A strong wind ripped through southern Ogle County in March and, in a matter of minutes, significantly damaged the main arena building at Pegasus Special Riders, a therapeutic riding center.
Four months later, the center still is reeling from the storm’s effects.
“We are still fighting with the insurance company and now we are waiting again,” said Donna Fellows, Pegasus’ board of directors’ president.
She was the first to learn of the March storm damage when she saw what the wind had done to the main building via remote cameras at the facility.
Fellows contacted property manager Dave Diveley, and when he arrived at the center he saw the devastation.
“The south end of the building took the brunt of it,” he said in March. “All the horses were okay, but they were jumpy from the storm.”
Eleven horses were housed under the wooden hay mow at the south end of the 62-foot-by-420-foot building when the storm hit. The horses and two cats that resided in the structure were not hurt.
The wind pushed the north end of the building in, twisting and bending the large garage door.
The “hoop” building was constructed in 2002. Its roof and sides consist of a large tarp called a “coverall” that stretches over the steel frame. Sections of the tarp were torn from the frame and deposited nearby, while some sections remained on the frame with tears.
Those gaps remain today.
“It’s been like this since March 5,” Fellows said. “It has rained in on our hay storage, so we had to destroy hay that would normally feed the horses. We just had our first cutting of hay, but when we have our second cutting we don’t know where we will put it.”
Fellows, who helped re-established Pegasus in 1996 by overseeing the therapeutic horseback riding program and the purchase and development of the land on Carthage Road, southeast of Oregon, said it is likely the insurance settlement will not cover the entire price of rebuilding.
“We were informed we had a ‘cap’ on our insurance so we could be responsible for $100,000 or more to just replace what we have now,” she said. “In 2002, it cost us $150,000. Now that has doubled in price.”
She said officials have looked into many different types of buildings, rather than the hoop (engineered building).
“We’ve looked into everything from pole buildings, to metal buildings, and our need for storage, but this [hoop] is the type of building we need,” she said.
Metal buildings are primarily used for storage and don’t have the ventilation or floor suitable for the riding area.
“We need a building that allows us to have a softer ground for our aging horses and some of our volunteers too,” she said. “At this point we really have to rely on donations.”
According to the organization’s website, “Pegasus Special Riders provides a variety of programming to benefit qualified individuals through year round programs and outreach programs. The Therapeutic Riding Program improves the quality of life of those we serve. Our primary clients are individuals with disabilities who benefit physically, emotionally, and cognitively through animal-assisted activities, primarily through interaction with horses. We do not turn anyone away due to their inability to pay.”
Fellows said Diveley is the organization’s only full-time employee. Dedicated volunteers step in to help with daily chores and events.
“We’ve lost a whole year of lessons, but a lot of clients are sponsored through scholarships, so we really don’t have a revenue stream,” Fellows said. “We still have our horses and we have that to be grateful for, and we are so fortunate none of them were injured. But this is very daunting.”
Fellows hopes supporters will come to Saturday’s Family Picnic Fundraiser to help raise funds for the repairs. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. at 6668 S. Carthage Road.
The $15 event, which will also mark Pegasus’ 25th anniversary, includes a pork chop dinner sponsored by Ralph & LuLus of Ashton and live music by Jim Kanas. The price for a family of four is $50 and there is no charge for children 5 years and under.
“If it is rainy we want people to know that the event will be held rain or shine,” said Fellows. “We will push all the equipment to the side in our storage building and everyone will be covered.”
Tickets will be available at the door or in advance by calling 815-973-3177.
Pegasus Special Riders is a nonprofit organization providing therapeutic horseback riding to northern Illinois residents with physical, mental and emotional challenges.
The organization is staffed by 50 volunteers who are involved with all aspects of the program from horse care, horse handling during lessons and barn chores to fund raising and special events.
Visit Pegasus www.PegasusSpecialRiders.org for additional information.