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Horse-centric nonprofits merge to create ‘bigger and better’ organization

A student receives therapy through horseback riding through the Main Stay Therapeutic Riding Program in Richmond. (Photo provided by Main Stay Therapeutic Riding Program)

A student receives therapy through horseback riding through the Main Stay Therapeutic Riding Program in Richmond. (Photo provided by Main Stay Therapeutic Riding Program)

The merger of two nonprofit social service organizations has leaders from both agencies confident combining prior individual success will translate into a long-lasting legacy as a single entity.

Main Stay Therapeutic Riding Program recently announced the acquisition of Light Center. The merger will take place July 1 with all operations expected to be under one roof sometime next year.

Richmond-based Main Stay provides services to the mentally and physically challenged through horseback riding. Light Center in Union offers therapy for at-risk youth through the use of animals in a barnyard setting.

The merger comes after years of investigating expansion opportunities for Main Stay and as Light Center executive director and founder Jan Cederlund pondered retirement.

“As it got closer to the time of deciding what I am going to do next with my life, I had to decide whether or not I wanted to take a leap of faith and allow the business to grow,” Cederlund said. “This is merging two different organizations with the same philosophies to create a bigger and better one.”

Cederlund founded Light Center in 1999 on farmland off Marengo Road after years as a special education teacher focusing on multi-sensory education. The nonprofit has since grown to serve more than 1,500 children.

“It has been a real labor of love,” she said. “This is the best thing I have ever done aside from having my own family. This merger will allow the program name to live on.”

The acquisition becomes official July 1 — a day after Cederlund’s retirement takes effect. Sessions will continue at Light Center before Main Stay assumes all responsibilities for programming and the 32 animals onsite.

Programming will then continue at Light Center before all operations are moved to an expanded Main Stay facility in Richmond, expected to open the middle of next year.

Roughly $50,000 in expenses will be added to Main Stay’s current $500,000 budget with the acquisition. The Light Center Foundation will also dissolve.

Assets that will be acquired through the transition are undetermined, according to Loriann Dowell, executive director at Main Stay. The associate director of Light Center will be retained.

“This is a wonderful complement to our service offerings,” Dowell said. “We have been doing similar things on a smaller scale, but this allows us to fill a huge need in the area.”

Main Stay Board President Sara Foszcz agreed.

“The power of the work we do will be enhanced with the absorption of the equally powerful work of Light Center,” she said. “Blending the best of both programs allows us to serve the community with a stronger and more deeply integrated program.”

Main Stay serves 25 students a week through the use of 125 volunteers.

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