Teri Davis Patane Memorial Horse Camp for Kids
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These Kids Aren't Just Horsing Around

GILROY - Down twisty Holsclaw Road, out in a dusty arena, six foster kids - ranging in ages from eight to 12 - started riding lessons Monday morning. For many of them, this is their first time on a horse, but already they're learning how to sit in a saddle and guide the animals around the arena.

"This is a really exceptional group," said Kristine Scopazzi, a volunteer at the camp. "This is gonna be fun."

It's all part of the Teri Davis Patane Memorial Horse Camp, a seven-day, sleep-away camp for kids in disadvantaged situations. In the past, this has included foster children, low-income children and children from single parent households.

Now in it's fourth year, the camp for kids was created in memory of Teri Davis Patane, who died in October 1999 of Systemic Lupus at the age of 32.

"This is probably the most excellent idea they could come up with," said Scopazzi, a friend of the late Patane.

The horse camp however, isn't about the end of a life, but about sharing a passion. Patane was an avid horse rider who competed since she was 3, and followed through adulthood. Just shortly before her death, Patane had talked about starting a horse camp for kids.

After her death, her father Lon Davis, her husband Carmen Patane and her brother Dustin Davis, came up with the idea of starting a non-profit horse camp that would be completely free for participants at Carmen's ranch. In August 2000, thanks to the donations of friends and family, that idea was realized.

Now, four years later, Lon is the CEO of the camp. They just unveiled their Web site, and donations have come in from all over Gilroy. The camp aims to teach kids not only how to ride a horse, but also the values of teamwork, trust and responsibility.

"Friendships form so quickly," said Patane's friend and volunteer Jean Arnaz about this year's group. "Confidence levels are huge at the end of the week."

"We've gotten so much support from Nob Hill ... Safeway in Gilroy has been phenomenal," said Scopazzi. Both locations have donated food for the program.

The first couple of days are spent learning how to ride and getting comfortable in the saddle, but by Thursday the kids will have packed up and headed into Henry Coe State Park for a two-night camping and riding trip.

"The whole idea is to get the kids out," said Lon Davis. "It's a lot of work for them. … unfortunately this is a hot week."

The camp hasn't been without it's upsets, however. Last year the sudden fires at Henry Coe prevented the kids from taking their camping trip. Rather than keep them riding in circles around the arena, however, Davis improvised and took them up for day rides to several local areas, including Mount Madonna.

As for the kids he says, "they've all been a little different." Davis added that it's hard to know how the kids are going to do and how they're going to interact with each other until they're actually at the camp, but so far they've all been wonderful.

Since the program is only held one week out of the year, kids aren't allowed to return for multiple years. However, many of the staff are considering having some sort of an alumni event.

"We can't just drop contact with them after they've left," said Scopazzi. She said that they've had informal lunches with many of the kids from past programs, and would like to do a large-scale barbecue reunion.

For more information about the Teri Davis Patane Memorial Horse Camp, including how to apply and information on making donations, visit their Web site at www.tdphorsecamp.com, or call (408) 842-0004.

Please make a donation to the Horse Camp. It's safe, secure and each donation helps!

$20.00 feeds 1 horse for a week

$40.00 buys a helmet for a child

$100.00 shoes a horse for 8 weeks

$250.00 buys a used youth saddle

$500.00 buys hay for 6 horses for 1 months

$1,300.00 sends one kid to camp

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