and tends to set the tone for a fun evening. We wouldn't trade any of it for anything!

RVR, its present and future participants, and volunteers would benefit greatly with a newly designed website.

2013-02-08 15:29:13 UTC

This organization is absolutely incredible. I have been volunteering there for roughly 5 1/2 years now and don't plan on stopping any time soon. The benefits the riders (and volunteers, for that matter) receive from the horses is truly remarkable- speech and communication improve, range of motion expands, attention spans lengthen, and social interaction becomes much more comfortable- i've seen all these things and much more happen first hand. The people who volunteer there are also amazing as well- i met my best friend, a fellow volunteer, there and now we are attending the same college and are inseparable.
It's so easy and rewarding to build up relationships with the riders- many teams share inside jokes and tell continuing stories from week to week. One particular ongoing joke i have with one of the riders is calling Newman (one of our equine therapists) 'Chewbaca' and calling the rider "Monster Girl"- her favorite drink is Monster Energy. She laughs every time!
This organization is deserving in every way of a website that would be easy to negotiate. I see nothing but a bright future for RVR!

2013-02-08 19:01:46 UTC
Cheryl Holt

I was part of the team who formed River Valley Riders back in 1999 and it continues to be a BIG part of my life! It is awesome to give back, but I have to say the giving goes both ways! The horses are awesome partners in this venture, but our riders give the volunteers such inspiration and joy! Many of our volunteers are drawn to RVR due to the horse connection, but they stay because of our riders! RVR continues to evolve, meeting our yearly goals and expanding our offerings so we can help more people with special needs. Our website needs to keep up with our growth/development plans and improve our communication to the community and beyond. We are a 100% volunteer organization, so improving our website will make us more efficient and expand our communication! Time is valuable and RVR is so blessed to have so many volunteers willing to give of their time, we want to ensure every minute is spent to its fullest! Thank you for this chance to improve our website.

2013-02-08 19:22:02 UTC
Theresa Milligan

I have been with River Valley Riders since its beginning. I am a parent, a volunteer and a board member. River Valley Riders is a true "volunteer" program in every sense. We are striving to be a "green" program as well. We believe in keeping our environment as it is, protected and safe. We reduce, we reuse and we recycle. We are continually coming up with more ideas and ways inwhich to keep our Afton site Eco-friendly & environmentally beautiful. "We believe nature should be as nature is." With an updated website we can maintain the level of environmentally friendly we are striving for by reducing the amount of forms, updates, parent/volunteer information, etc. that is being mailed to our families every year. With todays families now living in a "busy", "technological world", it would simplify things for many of them if they could do it ALL on line. This is why I feel River Valley Riders deserves and needs the update. As a side note, my daughter has come "leaps and bounds" through River Valley Riders. She loves going every week, being "outside", in "fresh air" with her horse in the "wide, open spaces". Thank you for considering us.

2013-02-08 19:47:39 UTC
Shelly Martinek

I am the older sibling to a sister with special needs. My sister has been riding with River Valley Riders since it began in 1999. I have seen my sister change through the years from someone who could hardly sit up on a horse to a young adult who is now sitting upright with minimal assistance from her side walkers. She has melted the hearts of everyone that has ever worked with her and every horse she has every ridden. River Valley Riders has not only been a blessing for my sister but, for my parents, as well. RVR has the best all volunteer staff accepting everyone for who they are, for seeing their potential and not their limitations. They maintain a high quality, friendly, inviting program. Being that it is an "all" volunteer program, they are able to maintain this level of quality from the donations, grants & help they receive from generous companies, families, volunteers and hopefully, from "The Nerdy Overnight Website Challenge". could use an upgrade. Please consider them, not by the number of testimonials given but, by the quality of the testimonials, the quality & high standards of the program & the children and adults who benefit from this riding and driving program every year. Thank you.

2013-02-08 23:11:53 UTC
Collette Crumb

My kids and I were looking for a place to volunteer that would have a more frequent 'schedule' than the local nursing home/memory care center at which we had been volunteering. When we joined RVR 4 years ago, we just expected to be 'laborers'. What we've gotten instead is a much richer experience than we ever could have dreamed. Most weeks we go home feeling that we've gotten much more out of it than we give. Working with the riders is so rewarding - getting to know them, seeing their smiles, accomplishments, and appreciation feels so good. And being around horses? What a blast for some citified suburbanites. We learn a lot every week. I couldn’t ask for a better experience for my kids or my family – all of whom are now involved in supporting the program. We’re horse leaders, side walkers, tack masters, and pooper scoopers. This organization is so great and we get such a good feeling out of it, we try to do anything they ask. Please help RVR with a new website so they/we can continue this fantastic work and try to support even more riders.

2013-02-08 23:13:57 UTC

River Valley Riders has taught me many things; kindness, acceptance, and the ability to create life-long friendships. When I first began my journey as a volunteer, almost 6 years ago, I didn't truly understand the impact this amazing organization had on its participants until I looked at the bigger picture; the wonderfully patient horses who enjoy being there as much as their riders, the dedicated volunteers who take time out of their day to come put a smile on someone's face (maybe their own), and the great atmosphere the organization shines out onto the community. I have seen shy and scared riders blossom into confident and social people who enjoy coming each week and I am truly grateful to have been part of this awesome group we know as River Valley Riders. Thank you so much for teaching me so much.

2013-02-09 02:23:55 UTC
CJ Fitzsimons

I have been with RVR for only 2 years, but the kindness, support and enthusiasm of everyone involved, makes it feel like family I've known forever. Keeping up with the ever changing demands to keep our programs cutting edge and provide the best experience to our riders, their families, and volunteers; it is key we keep our communication methods on the front lines of technology. This will not only make it more efficient for all of them to keep well informed of up-to-the-minute important program information, it will greatly improve Kathy Jo's quality of life by not having to spend as much time on an outdated website. Kathy Jo is very dedicated and will do whatever it takes to make it work, because doing what's best for the riders and RVR is her ultimate motivation; but I think now would be a great time to give her the prestine site she deserves and RVR desperately needs. This will elevate improved communication of all involved, saving time and ensuring the most accurate information is available in a timely manner. More importantly, it will free up Kathy Jo's time to use her instructor talents to serve our valued riders and carriage drivers, increasing our participation opportunities. Please consider giving RVR this wonderful gift. Thank you!

2013-02-09 01:56:59 UTC

I started volunteering at RVR 4 years ago. The past 4 summers have been some of the best. I really look forward to the days when I get to take my horse to RVR and watch the riders laugh and chat. I have had some amazing conversations with the riders and they have taught me so much! Please help RVR to get a new website.

2013-02-09 02:14:00 UTC
Tim Ward

RVR is all about the people. The volunteers that love to be there for the kids. Everyone of them are there for the kids. What a great group of people.

The support I see at their fundraising event to help them keep the program running, the testimonials from the parents on the great benefits of the program for their children. This is a special group we all need to support.

2013-02-09 02:37:34 UTC

Great organization! Great people! Wonderful work!

2013-02-09 03:07:48 UTC
Melissa Hagstrum

River Valley Riders' website is critical to our ability to achieve our mission to enrich the lives of children and adults with special needs. Our horseback riders and carriage drivers and their families, caregivers, supporters, and volunteers depend on River Valley Riders' website to keep them informed about our program and upcoming events. Many of our horseback riders and carriage drivers are working on communication skills related to their special needs, and sometimes the messages we communicate during lessons in the arena and on the trails get lost in the excitement of our horse-related activities. Our website provides information and reminders in a format that is accessible anytime, anywhere, to anyone who needs it. Our website also provides a space for us to showcase and celebrate our horseback riders and carriage drivers' accomplishments for the world to see. Finally, our website introduces newcomers to River Valley Riders and educates website visitors about the therapeutic benefits of horse related activities for children and adults with special needs. Help us make our website even more vibrant, engaging and user-friendly for long-time participants and supporters and first-time visitors!

2013-02-09 03:59:46 UTC
Lea Lyons

I have a daughter with special needs. I have an awesome mare named Lyric. Through my friend Sandy, I was introduced to River Valley Riders. She hauls her horses to share with the riders at RVR. She suggested I check out the program for both my daughter and for my horse. Since my daughter was too young to participate, I too began to bring my horse. Now, this year I am excited to say my daughter will be participating in the program for the first time! I am very excited! She loves animals, especially horses so I feel this will be a great fit for her. She loves the feel of
the wind on her face and the movement of the horse will really help to strengthen her core muscles. It is a win win situation for both of us. Each week we get to be with others who share the same passion. As a parent with a child with special needs I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in a program like RVR. It gives me time to network with other parents and share my love of riding with both my daughter and the other riders. I cannot wait for April when we begin riding!!! Please help this awesome program get a new website so they can reach out to other parents like me!

2013-02-09 04:14:39 UTC
Patty Grode

I am a mother of a special needs child named Ferol. We have been riding on Tuesday nights for three years now. I am so emotional every time I bring Ferol to RVR. Not only has my daughter become stronger, more confident and more coordinated, we have met so many new friends because of the beautiful people who volunteer their time and talent to help these kids. Ferol looks so forward to going to the farm and riding Boss. This organization deserves a new website for all of their kindness and love they show to children like mine!

2013-02-09 05:29:51 UTC

RVR is a great organization. My son has been riding for 7 years and looks forward to going. We are thankful for all the volunteers and people who bring their horses so this is possible. Please help the program get a new and improved website.

2013-02-09 05:42:26 UTC
Maria Luisa Guion

Imagine a canvas splashed with one color. As others are added and blended, new dimensions and possibilities emerge.Or consider a simple few measures of notes, then over-layered with tracks of rhythm, wind instruments, strings, vocals in various voices that create an expanding experience.

These images approach the extraordinary gifts offered in equine therapy through River Valley Riders.

Yes. The riders are cued to "right" movement by the horses hips and gait. They strengthen there tonality and balance: the physical benefits are observable and well documented.

Perhaps more subtle, yet equally profound is the rider's personal growth in confidence as a s/he commands the horse and the interpersonal relationship that emerges through the continuity of pairing rider with the same team of horse, leader and side walkers. It is as a symphony...or a beautiful painting.

Picture a non-verbal child directing a horse through an lesson, laughing and exuding joy, responding spot-on to verbal cues in Spanish and English. Non-verbal? Yes. Yet sublimely expressive and intelligent. The lessons are for all of us, as we grow in comprehension and compassion and oneness.

The gifts inherent in this noble organization touch all who participate in any capacity: the riders, horses, side walkers, leaders, teachers, board members, family of riders and any who come to be associated with the heart-centered community of RVR.

2013-02-09 10:29:56 UTC

Great program, one of the few my son enjoyed. The volunteers are extremely helpful

2013-02-09 15:08:05 UTC

I started as a volunteer with RVR three years ago shortly after I finished treatment for breast cancer. I had always wanted to work with horses and kids... I just didn't when and where. I had read an article about RVR soon after the land had been purchased in Afton, and thought that after I had my strength came back I would get involved. Well, not a month later during my recovery that I stepped in the arena and was magically transformed - my spirit, my perspective and my being became fulfilled with warmth and confidence and most of all with smiles. RVR was home for me. Ironically, I had experienced the same transformation that our riders have when they participate in our program.

As we work with our riders and horses, we see a transformation of their being, their confidence and their imagination sour. Each rider brings a unique experience into RVR, but all of them get an amazing sense of well-being, increase confidence and an ability to interact within the community in a way that they hadn't before.

The work we do with RVR is not only magically, but it enables our riders to have a program that helps them manage both their physical and mental needs in a way that other physical or occupational therapies can't even come close.

We need a strong voice in the community to enhance our program so that the work we do can reach many more riders. The need is tremendous out there. One out of eight children have some type of need that can benefit from the horse therapy-relationship that we provide. RVR is 100% volunteer run where all the funding goes to our program. Everything we do from fund raising, program events etc. comes from the heart of our volunteers!

We have made a difference in the lives of our riders, and most especially in the lives of their parents and care takers. Not only do you see the emotional and physical difference in the riders, but you witness it from the parents. These parents would give their own lives to enrich their children's physical and emotional being. They have tried all types of therapies and none come close to RVR and the horses.

I am blessed to be a part of this and that my breast cancer treatment worked so that it gave me a chance to be involved and become a part of this caring family within our community of RVR.

thank you for your time in reading this. I invite you to come and visit our program.

2013-02-09 15:11:10 UTC
Peggy Doyle

Volunteering for RVR has been a privilege of mine for several years. My heart is filled with joy & awe each week as I watch our riders blossom over the duration of their sessions. We have riders who have started out non-verbal on week one and have ended up singing the entire lesson by end of their series of classes. Other riders often start out very timid, holding on for “dear life” at the thought of mounting such a huge and powerful animal. By the end of the class series, they are running their “side walker” volunteers' legs off. The spirit and love that permeates each and every gathering of RVR is something I wish everyone on this planet could experience. I personally invited each and everyone one of you to come out and observe a session and feel the love and joy for yourself! RVR makes this world a better place for both the people & animals who participate in the program.

2013-02-10 05:28:38 UTC

My daughter went to RVR last year and had a great time. She always looked forward to going, and the volunteers are kind, enthusiastic and passionate about helping those with special needs and the horses they ride. I saw my daughter's confidence, motor skills and communication improve through the year as she participated. RVR is very deserving of a new website to help them reach more families of special needs children and adults, and the volunteers who wish to help them.

2013-02-10 15:32:55 UTC
Mary Moen

Our daughter Sam has been going to RVR for 3 years now. I know RVR is one of the reasons that Sam now walks without assistance. Overall it is so motivating for her on every level. I can not say enough about the volunteers - WOW - amazing compassionate people! RVR deserves all the support they can get to enrich the lives of more children that have complex needs.

2013-02-11 02:28:43 UTC
Pat G

When I started volunteering with River Valley Riders three years ago I thought I would be giving "glorified pony rides" to some children who didn't know the front of the horse from the back.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
I have learned so much, not only about the riders and their special needs, but I have learned so much about myself and what accompishment is really all about.

Our Mission

River Valley Riders’ mission is to enrich the lives of children and adults with special needs by providing equine assisted activities and therapies. The overall goal of River Valley Riders’ activities is to allow people with disabilities to experience the therapeutic effects of horsemanship. A horse's gait is similar to the human walk; this three-dimensional movement is transferred from the horse to the rider and helps to strengthen spine and pelvic muscles and to improve posture and balance. Additional exercises during lessons help to improve coordination and increase flexibility. The educational and social activities of the lessons encourage self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment as new levels of expertise and challenges are met. Therapeutic horseback riding can benefit a wide range of clients including children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, developmental delay, visual impairments, emotional challenges, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, traumatic brain injury, attention deficit disorder, and paralysis.