For WRDA President and Coach, Donna Kennedy, it was a childhood love of horses and interest in kids that led her to RDA. A native of the Hawkes Bay, Donna rode as a child—participating in the Tuki Tuki Pony Club, where she received her C certificate. In high school, she did work experience at a school for special needs children and loved it.
“I wanted to get involved in the community,” Donna said, and found RDA. “It seemed like a perfect match.” That was 12 years ago.
Donna started out leading ponies and side-walking riders and was soon “sucked into the vortex that is WRDA.”
Her experience with horses placed her in a good position to receive training to become an RDA coach. “I guess I was in the right place at the right time.”
For the past five years, Donna has served as Saturday coach. “My volunteers would say I mostly sit on the porch and drink coffee,” she jokes. “But it is mostly facilitating volunteers and making sure everyone—horses, riders, and volunteers are safe. They are a great group, very experienced.”
Though it may seem Donna spends most of her waking time at WRDA, her day job is as Finance Manager for Heritage New Zealand. “I have a degree in business and am a chartered accountant.” These skills along with her experience at RDA were a natural fit for the WRDA committee where she has served in various roles for the past ten years, the last two as president.
“My role is to govern the organisation and grow it. There are a lot of good skills on the ground and I want to make sure we have the right people doing the right things.”
Like all not-for-profits, there are challenges—especially surrounding fundraising. “We are all competing for the same resources. We want to make sure our name and profile are out there as a preferred organisation for donations.”
A challenge closer to home has been finding a new and sustainable home for the WRDA programme so it can continue to grow. “This has been a long process with a lot of work behind the scenes," says Donna. “But we are in good shape going forward.”
The love for WRDA has become a family affair for Donna. Her mother started the Kennedy-Turner trophy for Resilience Determination and Attitude awarded at the annual WRDA Christmas party and prize giving. “Mum comes to the Christmas party and has always known what I get out of working with WRDA. Mum really admired what we did and wanted to do something to recognise the kid’s resilience determination and attitude which is what we feel RDA stands for.”
Donna says her favourite part of RDA is being a part of the success story. “We do change lives, and aren’t just a pony ride. At RDA we focus on the ability not the disability. All kids can achieve but at different levels. Never underestimate them.”
In her spare time, Donna enjoys reading, riding badly, and spending quality time with friends and family.