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“It’s really really nice,” said David Levinson, a Hollywood screenwriter who founded Big Sunday, the $1.3 million Los Angeles-based nonprofit that runs the Big Sunday Weekend and year-round community service bonanza now as far afield as Australia. “This is really a celebration of helping.
“The fact is, I’m a really lucky guy, because whenever someone comes through our doors, they’re looking to do something nice for people.”
When the nearly half-century-old Ahead with Horses moved to its stables a few years ago to a one-acre ranch off Sunland Boulevard, it was Big Sunday Weekend volunteers who helped clear the grounds.
On Saturday, dozens of volunteers from Los Angeles to Simi Valley descended upon the therapeutic riding center to help spruce it up for its annual Children’s Demonstration & Fun Day. The community fundraiser, with barbecue and family fun, will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 13.
Under a blazing hot sun, they sanded and restained benches. Poured cement in paint cans to erect moveable posts. Cleaned the tack of eight horses ridden by disabled kids. And planted rows of yellow daisies, red geraniums and purple lavender amid grounds shaded by tamarisk, pine and pomegranates.
All the while, kids and young adults with cerebral palsy rode within a lesson arena guided by doting instructors.
“Who wants to work with cement? Anybody?” asked Michelle Newman, executive director of Ahead with Horses, as well as the Big Sunday Weekend team captain for the “Hoof Ahead with Horses” day.
“Big projects today, lots of volunteers,” she told a visitor. “ We are always thrilled to have Big Sunday and have lots of volunteers to help.”
Among those eager to lend a hand was 20-year-old Erica Quezada, who works at a nearby convalescent home and now studies to become a nurse. “I love horses, and I wanted to volunteer,” said Quesada, of Los Angeles, filling a paint can with dirt. “You can have fun, add to your resume, and give back.”
Among those refinishing benches assembled last year during Big Sunday Weekend was 14-year-old Claire Gerson, of Sherman Oaks, who attends Levinson’s synagogue, Temple Israel of Hollywood. And like Levinson, she wanted to share in a a Mitzvah Day to help spread the love.
“This is a mitzvah because I’m doing something for something else,” Gerson said, while sanding one of 10 wooden benches parents use to watch their disabled kids vault, or learn gymnastics, on horses.
“I’m volunteering: It’s doing something that is not going to have a better outcome for you your — but someone else will be happier for it.”
PHOTO: A small legion of volunteers helped “lend a hoof” Saturday to spritz up the grounds of Ahead with Horses, a Shadow Hills nonprofit that helps disabled and other kids through equestrian therapy. They joined thousands of volunteers this Big Sunday Weekend, the largest community based volunteer festival in the nation.
Dean Musgrove — Staff photographer
(Copyright © 2015 Los Angeles Daily News Corporation)