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Therapeutic Adventure Camp of Orange Helping Kids with Special Needs

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4-H Therapeutic Adventure Camp of Orange (TACO) 4-H Therapeutic Adventure Camp of Orange (TACO)

This week, children with special needs in Orange County are getting a unique summer camp experience.

The 4-H Therapeutic Adventure Camp of Orange, also known as TACO, is giving kids a chance to grow by interacting with horses. The weeklong camp is held at Elmwood Farm this year.

The participants have disabilities ranging from autism to Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Now, they are getting the same opportunities as other kids their age.

Orange County 4-H program educator Sarah Weaver said, “It's a super unique camp. There really aren't any other ones like it throughout the whole state.”

CJ Latham is spending his fourth consecutive summer at TACO, where the motto is “Horses Helping Hands, Hearts, and Health”. The 13-year-old has autism.

“They have arts and crafts, and horse camp,” he said. “You get to ride on them.”

Latham is one of the 16 participants of this year's camp. His 11-year-old sister Lindsay also decided to join the fun as a volunteer - helping campers with activities including horseback riding, arts and crafts, and horse education.

“It's really cool seeing them all happy and doing things like horseback riding and stuff they don't normally get to do,” she said.

The annual summer camp is free for kids in Orange County. Donations cover the expenses.

TACO started more than 40 years ago, and for decades, dedicated volunteers keep coming back.

“I got involved when my daughter was about eight, and we went together to help and I've been doing it ever since,” TACO volunteer Vibeke Ober said. “It's just my favorite week of the whole year is to be out here at camp.”

Organizers say the therapeutic riding helps campers build physical features including core strength and flexibility.

“For a child in a wheelchair to be able to move on horseback is an amazing feeling. You can literally see legs lengthening and bodies being strengthened throughout the week plus they're having a lot of fun,” said Ober.

The camp also gives participants a unique opportunity to work on their social skills and create connections with people from all walks of life.

Weaver said, “It really helps them - the volunteers and the campers - really build friendships that outlast so much longer than just TACO camp.”

TACO will run through the end of this week. The Orange County 4-H also hosts "Return to the Farm" days in the spring and fall for campers to brush up on their skills.

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