Sunrise Farms enriches children as they ride horses

By ROBERT THEMER | The Daily Journal | June 17, 2008

For a couple decades, Karen Hemza, of rural St. Anne, has been using her Sunrise Center Therapeutic Riding horses and skills to enrich the lives of children and adults with physical and mental disabilities.

For 16 years, she has owned Sunrise Farms on VanDerKarr Road east of Aroma Park with her husband, Richard, and her parents, Arnold and Dottie Ford.

However, she’s been active in the effort since she was a child growing up at Lemont. Hemza first worked as a volunteer in “hippotherapy” — as therapeutic riding is termed — for several years at Friends of Handicapped Riders at Momence.

About 30 therapeutic riders a week participate in therapy at the VanDerKarr road stables and others at the second Sunrise Center opened at Morris in 2006 under the direction of Kris Mondrella.

Clients “are of all ages and all different types of disabilities,” said Hemza. These include Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and other mental and physical disabilities.

“We also are offering a hippotherapy session this summer with an occupational therapist who uses the horse’s movement as a tool for therapy specifically with children,” she said.

Sunrise has a waiting list of children and adults to get into the program — riders who need sponsors to pay for their weekly sessions, Hemza said.

“We need volunteers to help with the program on specific days, and we also are always looking for people to sponsor riders,” she said.

Sunrise also takes riders to compete in the Illinois Special Olympics at Decatur, with co-sponsorship from the River Valley Special Recreation Association and equine veterinarian Dave Fitzpatrick, of rural Kankakee.

Photos by Nicholas Holstein for The Daily Journal

Sunrise Farm rider photo by Nicholas Holstein


Sunrise Farm rider photo by Nicholas Holstein

For more information, call Sunrise at (815) 932-6170.

More photos and original article at

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s