Elizabeth Backman, 17, is preparing to compete in the Special Olympics Florida Equestrian Sports Championships on March 23. The teen, who was recently diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, has always had a love of horses. Yet, a lack of funds almost kept her from her riding.
Life has not always been easy for Elizabeth. At age three she was adopted after a difficult childhood. She struggled in school and had emotional and behavioral issues but persevered to obtain her high school diploma. It was then that her healthcare professionals started questioning where her issues were originating.
“After months of hospitalizations and testing, Elizabeth was diagnosed with a number of challenges, including being on the autism spectrum,” said her mother, Coleen Backman. “It was recommended that she be placed in a group home. But I just couldn’t do that.”
In an effort to keep her at home, Elizabeth’s insurance company offered several services including equine therapy at Inspire Equine Therapy in Clearwater. It was there that Elizabeth met Melissa Krysh, Community Life Director at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay. After hearing Elizabeth’s story, Krysh knew she wanted to help and nominated Elizabeth to be the next Watermark Kid.
“From talking to Elizabeth’s mom, I found out that she may not be able to continue lessons because of a lack of funds and her insurance coverage coming to an end,” said Krysh. “Seeing first-hand how the program was helping her thrive, I didn’t want to see that happen. So, we offered to sponsor her lessons for 6 months through Watermark for Kids.”
Watermark for Kids is a national nonprofit associated with Watermark Retirement Communities, which owns and operates The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay and 51 other communities nationwide. The organization is committed to empowering underserved kids from ages 6 through 22 to express their character, leadership, creativity, compassion and spirit.
“Elizabeth was so excited when she found out that she was going to be able to keep riding,” said Backman. “We can’t thank Watermark for Kids and The Fountains enough. Their generosity is allowing her to continue to her lessons, which have had such a positive impact on her life, and we are so thankful for that.”
Elizabeth recently competed in the Regional Special Olympics and was awarded first place in both events that she competed in. Today, Inspire Equine Therapy is helping Elizabeth prepare for the Florida Special Olympics, and she couldn’t be more excited.
“Riding and competing means I can feel proud of myself,” said Elizabeth. “It means freedom to be whoever I want to be [and] it brings be great joy and excitement.”
Elizabeth will compete in the Special Olympics Florida Equestrian Sports Championships on March 23 at the Grand Oaks Equestrian Center in Weirsdale, Fla. This is her first year competing in the Special Olympics.
About Watermark for Kids
Watermark for Kids is a national non-profit organization with a vision to help deserving local kids thrive. Funds are raised through payroll deductions and fundraising projects spearheaded by residents and associates of 38 Watermark retirement communities nationwide. In return, Watermark Kids are asked to “pay it forward” by mentoring others and vowing to help another youth in their own unique way. To learn more visit www.watermarkforkids.org.
About The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay
The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay is a retirement community in St. Petersburg located at 1255 Pasadena Avenue South on a 14-acre waterfront property. The community offers independent living, assisted living and memory care, with short and long-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation at The Springs, an on-site health center operated by Summit Care. The Fountains’ vibrant lifestyle includes multiple dining options, an extensive calendar of events, outings, classes, clubs and fitness opportunities. Managed by Watermark Retirement Communities, The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay is committed to creating an extraordinary community where people thrive. For more information, visit bocaciegabay.watermarkcommunities.com.