This Weekend: Help Keep the WTR Barn Doors Open.

If you know me at all, or have followed my ongoing project Work To Ride (a work in progress), you know that this is something that I am extremely passionate about. I’ve been volunteering with Work To Ride for going on 3 years now; 2 years ago, I even quit my job (and fancy Rittenhouse office) for the opportunity to run their summer camp (a uniquely challenging and ultimately vastly rewarding experience). I often jokingly refer to the WTR crew as my kids, and I couldn’t imagine my world without them.

Polo in the Park This Saturday 8/22 at 1pm in the Belmont Plateau section of Fairmount Park, come check out; a fundraiser being organized by the WTR kids, to allow them to raise money and show their friends and family what they’re made of – on their own turf. (Polo is a high speed team sport played on horseback, riders score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet.) For the Fundraiser, the kids will be “Stick and Balling” which is basically like a smaller scrimmage styled play, much like shooting hoops. There is also information specifically about the Work To Ride Polo Program available.

I’ve seen this program change lives; from the kids that directly benefit through academic achievement from tutoring and gaining confidence from working with the horses. But I’ve also seen it vastly effect people whom the program touches; from staff and volunteers to competitors and bystanders at equestrian events. This program changes the way people think, while shifting historically accepted social norms that are in desperate need of systemic change. Through all of this, WTR has embodied the spirit of the underdog, the essence of the outcast who refuses to settle for looking in from the sidelines. Work To Ride is a program for at risk and urban youth located in the Belmont Plateau section of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Founded in 1994 by Lezlie Hiner, WTR started as a refuge for kids who were willing to put in a little work to get off the streets of West Philly. In exchange for doing barn chores, they were allowed to pursue an equestrian sport of their choosing. Following Lez’s passion, many of them chose Polo; and in 1997, they had the first African American Polo Team in America. Over the years the program has evolved from a mere handful to over twenty and has seen the addition of Kate Simmer, Program Director, who facilitates increased community involvement and support. The kids still have to work with the horses and now undergo tutoring to keep their grades up in order to participate in everything from Horse Shows to Steeple Chases. Today, against all odds, these youths continue to break through boundaries of class and race; proving themselves both on the field and off.

The Work To Ride Documentry trailer (Directed by Jamie Moffett & Shannon Oberg. Edited by Del Lukens & Jamie Moffett) really puts it best: “Sometimes the fastest way out of the city is on the back of a horse.”  Definitely adds perspective and is worth watching to get a real sense of what this program accomplishes, against all odds:  Come find out more about this unique resource in the heart of Fairmount Park and find out how you can get involved! You can get more info at either the Anyvite event page or the Facebook event page. And please feel free to invite your friends or people you think might be interested.


Can’t make it out this weekend, but interested in making a contribution? There are many ways to Get Involved with this unique program – that truly deserves to keep it’s barn doors open.


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