Written by Jeff Poole Apr 7, 2019, Orange County Review, click here for entire article.
The Orange County Chamber of Commerce and the Orange County Review are partnering to highlight a chamber member of the month. Those recognized are chamber members who demonstrate support for both the chamber and the community. Each month, a different business or organization (selected by the chamber) will be featured with a questionnaire designed to give the community some insight into both the business and the individuals responsible for its success.
This month, the chamber recognizes Therapeutic Adventure Camp of Orange (TACO)—one of approximately one-quarter of the Chamber’s members that are nonprofit organizations. It was chosen in honor of a 40-year legacy of service to campers of differing abilities.
We spoke with organizers Jessica Gredler and Renee Almond, who together have nearly 30 years experience working with the camp.
Describe your organization:
Gredler: The riding camp is for children with disabilities who reside in Orange. It’s a five-day summer camp where participants ages 9-18 ride horses and participate in horse education and arts and crafts.
What’s the best thing about working with TACO?
Gredler: After all the work that goes into organizing the camp, when the week gets there and the kids are smiling and happy—that makes it all worthwhile.
Almond: I teach—and seeing these kids outside the classroom and excited is gratifying.
What’s the best thing about operating in Orange?
Gredler: I’m a special education teacher in Orange. I get to see some of my students at camp but also the involvement of other students who come out and volunteer.
Almond: Teaching special education in Orange is how I became involved.
How would you want someone to describe TACO?
Gredler: I would want the campers to see they have this fun camp opportunity just for them—that’s free.
Almond: The volunteers get a lot out of participating as well. They get to see the joy the kids get out of it (she said, suggesting the camp always needs additional volunteers).
What’s next for TACO?
Gredler: We’re going back to Elmwood this year. Horse trainer Jim McDonough will be teaching the riding portion of the camp and it’s a big benefit having the indoor ring there. He’s also supplying a majority of the horses.
What did you want to be when you grew up and what was your first job?
Gredler: I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, but got a degree in business management, but then got offered a job as a special education teacher—for my work with TACO—and went back to school to get my masters to teach.
Almond: I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and ended up teaching kids with different abilities and later a self-contained special needs class.
Favorite book or movie?
Gredler: Rita Mae Brown—the “Sister Jane” series. I love to read.
Almond: “Dirty Dancing.” It’s old school, but I love it.
What music is on your playlist?
Gredler: Country—which made it hard when my husband and I got married since he doesn’t do country.
Almond: Mostly country, but a little bit of everything.
If you were a horse, what kind would you be?
Gredler: A Quarter Horse.
Almond: A palomino.
Met anyone famous?
Gredler: I rode Bruce Springsteen’s horse after he sold her, but I didn’t meet him. The horse was at David and Sally’s (Lamb, at Oakland Heights Farm).
Almond: Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen, Adam Nelson, don’t put him, no one will know … he was a shot put thrower for the U.S.—a world-class athlete.
Best advice you could offer?
Almond: Come volunteer with us. Come out and see what camp is all about. We always need fresh eyes and minds of all ages.
Those interested in participating as a camper or volunteer are encouraged to contact Gredler at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 308-0433.
—Compiled by Jeff Poole