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DPS students devastated after equine therapy program is canceled over transportation issues

Students left waiting for bus that never showed up
Posted at 6:17 PM, Sep 20, 2021

DENVER -- An autistic student at Denver Public Schools said he was left waiting with other students when the bus they were supposed to take to equine therapy never showed up. Travis Howell said he was devastated and the students ended up watching videos of horses instead.

"Since we couldn’t go, we just watched some stuff on horses. That was nice. It would’ve been fun to at least get to go to it," said Howell. "Other students were really bummed out about it."

Contact Denver7 reached out to Denver Public Schools for an explanation but the district has yet to respond.

Howell's mom, Larraine Stacey, said after the first incident with the bus they were still hopeful the program would continue. She said she received a phone call the following week stating the equine therapy program would be canceled due to transportation issues.

"I was crying. It’s hard, because like I said they don’t have, there’s not a lot of things they can do, and this is something that they really look forward to, and it’s something that would benefit them. It’s silly to take it away because of transportation," said Stacey.

An Elizabeth-based nonprofit called the Equine Partnership Program was supposed to work with the DPS students. Founder and program director, Lee Dudley, said six volunteers and two therapists were waiting for the kids to arrive but they never showed up. She said the district also told her the program was canceled because of transportation problems.

"We're heartbroken as well. We were really excited," said Dudley, as she explained she brought in seven new horses for the program.

She said the grant that DPS was using to fund the therapy could've been offered to another school, now she's not sure what to do. If she is unable to find another school to take the spot the grant money will have to be returned and her nonprofit will be negatively impacted.

"I’m hoping that they can find it in their heart to help these guys and provide transportation, and if they can’t, if they could please find someone els,e so that they don’t miss out on this," said Stacey.

Stacey said some of the students are having a difficult time understanding what happened when they were so excited to work with the horses.

"One of the kids that is nonverbal had a little bit of a meltdown and sat down in the middle of the floor and cried. He was really upset. They were all disappointed," said Stacey.

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