Ponies Help Children open new Wooden Spoon Therapeutic Facility

RUGBY legend Iwan Tukalo, the Grand Slam icon awarded 37 caps playing for Scotland, has officially opened a new facility in North Lanarkshire that is helping transform the lives of children and young people in need.

Tukalo cut the ribbon and threw open the doors of the Wooden Spoon Equine Therapeutic Facility to reveal an impressive new indoor training area for Ponies Help Children, the charity where young people work with rescued ponies to learn new life skills.

Ponies Help Children has been transforming lives since it was established in 2015 by Moira Ireland and her daughter Heather Stephens to provide young people with a safe haven to build resilience.

The family-run organisation is based at Blairmains Farm at Harthill in North Lanarkshire and provides therapeutic sessions for children from across Central Scotland. Wooden Spoon Scotland donated £30,000 for the new facility which means young people and volunteers can now carry on with sessions in all weathers, and numbers can be increased.

Unlike many other equine assisted therapy charities, Ponies Help Children sessions cultivate positive physical, mental health and well-being by allowing the children the opportunity to have hands on, close contact with the ponies and develop a special bond, and not by riding. The ponies have been rescued from a life of neglect and abuse and are carefully matched with the children who may have experienced similar hardship.

Commenting at the opening, Heather said:

“Unfortunately, my mum Moira passed away in November 2019, the day that work started on site. She never saw her dreams becoming reality, but her legacy lives on in the work that Ponies Help Children delivers. There is no doubt that without the help of Wooden Spoon, we would not have this wonderful facility. We are eternally grateful to Charlie Bryden of Wooden Spoon who led us through the funding process and got the project off the ground. Ponies Help Children can now go from strength to strength, and most importantly, we can help more young people than ever before.”

Iwan Tukalo said:

“It is always inspiring to visit the projects that Wooden Spoon helps to fund, and to meet the people who are making such a difference to the lives of others who need a helping hand. Heather, and her father Eddie have great plans for the future of Ponies Help Children that will carry on Moira’s vision, and I wish them every success. It is a fantastic charity that deserves lots of support. I’d also like to thank the rugby fans who dig deep every year to help Wooden Spoon bring projects like this to life. I doubt they know how much their donations mean to the young people we reach.”

Young people are referred to Ponies Help Children from local Autism charities, HOPE and R.E.A.C.H, and from organisations dealing with children in Kinship care. As the reputation of Ponies Help Children has grown, the charity now works with North Lanarkshire Council, DeafBlind Scotland, Barnardo’s, Chris’s House, CAMHS, Sense Scotland, Action for Children – Young Carers, Nurture Scotland, Blameless, North Lanarkshire/West Lothian Educational Services and many more.

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If you would like to volunteer or fundraise for Wooden Spoon Scotland, please get in touch, or visit our how can you help page.