Challenge Unlimited, Inc. (Andover, MA)


  • Name:Ms. Deedee O'Brien
  • Title:Executive Director

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Challenge Unlimited, Inc.
  • Address:Ironstone Farm
    450 Lowell Street
    Andover, MA 01810
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:978-475-4056

Organization Web

User Email


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  • Mission:
  • Challenge Unlimited's Mission is to provide therapeutic, educational and recreational opportunities using horses, the home, and the working farm environment to help people achieve optimum quality of life.

  • Overview:
  • Challenge Unlimited uses horses and the working farm environment to help people with disabilities, teens at risk, seniors with memory impairment, veterans returning from war and individuals affected by cancer. The horse offers a unique therapeutic intervention for all of these populations. For people with disabilities the movement of the horses simulates the normal walking movement for a person straddling a walking horse. Therapists use this input to help children born with physical disability to gain in strength, coordination, balance and stamina. The horse also mirrors a person's feelings and emotions. Social workers, therapists and instructors use this to help people suffering with mental health issues, memory impairment and low self-confidence and esteem, or, alternatively, people with anger and agression, to self-reflect and learn to communicate positively, to gain self confidence, and to develop relationships with the animal that an transfer to human interactions. Programs are offered in weekly half hour or hour sessions or in full day retreats. Challenge Unlimited also offers a summer camp for children aged 7 to 15, including children from the inner city of Lawrence. And once annually Challenge Unlimited opens its doors for an "Adoption Party" in collaboration with the Massachusetts Adoption resource Exchange - offered as a donated service to bring children and teens with disabilities who are in foster care or abandoned the opportunity to meet with prospective adoption families in a natural environment. Thirty-One children have been adopted out of this event! Regarding the teen Working Student program, the topic of this proposal, Challenge Unlimited serves between twenty and thirty teens annually. Teens work in return for their riding lessons, giving them a first work experience under the barter system. The program is both educational and vocational, bringing teens from many surrounding communities together in an encouraging environment, teaching them through horses values missing in many of their lives today. teens come out of this program with poise, self confidence, compassion, and well prepared for their lives ahead. Challenge Unlimited is goverened by a 14 member Board of Directors and managed daily by an Executive Director and a staff of 17 full time and 22 part time employees for a FTE of about 26. Challenge Unlimited depends on the support of more than 200 volunteers to serve 450-500 individuals each week - more than 1000 annually. Challenge Unlimited owns and operates its programs at Ironstone Farm, a 20 acre facility 20 miles north of Boston, consisting of three houses, two indoor arenas, a barn and a herd of 32 horses. The premise of the program is to encourage all involved to achieve their greatest potential, in a welcoming, wholesome environment.

  • History:
  • Ironstone Farm was founded in 1960 and built by Richard Donovan to raise and train Thoroughbred performance horses. A high school science teacher, Mr. Donovan opened his doors in the mid 1970's for field trips for children with disabilities to enjoy his farm. All facilities and services were donated by Mr. Donovan and a few volunteers until 1989 when Challenge Unlimited had grown to serve more than 100 individuals weekly. A lease arrangement was then established and efforts began to build an organization that would one day be self-sustaining. In 1993 Mr. Donovan built a small indoor arena (now our Therapy Building) to ensure continuity for clients with physical disabilities who could not tolerate the vagaries of our New England climate. Four years later, Ironstone Therapy was incorporated as a non-profit subsidiary of Challenge Unlimited, providing medically-based physical and occupational therapy using the movement of the horse as a dynamic therapeutic tool. The efficacy of Ironstone Therapy earned the attention of medical and educational professionals, bringing Challenge Unlimited to a new level of recognition as a significant provider of services helping people with disabilities. In 1999 it became evident that a long-range plan was needed to ensure the future of the programs and property of Ironstone Farm so that they would continue beyond the lifetimes of the founding individuals. With the support of Richard Donovan, a capital campaign was begun for the purchase of the farm and all of its assets. In December 2001 Challenge Unlimited bought the farm with donated funds, primary mortgage with Enterprise Bank and second mortgage held by Mr. Donovan at low, deferred interest. The fundraising continued and in 2007 the doors opened on a new state-of-the-art 80’ X 200’ indoor arena, bringing consistency to both program delivery and annual revenues. 100% of the funds to build the arena were donated. In 2008 Challenge Unlimited refinanced its mortgage and negotiated a MassDevelopment tax-exempt bond to purchase the abutting home and four acres to build into an Education center "Clubhouse" at Ironstone. Immediately following the purchase the economy forced all fundraising efforts to be targeted to operations until in 2013 Challenge Unlimited engaged in another capital campaign. With funds raised through this campaign, Challenge Unlimited bought its third abutting home and two acres to house facility staff so that the property and animals have 24/7 coverage at all times. It also enabled the renovation of the Clubhouse, the Therapy Building and the original Main Barn. Today Challenge Unlimited serves between 450 and 500 individuals weekly, year-round (about 1000 annually), with a staff of 17 full time and 22 part time therapists, instructors and support employees.

    Challenge Unlimited has received many awards over the years including: Induction into the MA Special Olympics Hall of Fame, Enterprise Bank Non-Profit of the Year for its coveted Celebrate Excellence program highlighting best business practices throughout the Merrimack Valley, Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce Non-Profit Small Business of the Year Award, Community Partner Awards for our staff and organization from CLASS, Inc. of Lawrence, Eastern Middlesex ARC, Boys Scouts Yankee Clipper Council, YWCA of Greater Lawrence, Perkins School for the Blind and the Haverhill School System for the HALT program funded by Moseley Foundation. In addition, staff members have received the following awards for the Challenge Unlimited program contributions to the community: Lowell High School Distinguished Alumni, Woman of the Year from Girls’ Inc. Lowell and Altrusa International Lowell, and Most Influential Women in the Merrimack Valley celebrated by the Lowell SUN newspaper and businesses throughout the Valley.

  • Year established:1983
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:509(a)(2)
  • Tax ID:22-2478997

IRS Business Master File Information

  • EIN:222478997
  • Sort (Secondary) Name:
  • Care Of Name:
  • Organization Address:450 LOWELL ST
  • Organization City:ANDOVER
  • Organization State:MA
  • Organization Zip:01810-5305
  • Group Exemption Number:0000
  • Subsection Code:03
  • Classification Code(s):1
  • Subsection/Classification Desc.:Charitable Organization
  • Affiliation Code:3
  • Ruling Date:April, 1985
  • Deductibility Code:1
  • Foundation Code:16
  • Foundation Code Desc.:Organization that normally receives no more than one third of its support from gross investment income and unrelated business income and at the same time more than one third of its support from contributions, fees, and gross receipts related to exempt purposes. 509(a)(2)
  • Activity Code(s):160, 408
  • Activity Code Desc.(s):Aid to the handicapped (see also 031), Community service organization
  • Organization Code:1 (Corporation)
  • Exempt Org. Status Code:01 (Unconditional Exemption)
  • Tax Period:December, 2016
  • Filing Requirement Category:01 (990 (all other) or 990EZ return)
  • Accounting Period:December
  • NTEE Code:
  • Asset Amount:$5,261,095
  • Asset Code:7 ($5,000,000 - $9,999,999)
  • Income Amount:$1,530,603
  • Income Code:6 ($1,000,000 - $4,999,999)
  • 990 Revenue Amount:$1,406,851
  • Last Updated:2/19/2018 7:43:58 pm

This information is directly from the IRS Exempt Organization Business Master File at Exempt Organizations Business Master File Extract. This information is not under the control of the Common Grant Application and is collected and compiled and can only be changed by the IRS.