It’s been four days now since our event. I still have a stack of thank you notes to get out and, amazingly, donations keep coming in the mail. I knew that I really needed to post something about the event to show how special, how magical it was.
But instead, I’m going to let the kids speak for themselves.
Today’s entry is the transcript of the speech by Max Freiberger. Warning – you may need tissues:
My name is Max Freiberger. I am 16-years-old. I have been going to Square Pegs since before the organization even started. The Square Peg Foundation is a very meaningful organization for me and for many other people and lots of animals, too. Square Pegs Rescues the vast majority of their animals. Many of these animals would have been killed if not for Square Peg because they had no home. Square Pegs is now their home. The vast majority of the horses have been rescued from being slaughtered. Most of them have been retrained and rehabilitated in order to help give lessons to children and adults of all ages and abilities. This is a special place where everyone is accepted and appreciated for who they are.
I started off as a summer camper. I vaguely remember my first camp. I was 5 years old and so excited. I was nervous and scared when I got on the horse for the first time. Joelle was there for me, each and every step of the way to make sure I was safe, learned, and had a good time. When I became older I progressed into volunteering with the chores as well. Now, I volunteer frequently, and I even help teach the summer camps.
I hope you had a chance to spend some time with Joelle Dunlap. She is the co-founder and Director of Square Peg. Joelle is a remarkable human being. She is unconditionally kind and caring. She is so intelligent and hard working beyond belief. And she doesn’t stop until every job is done. For an example, no matter how many times I incorrectly bridle my horse — Polo tack is tricky you know — she would calmly explain again and again, then help me fix the problem, no matter how many times she had to repeat herself. Never has she lost her patience, temper or hope that I would eventually get it. On top of that she is a darn good polo player and an amazing equestrian.
My volunteering with the summer camp was originally Greg Crosta’s idea. Greg is my polo instructor, teacher and friend. He is a character who has always treated me with kindness and respect. He is somehow able to push me to my limits without pushing me past them. Greg recognizes my abilities better than I do. I think he gets this from his mother, Joelle because she is the same way. They believe in me more than I often do and they help me believe in myself. When I first started volunteering to help teach in the summer camps it made me feel really good about myself because those kids that I am helping to teach are in the place I was not so many years ago.
This place has helped me overcome many struggles. I have ADHD, chronic asthma and Tourettes syndrome, just to name a few. Tourettes Syndrome is a neurological condition that makes me have ticks. For example one of my ticks is to kick out my leg. Another one is to exhale very fast. When I was younger other students would tease me and exclude me and it made me feel terrible. I often would feel down or depressed. I would ask myself why I had to have all these problems when others didn’t. Sometimes I still wonder that.
But somehow on days that I was going to Square Peg I felt better. I knew that when I went to Square Pegs, I would have a place with friends and animals that cared about me. No matter what! Even today I look forward all week long to the days I go riding at Square Pegs. No matter what is going on, I still feel great when I go to this special place.
One of the first Square Peg camps I ever went to was an introduction to polo. I could barely hold a mallet, let alone swing it while riding on a horse at a fast speed. This didn’t matter. All that mattered to Joelle was that I was safe, and I learned about the animals and how to take care of them and very importantly to have fun.
I now ride in the Square Peg polo program and we go to the Woodside horse park and play real polo. I remember the first time we went to play polo at the horse park. I almost didn’t bring my polo stuff because I wasn’t going to even play. Joelle was going to play Monty, our new horse, before any of the students played him; but she surprised me by letting me play.
Again, she believed in me more than I did. In that first game I even scored a goal. I knew then I had the polo bug.
When I was younger and went to the early Square Peg camps I never imagined I would be able to someday play polo and hit a ball at a high speed like I can now. Not only have I learned to play polo but I also have learned to play the game safely and respectfully.
Now I am in High School, at Mid-Peninsula High, another special place where people can be themselves and feel safe and respected. At Mid-Pen we have two community service days per year, where groups of students go out to volunteer for the day at organizations in the community. I feel very lucky because now the Square Peg Foundation is one of those organizations.
When I first started at Mid-Pen I felt like I was just a squirrelly freshman that didn’t fit in. Then, at my suggestion, my high school visited Square Pegs on its community service day. When I was at Square Pegs that day I felt very special. People would ask me for help during the service day. And I felt proud to be able to. The next day when I went back to school I felt much more comfortable. Square Pegs has that impact on people.
If I were to say only one thing tonight I would say the Square Peg foundation definitely lives up to its motto. EVERYONE FITS.