Gift will allow Freedom Ride to build arena, expand equine therapy services

Freedom Ride check presentation

Fla., AdventHealth today announced a $350,000 gift to Freedom Ride, which will allow the nonprofit to provide equine therapy to an additional 400 people, most of whom will use the program as part of their mental health treatment, and also construct a riding arena.

Freedom Ride provides therapeutic equine riding to adults and children with a variety of conditions including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, brain injuries, PTSD and other mental health issues.

AdventHealth’s donation comes at a time when data presented in the latest Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) shows there is a significant need in Central Florida for programs that address mental and behavioral health.

“We are committed to a health care philosophy that focuses on the whole person — body, mind and spirit. All three elements are instrumental in healing the individual and the greater community,” said Daryl Tol, president and CEO of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division. “Freedom Ride brings a unique approach to health care and we are pleased to help them expand their program. Mental health services are significantly lacking in Central Florida, and collaborations such as this are going to be instrumental as we look to improving the health of the community.”

Freedom Ride started in 1998 with a focus on helping a child heal with the help of a special horse through equine therapy. The Orange County-based organization also provides scholarships to ensure no one is ever turned away due to an inability to pay.

“Freedom Ride is thrilled to have AdventHealth ‘Join the Ride’ as we grow and expand our services for individuals living with disabilities and mental health issues,” said Pat Michaels, president of Freedom Ride’s board of directors. “Freedom Ride and AdventHealth are looking forward to growing their partnership as we construct the new AdventHealth Therapeutic Riding Arena at Bay Lake.”

Freedom Ride’s programs reach over 900 children and adults a year including 600 veterans who are struggling with PTSD after returning from overseas. More information about Freedom Ride can be found at