UpReach Therapeutic Riding Center in Goffstown is a living legacy for Edie Loeb Tomasko, who died Monday at the age of 57.
Founded in 1992 with two volunteers and a borrowed horse, the center has grown "to serve 75-80 students in varied programming, with 14 equine partners, four full-time and four part-time staff, and over 120 active volunteers," according to the UpReach website.
Executive Director Karen Kersting said Tomasko's mother, Nackey S. Loeb, had suffered partial paralysis in an auto accident. Tomasko thought perhaps riding would be beneficial. Although her mother didn't take advantage, Kersting said Tomasko kept exploring riding "as a way to health, both physically and mentally."
Tomasko's idea has made a world of difference for many people in the area, including Clecia Terrio's daughter, Jordana, 18, who has been riding at UpReach center for eight years.
At first, Terrio said: "It was instead of therapy, to give strength to her leg." Jordana had a loose patella, said Terrio. Then Jordana got leukemia. After two months in the hospital, said Terrio, her daughter was in a wheelchair: "She couldn't lift her arm."
But after returning to UpReach, Terrio said, "It was amazing how fast she was walking."
It's mental as well as physical, Terrio said. "It's amazing what they do."
Bill Boynton, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, said his daughter, Lauren, participated in the program in the early years, in the mid-1990s. "I was impressed with how committed (Edie) was," said Boynton, who also served on the board of UpReach for a time.
Boynton said his daughter has cerebral palsy ataxia, which affected her balance and necessitated using crutches, so riding was beneficial.
"You're forced to use your legs," he said, and it made a big difference for his daughter. She couldn't participate in typical child sports, but she could ride. "There's also the personal benefit," he said. "This was something she could do."
Back then, said Boynton, the benefits of riding and caring for horses were mostly anecdotal. Now, they are recognized and the UpReach center is the only one in the area that's not an adjunct program.
Kersting, who has been at UpReach for about 16 years, said: "We are one of the few therapeutic riding programs that aren't part of something else."
In recent years, said Kersting, she'd had little direct contact with Tomasko. After her move to Montana, it was mostly email contact and letters, Kersting said.
After the death of her mother, Tomasko facilitated the transfer of the entire 96-acre property, including her mother's house, to the center in 2002.
Tomasko, with her sister, Nackey Scagliotti, also followed through on their mother's dream of establishing the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.
David Tirrell-Wysocki, the executive director of the school, said Tomasko and her sister helped guide the school during its formative years. As a result, he said: "Students of all ages have learned about the First Amendment and communications.
"That's a wonderful part of Edie's legacy," he said.
Union Leader Publisher Joseph McQuaid said Edie and her sister were instrumental in seeing their mother's wishes were carried out in leaving her newspaper stock to the school. "It is why the Union Leader remains an independent newspaper to this day," McQuaid said.
"The Union Leader family and my own family are saddened by Edie's death. She was a beautiful, caring woman who contributed a great deal to making the world a better place," McQuaid said.