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Organization - Challenge Unlimited

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Challenge Unlimited
Last updated on July 25, 2014


Challenge Unlimited uses horses, the activities of a working farm and the benefits of a home environment to focus on improvement of quality of life through physical activity, education in the arts, nature, real life skills and care-giving for people with disabilities.

To achieve the goals of its Mission, Challenge Unlimited provides the following programs: Hippotherapy (therapy using the movement of the horse) that encompasses physical and occupational therapy and speech/language pathology; educational classes in horse management and sign language; Special Olympics equestrian training; included riding lessons and summer camp activities; a teen Working Student program and a teen Horsemanship Club; an Apprentice Instructor program in conjunction with the MA Department of Agriculture; and an extensive Volunteer Program. In addition: Our Equine Encounter program provides one day retreats in mental health for people with cancer and children suffering with the trauma of having or losing a parent with cancer This is done in collaboration with Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Lowell General hospitals. An International Internship program provides “soup to nuts” training for professionals, using the model developed at Ironstone Farm to bring the benefits derived from our services to people all over the world. Challenge Unlimited’s Ironstone Therapy program provides physical, occupational and speech therapy for children in the 9 months to 3 years age group through its partnership with 12 Early Intervention programs throughout Northeastern Massachusetts. Our recent purchase of the “house next door” (the House) further achieves our Mission through development of after-school programs in the arts, life-skills activities for children, teens and young adults with disabilities, and educational opportunities for the families of our constituency. The House renovations and programs are now in development. In 2010 Ironstone Farm hosted its first Adoption Party for children in foster care through the Mass Adoption Resource Exchange. Seven children found homes through this event, and two of them are continuing therapy at Ironstone Farm. Further work with social workers in foster cares has resulted in children without families coming to Ironstone Farm weekly as working students, volunteers, or just for the farm experience. Challenge Unlimited has established an annual “Sponsor-a-Child” program to better serve people of low income, with a goal to help anyone who can benefit from the programs offered and who seeks our help. Between 450 and 500 clients are served weekly, year round with over 1000 clients served in 2012.

Challenge Unlimited was officially founded in 1983 by Richard Donovan, owner of Ironstone Farm. In 1960, Ironstone Farm was established as a breeding and training facility for Thoroughbred horses. During the 1970's, Mr. Donovan hosted field trips for children with disabilities as a community service. This evolved into the Challenge Unlimited therapeutic riding programs that exist today, employing a staff of 22 professional instructors and therapists who provide rehabilitative services for 450 to 500 individuals each week, year round, with the help of more than 200 volunteers. In April of 1985, Challenge Unlimited gained non-profit 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. In December 2001, after two years of grassroots fundraising, Challenge Unlimited purchased its home of twenty years, Ironstone Farm, thus achieving its goal of preserving the farm and its programs for generations to come. In 2007 Challenge Unlimited completed construction of a large indoor arena with 100% contributed funds. And in 2008 Challenge Unlimited closed on a MassDevelopment tax exempt bond allowing for the purchase of the abutting home and property. This will be developed as a family resource center and provide life-skills programs for teens and young adults with disabilities who in transition, and after-school programs for children with disabilities. Challenge Unlimited collaborates with more than 50 outside agencies by providing its unique services as a compliment to theirs, and as a community service resource for volunteers. In 2012 Challenge Unlimited volunteers served more than 12,000 hours!

Contact people:
 Kay Pirrello, Volunteer Coordinator, (phone), (email)
Carolyn Burt, Volunteer Manager, (phone), (email)
Susan Farese, Director, Community Outreach, (phone), (email)

Office fax number: (978) 475-4046

 Ironstone Farm
450 Lowell Street

Andover, MA 01810
This location is handicap accessible
(See a map)

Web Site:


 From I 93 North and South: Take Exit 43 Andover. Go West on Rte. 133. Ironstone Farm is 1.3 miltes on the left. From I 495 North and South: Take Exit 39. Go East on Rte.. . . (more)

Miscellaneous Information
What is the type of this organization?
501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization
Does the agency conduct CORI checks?
Last updated on July 25, 2014

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