Susan and Neil Szanyi have lead a life of adventure thanks in part to his career in the Navy. The couple met as college freshman at the University of Pennsylvania where Neil joined the NUPOC program during his Junior year, beginning their Navy journey from Connecticut, to Italy where their son was born while serving overseas, back to Georgia, Virginia and finally Hawaii where Neil retired after a successful career in the Submarine force. Throughout their Navy adventure, Susan who grew up on a farm maintained and shared her love of horses first with family, then eventually achieved PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) certification while stationed in Virginia.
After volunteering with a PATH stable in Virginia, Susan was keen to find the same with their PCS to Hawaii. Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii, in Waimanalo, had existed on Oahu since 1983 and was grateful for another trained volunteer in Sue. ?At the time, less than 15 riders enjoyed weekend only lessons as the small stable grew. ?Neil began to volunteer to keep the bookkeeping and office work out of the way so that Sue and other volunteers could spend time working with students from 2 to 80 years old. In THH’s favor, their landlord Honolulu Polo Club is a “gracious host” shares Sue, and as THH grew thanks to a Gift Foundation Grant in 2008 – they have expanded to weekday lessons, summer camps and support for veterans recovering from injury.
Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii serves students of many sorts, and Sue enjoys many of the challenges that can be overcome through exposure to riding. Children on the Autism spectrum, PPD NOS, ADD/ADHD as well as physical and cognative disabilities cover many of the students, in the last few years they’ve been excited to welcome wounded veterans recovering and rebuilding their lives through Wounded Warrior Project. “Our goal is to have them part of our family,” say the Szanyis about these veterans. Clearly, the opportunity to meld their volunteer work with THH and their personal experience as a military family are invaluable.
Today, THH is thriving thanks to a variety of volunteers and a few employees. It takes a minimum of 98 volunteer hours weekly for THH to serve it’s current students who today number around 100. As a completely independent 501c3 without state funding, THH “can’t make ends meet without community support” shares Neil, yet the couple revels in the positive reaction of Hawaii’s family to THH’s mission. The yearly Keiki Rodeo draws many as well as a silent auction and Christmas party in December. As the only PATH-Accredited facility in Hawaii able to serve students from those in wheelchairs and beyond, THH works to improve their student’s organizational planning, fine and gross motor skills, motor planning as well as long term memory, preconception, balance, core strength and even walking ability.
We at Hawaii VA loans are honored to present volunteers Sue and Neil Szanyi as our August Ambassadors for embodying the best of our core values and improving the lives of Hawaii’s families.