Parkwood Farms Therapy Center, Inc. was founded on a hope and a dream...
In 1997, I, Dr. Marilyn "Doc" Peterson adopted a family of three children. Shortly thereafter, my youngest, a baby boy, was diagnosed with severe Sensory Integration and a condition called Autism.
In a mother's effort to do all I could for my child, I researched many types of therapies and concluded that Hippotherapy/Equine Assisted Activities were the most beneficial and enhance all the other therapies. Hippotherapy/Equine Assisted Activities have opened the door for many children and adults with various disabilities lead better lives. Horse based therapies have been proven to help those from profoundly to mildly handicapped individuals, as well as those with emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities.
My child’s diagnosis inspired my dream to create a Center where all the services are geared to improving the quality of life for persons with special needs...that dream was brought to life because of one precious child.
In February 2002, I purchased over nine acres in Snellville, GA in order to build that dream. Construction began immediately on the therapeutic riding facility. The first project was building a six-stall barn and a covered riding arena, designed specifically for Hippotherapy/Equine Assisted Activities. During construction, three horses were selected, purchased and trained for therapeutic work.
On May 15th, 2002, Parkwood Farms Therapy Center opened its doors for Hippotherapy/Equine Assisted Activities to 22 riders. Since then the construction and programs have continued to grow. The Therapy Center now has lights and a sound system in the covered arena which allows for sessions after dark and in inclement weather. In 2003, an outdoor dressage-sized ring was added for the more advance riders. Over the years, with the help of local businesses, churches, civic groups, and volunteers, the Center has been able to add the construction of many projects; fences around the perimeter of the pastures, a hay & feed barn, mounting platforms, a wash rack for the horses, wheel chair accessible ramps to both arenas, and a seating area called the “Parent Corral”. The addition that we are most proud of is the development of a trail system that stretches over a half mile, meandering through the woods. The Center is continually adding decorations and sections to the trails to further engage riders.
In 2004, I became the Special Olympics Equestrian coach for the Gwinnett County school system. The first team of 5 riders, including my own son Julian -the inspiration for the center- participated in the State Games in Perry, GA. Every year the center takes up to 11 athletes and 6 horses to the Special Olympics Equestrian State Games, now held in Gainesville, GA. In, 2015, Parkwood Farms Therapy Center became its own SOGA Equestrian Team known as “Parkwood Farms Equestrians”. The only requirements for a Special Olympics rider is that they be 8 years old or above and the family must be willing to travel with their athlete at their own expense. It is a fun filled weekend that is very meaningful and memorable for the riders, their families, and volunteers alike.
Over the years, I have overcome some difficult times, including physical and financial hardships, which indirectly affected the Center. Through the support and contributions from the community, friends and family that is behind us… Me and the Center. Now we are enjoying an ever-increasing number of riders and additional programs.
Parkwood Farms Therapy Center now has 7 horses; one of our original horses Sundance, has recently passed away, but lived with us and was loved by everyone until her last day. There are still construction projects being done such as the recent addition of concrete floors in the barn and a concrete path used to access the mounting platform in the lower arena. Current construction consists of adding cross-fencing to the pastures and plans to expand the Doe (girl goat) barn that will allow observation of the goat operation. This will include the making of goat milk products, such as Goat Milk Soap.
Plans to host field trips, community skills programs with local schools, sign language classes, and a Christian based program offering parenting classes and respite are underway.
My child inspired my dream to create Parkwood Farms Therapy Center. I would like to invite you to become a part of the dream and find your inspiration as one of our Riders/Athletes, sponsors/supporters, or volunteers.