BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Frank Tucci is what they call a “side walker” at The Red Barn in Leeds. It’s his job to walk beside 5-year-old Brianna as she rides on her favorite horse, Ziggy. It’s all part of the free horse therapy The Red Barn offers to children with disabilities.
Brianna has autism and has developed a connection with Frank. When Brianna first came to The Red Barn she was intimidated by the horses and would shrink away from them. Now, she tells Ziggy when to go and when to stop. She is confident as she rides through a special course designed to engage children in various activities.
Frank says Brianna has even started singing as she rides Ziggy. “You can see it in her face. She just lights up. That is what makes everything worthwhile. When you see a child smile; that’s what it’s all about.”
Frank is a team manager at Honda but he always finds time to volunteer at The Red Barn at least once a week. They need all the volunteers they can get. The Red Barn provides therapy to 100 students a week. Two “side walker” volunteers and one instructor are needed each time a child rides. Frank holds on to Brianna’s ankle as she rides through the course.
You can see a “faith” tattoo on his forearm. It’s a reminder of what motivates Frank to give back. He says, “It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’ve had...every time I come here... when I leave, my heart is full of happiness. It’s a beautiful place.”
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