An army of more than 120 employees of Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia converged on Carousel Ranch in Agua Dulce all day Tuesday to perform more than two dozen projects designed to repair and upgrade the non-profit therapy-on-horseback facility.
The tasks included painting, sandbagging, fixing retaining walls, welding fences, repairing roofing, building stairs and a handicapped ramp for a new office, barn-door building, refurbishing a house on the ranch to be rented out, plumbing repair, tree-trimming, landscaping, sprinkler repair, road grading and much more.
The day of service, called Project Six by organizers, gets Six Flags Magic Mountain volunteers into the local community en mass every November, all wearing their red “Project Six” t-shirts.
“Our normal day is roller coasters and providing that family fun, but out here we actually get actually help and do something out of the norm for a day… actually something helpful,” said Savvas Demostenous, Six Flags operations department training supervisor.
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“We chose Carousel Ranch because it’s such a great organization and helps children in need,” said Connie Luhan, Six Flags Magic Mountain spokesperson. “Last year we were here, at LARC Ranch and at the Boys & Girls Club, but we decided to really focus our energy on Carousel Ranch this year because it really needed it.”
At right, Six Flags Magic Mountain Project Six volunteers including Tim Burkhart, director of maintenace, entgineering and construction, work on a stairway and handicapped ramp for Carousel Ranch’s new office.
Denise Tomey, Carousel Ranch executive director, figures if the ranch were to hire contractors to do all the work being done, it would cost “tens of thousands of dollars. Just a lot of the materials they’ve brought, let alone 120-plus people, eight to 10 hours each. And a lot of these are skilled people who probably make a lot of money, and they’re paying all their employees for the day.”
The Project Six crew even provided heavy grading equipment. “They graded our road with huge tractors –- that was probably a $5,000-$6,000 project alone,” Tomey said. “It’s unimaginable what all this would cost.”
At left, Six Flags Project Six volunteers Tim Burkhart, Rick Wyatt, Nick Smith and Saul Ramos build a door for the upper plateau barn at Carousel Ranch.
Carousel Ranch provides therapy for special needs for children ages two years and older to adults. “We work with them on horseback,” Tomey said. “It’s not about horseback riding, though, it’s about accomplishing those same goals that you would in traditional forms of therapy, whether it’s balance and coordination, speech, behavior, depending on the child.”
Tomey said Carousel’s staff works with about 90 children of all ages, all disabilities, every week. “Probably 80 percent of our clients are from Santa Clarita and another 20 percent from the surrounding valleys, San Fernando, Antelope, even into Pasadena and Los Angeles,” she said.
In addition to providing a skilled workforce and all the equipment and materials needed to get the jobs done, the Six Flags volunteers brought their own food for lunch. The lunchtime scene resembled a film crew on location breaking to eat.
Ana Alvarado, a Six Flags food services staffer, gets acquainted with one of the therapy horses at Carousel Ranch during the Six Flags day of service’s lunch break.
“It’s a nice feeling,” Bill Birney, a Six Flags maintenance manager, said about the day of service with his fellow employees. “You get into it, and the more you get into it, it catches ya. And pretty soon you don’t know where to stop, because there’s always something to do here.”
For more information about Carousel Ranch, including volunteer opportunities, visit www.carouselranch.org or call (661) 268-8010.