Eileen Szychowski standing, using crutches, next to Mack, a Camelot therapy horse

History

Camelot’s Founder

When Eileen Szychowski brought Camelot to Arizona, she had $100.00, two mares named Guinevere and Janik, and a precious goose named Zanadu. Today, Camelot has grown to be a privately funded, state-of-the-art, non-profit organization located on 14.25 acres in North Scottsdale.

Szychowski, a horsewoman with a disability, spent seven years studying under Josef Rivers, a polio survivor and founder of Dragon Slayers in California. During her time there, she also worked as a full-time program director for the Santa Cruz Skills Center. When Eileen came to Arizona, she became a park ranger at the Grand Canyon. She discovered that she could live the life she dreamed, and under Rivers’ encouragement, she dared to dream big.

Eileen Szychowski Janik (grey Arab mare) face to face Eileen Szychowski working as a Grand Canyon park ranger, riding her mare, Guenivere

Along the way, Szychowski has received support and encouragement from friends and supporters all over the country. As time goes on, many former students continue to participate in the dream, donating both time and money. Eileen retired in November of 2004, but continues to guide the staff at Camelot through the knowledge and teachings she has shared with them over the years. Thanks to these combined efforts, Camelot exists today as living proof that dreams can come true.

Camelot’s Timeline

1976 The seeds of Camelot are planted as Eileen Szychowski becomes a student of Josef Rivers, founder of the Dragon Slayer’s program in Northern California.
1980 Camelot begins to take shape as Eileen contemplates where a next-generation program can most fill a need.
1981 On a trip to Grand Canyon National Park, the question is answered as Szychowski is denied participation in the mule ride and access into the canyon based on her disability.
1982 A barrier is turned into an opportunity as Szychowski moves to Arizona and becomes the first disabled mounted Ranger in the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon.
1983 With two horses, a goose, and a dream, Camelot is established in Phoenix as a non-profit organization, renting space at Santa Rita stables. The next five years will focus on building the program, curriculum, and team of volunteers and supporters.
1988 With the program firmly established, Camelot launches a quest to raise funds for a fully accessible ranch facility that will be its permanent home.
1989 The search is on for the perfect ranch site in North Scottsdale.
1990 Camelot is selected as a candidate for a major $100,000 challenge grant, but must raise two dollars for every grant dollar.
1991 With help from donors large and small, Camelot meets the grant challenge after 16 months of campaigning.
1992 Camelot purchases a 14.25 acre parcel of land that encompasses everything on its wish list.
1992 Camelot designs a state-of-the-art facility and begins the lengthy process of securing a multitude of permits.
1994 The infrastructure begins with the installation of utilities and the creation of a level building site.
1996 At last, a foundation is poured, and a barrier-free, wheelchair-accessible ranch is under way.
1997 The horses move in and, after a 16 year journey, Camelot is home at last!
1998 The official Grand Opening Ceremony is held for Camelot’s one-of-a-kind, fully accessible therapeutic horsemanship facility.
2000 Hay and equipment storage barn construction is completed.
2005 A grant from the Sybil B. Harrington Trust of Amarillo, Texas, sets Camelot on the way to covering the riding arena. Students, instructors, and therapy mounts will finally be out of the Arizona sun.
2006 After many meetings with the City of Scottsdale and the adjoining property owners, spanning 18 months, Camelot obtains the necessary building permit.
2007 The arena improvement project is completed, with the arena footing funded by Ames Construction, Inc., and Thunderbirds Charities.
2008 Daily dragon slaying continues as Camelot looks to the future.
2011 Financial support from the Valley Anesthesiology Foundation builds three pastures with shade structures for the therapy horses.
2012 A grant from The Grainger Foundation is received for the purchase and installation of a SureHands lift, which is used for student transfers from wheelchair to horseback.
2013 Camelot receives a “Best of Scottsdale” award for stables.
2014 A 20 x 40 meter outdoor dressage schooling arena is constructed with the support of PetSmart Charities.
2015 We need your help—be a part of Camelot’s future. Our current quest is to broaden our base of financial support and develop an endowment program that secures our future and enables us to pass on Camelot’s eternal message of hope to future generations.

E-mail: info@camelotaz.org

Phone/Fax: 480.515.1542

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