By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Rockford Park District commissioners on Tuesday asked the district’s nonprofit fundraising arm to focus its priorities on raising an additional $2.4 million needed to build an indoor equestrian center that will help youth handle stress, trauma and other mental health issues.
Building an indoor arena at Lockwood Park, 5201 Safford Road, has long been a part of the Park District’s plans. It’s being prioritized as the district sees an opportunity to serve youth living with the effects of trauma, developmental disabilities, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and other mental health issues, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The need and urgency for this type of center is great, so we are very appreciative of the support we’ve already received financially,” said Jay Sandine, the executive director of the Park District.
Background: Rockford Park District pushes to fund ‘desperately needed’ equestrian center focused on mental health
Last week, the Winnebago County Mental Health Board awarded the district $500,000 to go toward the center. That’s coupled with more than $1.5 million pledged by the Perks Family Foundation, the Blazer Foundation, the Smith Charitable Foundation and Pam and Jim Keeling.
“We have always known the important role recreation plays in the health and well-being of our community, but receiving funding from the Winnebago County Community Mental Health Board gives credibility to the critical role we play in improving the mental health of our community,” Sandine said.
Background: ‘A new avenue to help’: Indoor equestrian center aims to help Rockford area youth handle trauma
The Park District has pledged $2 million to go toward the project, which is expected to cost roughly $4 million to $6 million. The Rockford Park District Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm for the district, will look to raise an additional $2,440,000.
How to support the center
Anyone interested in donating to the project can contact Lori Berkes-Nelson, Rockford Park District Foundation director, at 815-987-1645 or donate online at rpdfoundation.org.
Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been observed in the United States since 1949. Throughout the month, the Rock River Current will publish several stories looking at use of the mental health sales tax in Winnebago County and other local initiatives centered around mental health.