Written by Lacie Koford
Western Wasatch Contributor
Children with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, rarely have the chance to experience new and different things in their lives. The volunteers that make up Freedom Riders are helping to change all that. They’re giving disabled children a chance to enjoy a special moment on horseback. Once a week during the summer months, these special children come to the arena at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah to ride horses and get a taste of freedom. Through this wonderful program, the physically challenged can triumph over their limitations and have an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. Running this great organization since the early 2000’s, Patti Adams, has led a lifetime of service and legacy to these special children, while making a great impact in her local community in other areas as well.
Back in 1978, three county professionals, Kathy Borrett, Steve Spencer, and Larry Kasting volunteered to host a Freedom Riders festival pony ride event for children with disabilities on the lawn of McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah. Out of this was born, Freedom Riders Inc.
From this humble beginning, the non-profit equestrian recreational program has grown to over seventy volunteers that join every summer to provide this unique experience. Freedom Riders makes sure all their horses are well trained and certified to ensure that all the children participating have a fun and safe experience. Most of the horses used range in age from 6-32 and are generally retired mountain and volunteer horses. They use specialized equipment that provides balance, coordination, endurance, and improves ambulatory skills to children with cerebral palsy and other physical challenges. The children learn horsemanship skills as well as stretching exercises and play games on horseback.
For many years, even hundreds of years, benefits of therapeutic horseback riding have been recognized and used to improve the physical and emotional health of many. Some of the physical benefits include improving the rider’s pelvis functions, helping to relieve pressure on the spinal column, joints, and muscles, and even helps internal organs function at their peak. Looking at the emotional and social benefits, disabled riders in the program can gain more self-esteem by finding the personal victory in riding and being able to communicate their needs and feelings in a more self-aware fashion. The best benefit to these children though is the pure joy they experience in creating a special relationship with their individual horse and overcoming personal challenges. The volunteers with Freedom Riders are very well trained and make sure to match the right horse with each participant to ensure the best experience for both child and horse.
As a leader of Freedom Riders, Patti Adams passed away on April 17, 2020. Patti was born in 1944 and worked tirelessly to make the organization successful for all involved. Patti was a fighter in the organization to make sure the children had this great opportunity, but she was also a fighter in her personal life, especially when it came to her health. She fought through breast and lung cancer, both at the same time, back in 2011, and endured chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation, and a double mastectomy all in that same year. Even though she was undergoing such hardships physically, she still made sure she was involved with and attended as much as she could with the program that year. Patti was able to overcome these health challenges and found herself in remission in 2012.
Patti truly left a legacy for her community and family. She was heavily involved with both and made sure that she gave her best to everything she did. Back in 2010, she was honored as the “Mother of the Year” in Weber County for her work with Freedom Riders and her innate skills as a mother to seven daughters. She also had a very big impact on her community through her church service with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Patti’s daughter, Amy Frei, said that she had many passions in her life, 4 of them being her family, Freedom Riders, music, and cooking. She loved pop music and found every opportunity to watch American Idol and any other singing competition show. She also really enjoyed attending concerts, specifically watching David Archuleta. One of her other passions was cooking. Patti had quite the collection of recipes and recipe books, and often for fun she would sit down and just read through her recipe books. She always liked to try a new recipe for family dinners and it always turned out great, related Amy. Amy promised her mother before she died that she would carry on the tradition of making her famous stuffing for Thanksgiving, and her famous fruit dessert.
Although Freedom Riders is already quite the legacy to leave behind, Patti also leaves a legacy in her family. She was blessed to have seven daughters with husband Delos, twenty-nine grandchildren, and twenty-four great-grandchildren. She was truly the epitome of a loving and caring mother, community leader, and successful entrepreneur.