Health—General & Rehabilitative

Challenge Unlimited

  • Andover, MA
  • www.challengeunlimited.org

Mission Statement

To provide therapeutic, educational and recreational opportunities using horses and the working farm environment to help people achieve optimum quality of life.

Main Programs

  1. Program 1
  2. Challenge Unlimited Programs
Service Areas

Self-reported

International

Direct service areas include the Merrimack Valley (MA and Southern NH), Boston and Greater Boston, the North and South Shores of Massachusetts. Clients include representation from 90+ cities and towns throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Many children are served from the inner cities of Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Lynn and the cities of Greater Boston, MA. An International Internship program now extends the reach of Challenge Unlimited internationally.

ruling year

1985

Executive Director

Self-reported

Ms. Deedee O'Brien

Keywords

Self-reported

Therapy, rehabilitation, horses, riding, physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, equine, volunteers, veterans, equine facilitated learning, equine facilitated mental health

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Also Known As

Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm

EIN

22-2478997

 Number

1515674724

Physical Address

Ironstone Farm 450 Lowell Street

Andover, MA 01810

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Health Support Services (E60)

Equestrian, Riding (N69)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

In a wholesome, healthy environment, Challenge Unlimited staff uses the unique "therapy of the horse" to compliment other human service providers in a collaborative effort that helps all involved achieve their greatest potential.  We collaborate with 40+ other organizations for client care and volunter support, including Early Intervention programs, public schools, agencies, church groups, academic institutions of secondary and higher education and hospitals. We rely on the help of 200+ volunteers each week, creating a community resource for bringing together people from all walks of life with a variety of ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds.  We also bring together children, teens and adults in an encouraging environment fostering mutual understanding and respect.  We strives to serve everyone who can benefit from the programs, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic background, or ability to pay. 
 
For children with physical disability the movement of the horse simulates the normal walking movement, thus encouraging normal development.  Physicians refer patients as young as nine months to receive this unique intervention.  For individuals with cognitive and developmental delays, the horse is used as a teaching tool to increase attention span, improve focus, and encourage self-confidence.  For people who have emotional difficulties, the horse serves as a connector - giving the person a path for communication resulting in positive reinforcement.  For people with illness, the horse is used metaphorically to help work through the stresses and obstacles of dealing with life's challenges.  For children who have suffered abuse and neglect, the horse provides comfort and the nuturing environment of Ironstone encourages healing.  Challenge Unlimited provides all of these interventions - improving quality of life not only for the clients we serve, but also for the more than 200 weekly volunteers who help us.

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

1) Challenge Unlimited recreational therapeutic riding program: serves approximately 350 individuals weekly in an included program that uses horses and the farm environment to teach life skills. Challenge Unlimited works with people diagnosed with 22 different disabilities including: autism, Aspergers syndrome, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, pervasive developmental disorder, developmental disability, mental handicap, Downs syndrome, Williams syndrome, Aperts syndrome, Huntington's disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury, cancer, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, seizure disorder, heart disease, and hearing and visual impairment. Challenge Unlimited is affiliated with 17 other service providers in a collaborative effort to best meet the needs of our mutual constituencies. 2) Ironstone Therapy: serves approximately 100 individuals weekly. Ironstone Therapy provides medically based physical and occupational therapy and speech/language pathology for people with physical disabilities based on physician prescription. Ironstone Therapy holds contracts with 9 Early Intervention programs throughout Greater Boston, the North Shore and the Merrimack Valley. 3) Summer Camp: serves approximately 200 children during the summer months in an included program. Challenge Unlimited strives to find funding that will open the doors of the Summer Camp to children from the inner city and from families of low income. 4) Peanuts on Ponies and Community Groups: has served about 80 children since its inception in 2005. Peanuts provides an opportunity for parents/guardians to teach their children using real ponies under the guidance of a licensed instructor in a "play group" setting. Peanuts is combined with the Community Group concept which provides physical therapy in a group setting, bringing children of all abilities together in a play activity at a very early age. 5) Working Student program: serves approximately 20 teens at a time, giving them the opportunity to earn riding lessons and the horse experience by helping with farm chores, caring for the animals and working with the therapeutic sessions. Working Students meet monthy in an educational setting, and are able to grow within the program by becoming team leaders, apprentice instructors, and/or program coordinators, thus leading to future job opportunities. In the past two decades more than 1000 teens have experienced the Ironstone Farm Working Student program and many have gone on to pursue careers in related fileds of interest. 6) Volunteer program: Challenge Unlimited needs the help of more than 150 voluntees each week. Volunteer recruitment is ongoing with workshops offered four evenings a month, year round. Volunteers range in age from 12 to adult and come from a broad range of ethnic, educational. professional and socio-economic backgrounds. 7) Beginning in Fall 2008, the Challenger House will provide after-school activities in art, theater arts and music therapies for children with disabilities as well as a resource center for families of people with disabilities.

Category

Population(s) Served

Budget

Program 2

Challenge Unlimited Programs

Challenge Unlimited programs include therapeutic and recreational horsemanship instruction and the ancillary educational and physically beneficial activities surrounding the use of horses. These are conducted in private and group sessions - groups numbering up to six. Lessons are included, meaning they can involve people with and without disabilities working together.  Oftentimes, sessions require the help of volunteers serving as leaders of the horses or "sidewalkers", providing support for the rider under the supervision of an instructor.  Within the Challenge Unlimited programs special events are held to highlight the riders' progress. Challenge Unlimited provided the venue for Special Olympics Equestrian Games for more than 20 years.  Also within the Challenge Unlimited programs is "Peanuts on Ponies" for small children who work with their parents; Horsemanship Course - a lecture series for adults to learn more about horses; and the Ironstone Farm Instructor Apprentice Program to teach future instructors in collaboration with the MA Department of Agriculture.  Challenge Unlimtied collaborates with more than 25 other service providers to best benefit our mutual clientele, including public schools and various agencies serving people with disabilities.

Category

Population(s) Served

Budget

$500,000.00

Service Areas

Self-reported

International

Direct service areas include the Merrimack Valley (MA and Southern NH), Boston and Greater Boston, the North and South Shores of Massachusetts. Clients include representation from 90+ cities and towns throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Many children are served from the inner cities of Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Lynn and the cities of Greater Boston, MA. An International Internship program now extends the reach of Challenge Unlimited internationally.

Social Media

Affiliations + Memberships

Chamber of Commerce

Association of Fundraising Professionals - Member

Videos

photos




External Reviews

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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

CHALLENGE UNLIMITED INC
Fiscal year: Jan 01-Dec 31
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Challenge Unlimited

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2014 and 2013
  • Board Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
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Executive Director

Ms. Deedee O'Brien

BIO

Deedee O'Brien came to Ironstone Farm in 1972. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Education, Deedee spent summers working with children with special needs for the Lowell, MA, Recreational Dept. During the 70's, Deedee and Dick Donovan, owner of Ironstone Farm, hosted field trips for children with disabilities. This lead to a regular Saturday morning program, and eventually to the creation of the Challenge Unlimited organization. Dick Donovan supported the programs throughout the eighties with no compensation. In 1988, a lease was arranged, and remained in effect until the purchase of the farm in 2001. Through the generosity of Dick and his family, and the determination of Deedee, Challenge Unlimited grew to serve a clientele of more than 500 individuals weekly from 91 cities and towns, with a staff of 20+ instructors and therapists and more than 200 volunteers weekly.

STATEMENT FROM THE Executive Director

"I have been working for Challenge nlimited at Ironstone Farm for 30 years and two things have influenced my ongoing belief in what I do:  1) The people who have sacrificed so much time and energy through so many challenges to build the programs;  and 2) The courage and determination of the people we serve.  Challenge Unlimited's first six years were provided at no charge and on a fully volunteer effort, including the farm and animals being supplied by farm owner Dick Donovan.  Over the years staff has worked at way below market value because they believe in our mission.  And the volunteer support is incredibly generous and heartwarming.  We are now actually working with second generation volunteers!  Regarding our clients - an example goes back to the early days when we had no buildings and no arenas.  One snowy day we called to cancel people in wheelcairs because we couldn't get them to the riding area.  One mother came and brought four sleds and from then on all winter we would bring the children to the riding area in sleds!  Another example is a young lady with cerebral palsy that started therapy at 4 years old.  She moved away, but wrote every year and said she wanted to work at Ironstone Farm when she grew up.  I always said "sure" - as she lived in Hawai!  At 21 she arrived and I was compelled to give her a "job".  Today she is our receptionist and is invaluable in her ability to talk with all our people. She lives independently.  Recently one of our dear key instructors passed away.  At her funeral students showed up with their parents that had been with us 30 years ago!  Its is moments like these that make me glad we stuck it out through the difficult times and I look toward continuing this "Ironstone Family" far beyond my lifetime!

 

Deedee O'Brien

Executive Director"

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Mr. David Sollars

First Health of Andover

Term: May 2009 - May 2014

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

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RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?