Riding Center volunteer prefers work to spotlight

June 23, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Over the past seven years, Bob Porter Sr. has given pickup trucks, a tractor, several tons of hay and countless hours of his own time to the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center in Lisbon.

Last week the 63-year-old Woodbine resident had to make perhaps the most difficult sacrifice of all -- taking credit for his contributions.

While he enjoys volunteering for the center, which helps disabled children, Mr. Porter wants to be left alone, not written about in newspapers or feted by a television station.

"That's not my bag. I'd rather be helping the kids," Mr. Porter said last week, fidgeting as he waited to be picked up by a limousine taking him to television station WUSA in Washington. He and eight other volunteers from the metropolitan Washington area received a One and Only 9 Award, at a televised ceremony June 15. "It means a lot to the center, so I told them I'd go out and do it," Mr. Porter said.

The 10-year-old center specializes in treating physically disabled or mentally disabled children with hippotherapy, or therapy on horseback.

"A lot of them, I hate to say, have given up on life," Mr. Porter said of young riders at the center. "What they achieve on horseback, it makes you cry, to tell you the truth.

"There's some able-bodied brats in this world that ought to watch them once in a while," he said.

Director Helen Tuel said Mr. Porter has helped get the center through tough financial times, times when it was difficult to imagine the groundbreaking that took place in March for a new $6 million, 55-acre facility in Glenwood.

"He's always believed in us, even when we were really down," Ms. Tuel said. "Sometimes it takes one individual to stay with a group who can really turn that group around."

Mr. Porter credited his wife, Barbara, with getting him interested in the center.

"My wife started, she got involved with it," Mr. Porter said. "She was just a good Samaritan, she helped them any way she could."

Mrs. Porter died of cancer in January 1990, "so I'm trying to carry it on," he said.

His daughter, Susan Porter, 38, used to give riding lessons at the center, and his son, Robert "Huck" Porter Jr., 36, is helping to build a metal building on the center's new property in Glenwood.

Mr. Porter and his son run a Montgomery County drywall and acoustical tile company, Bob Porter Co. in Gaithersburg, from which Mr. Porter is preparing to retire.

This week Mr. Porter is preparing to hold a horse show on his property, the Foxfield Farm off Jennings Chapel Road, to benefit the center.

But Mr. Porter said he is slowing down because of colon cancer that required surgery last year and for which he is receiving chemotherapy.

During the awards dinner at Channel 9 last week, guests were informed of Mr. Porter's accomplishments through a two-minute video taped at the Lisbon center.

On the tape, Ms. Tuel does most of the talking, heaping praise on the center's benefactor.

"Generosity comes in many forms," she says. "It comes in support and business expertise, financial endorsements and contacts, working and so on. I don't think you can put a monetary value on all of the things he's done for us."

Mr. Porter was recognized in 1993 by the county and state governments for his contributions. In April, he received a county award, and in May, he was named Volunteer of the Year by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

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