I think it should also be noted that Vinesse has some pretty cool members. One very proud one is Cat Markosky, who is the founder of an organization called STAT, Inc. in Ligonier, Pa.
STAT (Southern Tier Alternative Therapies) started out as an organization that directly benefited Cat’s son, Mason, because what Mason needed was not available in the area. But it has become more than that — so much more.
“Mason was born 14 weeks premature, which resulted in traumatic brain injury,” Cat explains. “The damage done to his airway to keep him alive was so severe that he cannot speak and is dependent on a tracheostomy tube to breathe and a gastrostomy tube for nourishment.”
Mason also has an extremely rare condition called Costello Syndrome.
“He is the most unique kid you’ll ever meet,” notes Cat. “Even with his challenges, he is always happy, very caring of others, and he loves to ride horses.”
Those horses are a key part of Cat’s story and the organization she founded.
“Mason has been participating in a unique physical therapy treatment called Hippotherapy since he was 3 years old. At age 3, when most kids are running around, Mason couldn’t even sit up. But after only 12 weeks of Hippotherapy, he was able to sit independently. After months of the unique therapy, he gained enough strength and balance to finally walk.”
That was quite a milestone for the Markosky family considering that, in 2001, when Mason was brought home from Pittsburgh’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit on full life support, they were told he would not live to age 2 and that he would never breathe on his own, let alone walk.
“He is a walking miracle,” Cat understates. “Hippotherapy was the one treatment that worked.”
In 2012, the family moved from New York to Ligonier in order to be close to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. That’s when they discovered that the horseback riding therapy Mason was participating in weekly was not available to him.
“And where it may have been available, we sat on wait lists for three years,” adds Cat.
Rather than doing nothing, the family decided to build a center for its entire community. They envisioned it as a place for the disabled and the able-bodied, a place to heal, a place to come together and to bear witness to miracles.
You should know that STAT is a 501(c)3 public charity. Its mission is to facilitate alternative and animal-assisted therapeutic interventions to promote and enhance the health, education and the quality of life of individuals with special needs and other vulnerable populations. This includes disabled children and youth, at-risk adolescents and veterans.
Cat believes in the power of the horse and how it can change a human life.
“It’s pure magic,” she says. “The joy is contagious and amazing things happen right before your eyes. A rider’s stiff legs become flexible from the warmth of the horse. Cramped muscles relax, slumped postures morph into straighter backbones, and non-verbal children who have never spoken a word become verbal.”
When you talk to Cat and hear about the people who benefit from the organization’s programs, it’s impossible to not get excited about STAT.
That’s why last year Vinesse was proud to donate a full-year club membership for a STAT auction, and will be doing so again this year. We’ll also be providing some wine for guests to enjoy at STAT’s Horse Power Summerfest, to be held Aug. 6 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ligonier Therapeutic Center.
In addition to wine tasting, the event will feature live music, a magician who appeared on “America’s Got Talent” (Lee Terbosic), and an array of family-friendly and kid-friendly activities. If you’re anywhere in the area, you owe it to yourself to attend — not only to support this wonderful organization, but to see first-hand how it is changing lives.
If you can’t make it to the Horse Power Summerfest, you can still help the cause by making a donation to STAT. Please click here to visit their website, learn more about their programs and events, and find a link to their PayPal donation page at the very top where it says “Donate.” Alternatively, you can find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Vinesse is proud to have people like Cat Markosky among its members.