My name is Francisco Niko Solis but my friends call me Niko. I am 19 years old and will soon be graduating Monarch High School. I have SMA which stands for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a genetic degenerative disease that causes my muscles to stiffen and atrophy. I walked until I was almost 5 years old. When I started school I had to be in a wheelchair. From as far back as I can remember, Ive always loved horses! My dad used to volunteer at Horses and the Handicapped and one day we went to watch the SPECIAL OLYMPICS they were having there.
Because of my condition, I am no longer able to ride horses any more but that doesn't mean I love them any less! That was the day I met Sandra and learned about Personal Ponies. Sandra invited me out to the farm and I couldn't wait to go! From my very first visit, I had so much fun. We concentrated on al the things I could do, and didn't let my SMA get in the way! I was able to take the ponies for a walk (even in my wheelchair!), feed them, groom them, and even paint and wash them! From the very first time I visited the farm I fell in love with Sugar Lips! I like all of the ponies, but there was a special bond between the two of us! When I'm with her, I feel a strong connection inside my heart. I get emotional when I spend time with the ponies at the farm. The Personal Ponies Program means so much to me.
One of my best memories was the first time Sandra helped me lie on Sugars back. No saddle, No pad.just Sugar. I had thought about what it would feel like for so long. I felt very relaxed like I was floating on a soft cloud. I closed my eyes and didn't want that moment to end. Another great time was when I got to go for a ride in a cart pulled by Cookie Face. I couldn't stop laughing when Sandra made him trot! I almost got the feeling of being able to ride him! I come to the farm every week to spend time with the ponies. Brushing is so good for my hands and arms, but nothing beats the feeling I get when I wrap my arms around Sugar for a longggggg pony smooch! It makes me feel so happy! It makes me feel so good inside and out!
The Personal Ponies Charity is a great organization that helps so many kids of all ages! Thank you for coming tonight and for supporting a charity that REALLY is doing great things for kids with special needs!