SOUTH WALES, N.Y.- For 28 years, Rivendell Recreation Center has been changing lives. One of those is that of 9-year-old Gwen Kazmierczak; like so many 9-year-olds, she's discovered a love of horses.
"It shines right out of her. She's willing to do almost anything around the barn that she's physically capable of doing," said her riding instructor, Barbara Oship.
Born with a mild form of Cerebral Palsy, Gwen struggles with weakness on her left side. For the past three years she's been a part of the non-profit's therapeutic riding program.
Her mother, Kelley Kazmierczak, has noticed a difference in her daughter. "She is more confident," said Kazmierczak. "She's stronger."
Gwen's parents and her instructor have been watching her muscles develop over the past three years, but six months ago, it was a display of inner strength that really blew them away. It all started when Rivendell's co- founder, Chet Dudeck, died suddenly of brain cancer. His wife, Trish, was left shattered, wondering if she had the money and resources to keep the program going.
"Once I heard that Chet died, I wanted to do something so that this could go on," said Gwen.
"She just came up to me and said mom, I'd like to collect bottles, I'd like to collect the money and donate it to Rivendell," said Kelley Kazmierczak.
Gwen made a flier explaining her mission, and started passing it out to her neighbors.
"A few days later I started getting garbage cans full of bottles on my front porch," said Gwen. "Every time I came here to get my lessons, I brought an envelope with the money in it."
The latest installment was $15, and the grand total was $435. It is enough money to feed the horses for two months, and enough to inspire the adults around her.
"I think when the adults see a child step forward, it inspires them to try to think of ways they can do more," said Oship.
So for the foreseeable future, Rivendell will stay open.
"I'm very happy," said Gwen. "Because now I keep to keep riding my horses."