News Editor, The Pendulum
The Elon University women’s tennis team recently had the opportunity to volunteer at Kopper Top Life Learning Center, an organization that specializes in therapy for disabled individuals.
The nine girls on the team and their head coach, Elizabeth Anderson, spent three hours one Saturday feeding the horses Kopper Top uses for therapeutic and recreational horseback riding.
The girls had expected to work with some of the children who receive therapy at Kopper Top, according to Anderson, but instead they worked to feed the animals with the expired produce Kopper Top gets from stores like Costco.
“It’s a great organization,” Anderson said. “They do a lot of great things. When the kids are on the horses, their faces just light up and they really enjoy it.”
Senior Kaylyn Smialek is majoring in special education and said she hopes to work with special needs children after graduation, possibly at a school in her hometown of London that has already offered her a job.
Although she did not work directly with any kids while she was at Kopper Top, Smialek said she saw one young autistic girl working on her fine motor skills by riding a horse, learning how to hold the reins and use direct commands like “stop” and “go.”
“They were doing general occupational therapy things kids would use on a day-to-day basis,” Smialek said. “It’s really good for the movement of their bodies because sitting on the horse really helps their muscles a lot. A lot of children with autism need those fine motor skills.”
The tennis team has been corresponding with Kopper Top and is hoping to go back this year, junior Briana Berne said. The team is also planning events to support Kopper Top, such as selling raffle tickets to fundraise and having the organization bring some of its animals to one of the upcoming matches to raise awareness.
“It’s good to not go to a place once and then leave it behind,” Berne said. “They’re good people, they’re doing good things.”
“I couldn’t survive without Elon students, I’ll be honest. The whole university is just great.”
–Deborah Meridith, executive director of Kopper Top Life Learning Center
While Smialek, Berne and Anderson said they are all looking forward to continuing their relationship with Kopper Top, they all encouraged other Elon students to get involved, as well.
“I recommend anyone going to see the work they do,” Smialek said. “We really thought it was an amazing experience.”
Elon students as a whole have been incredibily valuable to the organization, said Deborah Meridith, its executive director.
“I couldn’t survive without Elon students, I’ll be honest,” she said. “The whole university is just great.”
Volunteering with Kopper Top was beneficial for the team, too, Anderson said.
“Doing things out of their usual routine is good,” she said. “They bond a little more, put things in perspective a little more — the life and lifestyles we have — and I think sometimes that can carry over to the tennis court, too.”