What are Camelot’s mission and purpose?
Our mission is to improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through programs of horsemanship and outdoor education that develop self-worth, independence, and active participation in the community.
Camelot is a multi-faceted program that requires tremendous courage and commitment from each student. When students come to Camelot, they have said to themselves, “I am ready to manage my own life. I am ready to join the mainstream.”
The purpose of everything we do at Camelot is to empower children and adults with disabilities to dream and to set goals. We teach this by example. Fulfilling Camelot’s dream of acquiring our own land and facilities sends the message loud and clear—impossible things do happen!
Read more about our program.
How was Camelot founded?
Camelot began in 1980 and was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, charitable organization in 1983. Eileen Szychowski (pronounced sha-huski) is the founder of Camelot, a horsemanship and outdoor education program for children and adults with physical disabilities. The program has served people in the greater Phoenix area since 1980, offering a curriculum that is educational, therapeutic, and vocational, with emphasis on mainstreaming into the community. Camelot is the offspring of a similar program in California called Dragon Slayers, founded and directed by Josef Rivers. Eileen, who is a disabled equestrian herself, trained there for seven years.
In 1998, Camelot completed its permanent facility, on 14.25 acres of land in north Scottsdale. The barrier-free barn is a prototype in that it provides physically challenged students with a safe environment that encourages independence. As far as we know, no other therapeutic horsemanship facility like it exists.
Read more about our history.
Who can participate in Camelot’s program?
Camelot serves physically disabled, mentally alert persons who are seven years of age or older. Both children and adults participate in the program.
Read more about being a Camelot student.
How many people does Camelot serve?
Instructors teach approximately 20 to 30 riders per week on an individual basis, and the program touches the lives of hundreds of people annually through volunteer opportunities, field trips, disability awareness training, and fundraisers. We have a carriage driving alternative for those who are medically unable to ride on horseback, so they can have a comparable horse experience.
How much does it cost to participate?
We do not charge for our services. We believe freedom and dignity cannot be assigned a dollar value. Rather, students are expected to pass on what they learn and experience by becoming contributing members of the community through volunteer efforts, school/work re-entry, or by assisting other Camelot students.
Read more about how Camelot is supported.
How is Camelot financially supported?
Camelot exists solely on donations. All funding comes from private donations, grants, corporate sponsorships, service clubs, and benefits. We receive no funding from government sources. All funds are retained locally and all donations are tax-deductible according to IRS regulations relating to 501(c)(3) organizations. We appreciate any financial contribution, large or small, and encourage you to participate in our fund-raising activities.
How do prospective students find Camelot?
Students find us through our web site, by word of mouth, or through referrals from teachers, doctors, therapists, social workers, and counselors.
Read more about becoming a Camelot student.
What is an accessible facility? Why is Camelot unique?
Our barn, office, training area, classroom, kitchen, and even our bathrooms and shower are all wheelchair accessible. We have Braille signage throughout the barn and tack room. The aisles are clear and pathways are open. We are unique in that we can accommodate a variety of physical conditions that include visual, hearing, and mobility limitations.
Read more about our facility.
May I come visit the facility?
Camelot is a training facility, and we take our responsibility to our students very seriously. We will be happy to give you a tour, but we do not schedule visits during student time in order to ensure privacy and maintain safety during lessons. To inquire about a tour, please contact us.
Read more about our facility.
Does Camelot take donated horses?
Camelot’s horses are part of our training team and, as such, have to meet very specific requirements. Our experience has been that we need to recruit horses with the same screening process and selectivity that we apply to our human instructors.
Read more about our horses.
How can I volunteer?
We are always looking for ranch hands, instructional assistants, and groundskeepers. Other possibilities open periodically.
Read more about becoming a Camelot volunteer.
How can I help Camelot?
There are many opportunities to become a Camelot supporter. Because we exist completely on the generosity of the community, we always appreciate financial donations. If that’s not an option for you, perhaps you can become a volunteer, participate in one or more of our fundraising events, or donate goods or services.
Read more about how you can help Camelot.
I want to start a program like Camelot’s—what do I do?
We are thrilled to be considered a model in this type of horsemanship program, and would encourage anyone interested in finding out more about creating and operating a facility like Camelot. Running a therapeutic horsemanship program takes significant preparation. You or someone in your program should have at least two year’s experience in the following areas:
- Working with people with special needs
- Teaching and curriculum planning
- Supervising and encouraging volunteers
- First aid and CPR
- Barn management and equine health
- Business management, budgeting, and bookkeeping
Read our links section for some helpful resources.