Pegasus Special Riders again sustains storm damage


OREGON — The facilities at Pegasus Special Riders sustained storm damage on Aug. 28 for the second time this year, PSR Board President Donna Fellows said Tuesday.

The nonprofit, located at 6668 S. Carthage Road near Oregon, has been operating since 1997. It’s a therapeutic riding program for children and adults with special needs. Volunteers perform all of the required duties, such as working with the riders, caring for the horses and facilities, raising funds and providing the necessary administrative support.

The damage on Aug. 28 included the facility’s loafing shed for its horses and severe damage to a storage building. Back on March 5 of this year, a windstorm severely damaged the main arena building. High winds tore off about 120 feet of canopy, twisted the steel frame and the large front door was blown off and landed inside of the arena.

Pegasus Special Riders has been unable to perform any rides this year due to the original storm, and the recent damage set recovery efforts back. The nonprofit is still working with its insurance provider for the March 5 storm.

Dave Diveley, the property manager at Pegasus Special Riders, said the damage in March was over $300,000. The cost of the most recent damages that he knows of so far includes $6,500 and around $8,000 for two structures. 

Pegasus Special Riders has a contractor set up for repairs and is waiting on insurance funds, which will likely start to be disbursed soon from the March 5 storm. 

“Our contractor needs 20-25 percent down to order the parts,” Diveley said. “Without the insurance money, we don't have the funds to do that.”

Fellows said the nonprofit plans to rebuild and start rides and lessons as soon as reconstruction allows. 

“We will go forward,” Fellows said. “We've lost a whole year of lessons. And that isn't where we get any money. We get 99 percent of our money from donations. We'll somehow make it work. We always have. This is our 25th year of business. And this is what we had. No business. We haven't been able to do any rides or anything. The bad part is, this is like a ghost town. Usually we have volunteers out here. And because of the damage, we were afraid to have anyone in the buildings because you never know what's going to happen. We're out of commission. Hopefully if we can get everything organized, we can start in the spring. That's our goal. But that depends on the weather for reconstruction.”

Throughout its years when possible, PSR has held two annual fundraisers. Its family picnic is held in June or July and riders show their relatives and friends what they can do on a horse. On July 23 of this year it was held for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, but no demonstration was able to be held due to the storm damage. Pegasus Special Riders also holds an annual fundraiser in October called the Mane Event, but that will have to be put off this year due to the storm recovery.

PSR is accepting donations to help with the storm recovery and they can be made at https://pegasusspecialriders.org/. Fellows said if knowledgeable and capable members of the community want to help with the cleanup and reconstruction as volunteers, they can reach out as well.

Before the March 5 damage, Pegasus Special Riders conducted its lessons inside the arena. It planned on doing some outside lessons this year, but due to the recent damage, that can’t happen.

“Every time we’ve thought we had a handle on things moving forward, something like this happens and we're pushed two steps back,” Diveley said. “The work will be ongoing through the winter. Work will have to be done on construction of the new building and things that have been exposed to the weather will have to be replaced.”

In years past, PSR has served riders from Rockford, Rochelle, Dixon, Rock Falls, Sterling, Belvidere and other area communities. Fellows is excited to see them again after reconstruction. 

“Our riders and families have been without a place to go,” Fellows said. “I still get calls and have to tell people because they don't know we're not up and running this year. I have them on a waiting list for when we know we can do it.”

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