MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Oklahoma School for Blind students will saddle up again on September 25 for their annual Western Heritage Day.
Roy and Rose Anna Webb host the popular event, which features a rodeo arena, stage coach, hay wagon and fish pond, at their Silver Spur Western Lodge in Haskell.
“We love to do it and look forward to Western Heritage Day every year,” Rose Anna Webb, who taught elementary school for 24 years, said. “My husband Roy wants to make sure that every child has a chance to ride a horse and experience ranching and outdoor activities.”
“You can just see in one day how they gain confidence,” she said. “It seems like a good experience for them and all the volunteers.”
Western Heritage Day combines educational opportunities with horseback and mechanical bull riding, dummy calf roping, rock climbing, bungee jumping and fishing.
Sharon Breeding, past president and Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association hall of fame member, rounds up 100 volunteers from all over the state to help each OSB students, kindergarten through 12th grade, experience the old west with buddies by their sides.
“We have people who drive over 200 miles to volunteer,” Sharon Breeding said. “Once they’ve been to Western Heritage Day, they don’t want to ever miss it. It’s just a life-changing experience.”
Many volunteers are Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association members. Most of them are either world champions or past-presidents of the association or both.
OQHA members bring their own carefully selected horses and assist students who mount and ride around the arena.
The group also sponsors pony rides for younger children and lunch, which is discounted and delivered by Roy’s Chicken in Coweta.
Other active volunteers are youth members from the Oklahoma Youth Quarter Horse Association, the equine teams from Connors State College in Warner, Haskell High School Future Farmers of America and local churches.
OSB’s Western Heritage Day was the brainstorm of Don LaPorte, who has a visual disability himself. The first event was held in 2008 with the help of Lowell and Donna Hobbs who offered use of their ranch and pond near Haskell. Donna Janssen, who was recreational director for OQHA at the time, was instrumental in getting the OQHA’s Recreational Riding Program and lots of volunteers involved.
LaPorte continues to join OQHA volunteers at Western Heritage Day every year. He was affiliated with Visual Services’ Business Enterprise Program, which helps business owners with visual disabilities operate food service businesses.
Both Oklahoma School for the Blind and Visual Services are divisions of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
“OSB’s Western Heritage Day has become a wonderful, fun and educational tradition for students who look forward to this experience all year long,” OSB Superintendent Rita Echelle said. “It would not be possible without the generosity of Roy and Rose Anna Webb and the coordination efforts of Sharon Breeding from the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association, who does a lot of work to make this event so successful.
“We deeply appreciate all of the volunteers,” Echelle said. “They create an adventure that lasts a lifetime for our students.”
The Oklahoma School for the Blind emphasizes a strong academic curriculum that meets all state-mandated education requirements. All services are free of charge. Students receive specialized instruction in Braille, orientation and mobility, optimum use of low vision, adaptive technology and tactile graphic skills. In 2018, 119 students lived at the school during the week, commuted from home or attended summer school. Qualified staff offered free outreach services, including evaluations, in-service training for teachers and adaptive equipment, that help students who attend other public schools reach their full potential.
For more information, call 918-781-8200 or 877-229-7136 toll free, or visit http://osb.k12.ok.us/ .