Pony Rides at Waller Park raises funds for hospitalized employee | News

The following article was posted on January 12th, 2023, in the Santa Maria Sun – Volume 23, Issue 46 [ Submit a Story ]

The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] – Volume 23, Issue 46

Pony Rides at Waller Park raises funds for hospitalized employee

By Caleb Wiseblood

A local horseback riding operator is asking community members to pony up some funds to help a longtime employee in need. 

Michael Rudometkin Jr. has worked for the Pony Rides at Waller Park in various roles over the past eight years. The Santa Maria local was recently hospitalized for heart and kidney failure, and his employer is raising funds to support his recovery process.

Santa Maria resident Michael Rudometkin Jr., 67, was put on life support due to sudden kidney and heart failure shortly before Christmas, said his employer, Lisa Leonard, owner of the Pony Rides at Waller Park.

“We’re just trying to help him out so he can get back on his feet,” said Leonard, who started a GoFundMe page to help offset Rudometkin’s unexpected medical expenses and support his recovery process. “I’m just trying to do what I can to help him keep afloat, so when he does come out of this, he’ll not have to come out of it with stress about paying his bills.”

Just before New Year’s Eve, Rudometkin’s condition stabilized, and he was taken off life support but remains in the hospital, Leonard said.

“He’s still not out of the water; he’s still in ICU,” said Leonard, who hopes that donations made to the GoFundMe page will help cover some of Rudometkin’s upcoming house payments and other monthly expenses while he recovers.

“Even after he gets home, he’s going to need some home care,” Leonard added.

As of Jan. 10, the GoFundMe page has raised a total of $415, from a pool of eight donors. Leonard’s goal is to raise $4,000, which she estimates could cover most of his expenses for up to two months.

Leonard said that the individuals who have left donations so far are longtime regulars at the Pony Rides at Waller Park. She’s been using Facebook and other social media outlets to spread the word about the fundraiser, but hasn’t received much response from anyone outside the Pony Rides “circle.”

“A lot of the people that know him know him from here. He’s been out here with us for over eight years. He’s part of the family out here,” Leonard said. “Everybody that’s donated on the page so far has been our customers.”

Ever since he started working for the Pony Rides at Waller Park almost a decade ago, Rudometkin has worn many hats, his employer said.

“He does everything,” Leonard said. “He did all the maintenance stuff. He would load and unload kids. He’d walk with the ones that were crying.” 

Leonard added that it’s been a struggle to maintain the riding facility in Rudometkin’s absence, combined with the recent weather conditions, and called him invaluable to her staff.

“He’d jump for anybody,” Leonard said. “Even anytime somebody touched a rake, he was like, ‘Put that down, I’ll do it.’”

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