WINDHAM (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Helping animals who need a forever home. Making sure children don’t go hungry when school’s not in session. At just 8-years-old, those are some of the ways Allie Mannette has paid it forward during the holidays.

When tasked with who or what to help this year, it was her grandparents’ enthusiasm about a local equine facility that inspired her to discover a place where the people there share her passion for horses.

There are 19 horses at the Riding to the Top Therapeutic Riding Center in Windham. It’s mission, for the last 25 years, is to help people living with disabilities overcome cognitive, emotional or physical challenges through the healing power of horses.

Jacob

Sarah Bronson, RTT’s executive director, says there are many benefits of bonding with the horses by way of carriage riding and grooming. She says people of all ages can improve their physical strength as well as cognitive and social skills. She says it builds self-esteem and confidence.

65% percent of those who attend RTT are children.

8-year-old Allie Mannette toured the facility for the first time with her grandparents earlier this month. She’s now part of the RTT family.

“I thought it would be nice to donate here,” said Mannette.

This time of year, Mannette continues her tradition of selling eggs from her family farm in Standish and donating the money to a good cause. In the past she donated to the Animal Refuge League and to her school’s Back Pack Project which provides weekend meals for kids in need. This year: RTT.

Her grandparents had recently attended a fundraising event for RTT. When she heard how enthusiastic they were about it, she had to see the place for herself. So together, they attended a tour and a day of classes at the facility.

Bronson says Mannette's donation of $126 will go a long way to keep clients in the saddle, and the horses happy and healthy.

“For her to make this donation to Riding To The Top as an 8 year old is truly heart-warming," said Bronson. "We were touched by her gift and visit to the farm and look forward to seeing her back as a volunteer in the future!”

More than 60% of children qualify for scholarships to attend RTT. For school-based programs, RTT funds 100% of the cost.