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Parkwood Farms resumes classes with questions still looming

Staff Photo: John Bohn Classes resume Tuesday, at Parkwood Farms, a therapeutic farm where autistic students get therapy by working with horses, in Snellville. Rider Greg Hodges, begins a therapeutic ride on a horse named Avatar, with assistance from Dr. Marilyn Peterson, right, and volunteer Maria Fogarty, left.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Classes resume Tuesday, at Parkwood Farms, a therapeutic farm where autistic students get therapy by working with horses, in Snellville. Rider Greg Hodges, begins a therapeutic ride on a horse named Avatar, with assistance from Dr. Marilyn Peterson, right, and volunteer Maria Fogarty, left.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Student rider Matt Clark, 18, a Brookwood High School student, rides a horse named Molly with assistance from volunteers Blake Shay, left, Grace Lineberg, at front right, and Kristen Collins, right rear, as classes resume at Parkwood Farms on Tuesday. Parkwood Farms is a therapeutic farm where autistic students get therapy by working with horses.

SNELLVILLE -- Matt met Molly again Tuesday and all was well, if only for a half hour.

After a hiatus of more than two weeks, Snellville's Parkwood Farms resumed classes Tuesday. The therapeutic horse farm for disabled kids is still fighting its eviction and has no guarantee for the future -- but it couldn't keep the kids away any longer.

Thus Matt, an 18-year-old Brookwood High School student with Down syndrome, was back on Molly, his favorite horse, for his weekly 30-minute ride through the soothing trails around the Parkwood property.

Tuesday, once again, was "Molly Day."

"It means everything to him," Mary Clark, Matt's mother, said. "On Molly he's in control."

Parkwood Farms, founded by Dr. Marilyn Peterson 2002, has been battling foreclosure and eviction for nearly two years now. Peterson has said the foreclosure was a "wrongful" one, and she continues to fight HSBC Bank and Everhome Mortgage over eviction.

She revealed this week that the bank has offered to sell her back the property -- where she, her sons and a grandchild also live -- at a fair market value to be determined. A hearing regarding a temporary protective order to stop her eviction has been scheduled for Dec. 6 in Gwinnett County Superior Court.

That said, everything remains up in the air.

Even so, Peterson decided to resume classes Tuesday, nearly three weeks after they were suspended when Gwinnett sheriff's deputies served an original eviction notice.

"We're not going to be held hostage anymore by these proceedings," said Peterson, whose 16-year-old son Julian was among those back in the saddle.

On Monday, Peterson, Occupy Atlanta's Tim Franzen and four parents from the Snellville farm tried to make a statement to that effect by visiting attorneys at the Atlanta office of Shapiro & Swertfeger -- which is helping HSBC and Everhome with the foreclosure and eviction -- to "put a face on the paperwork."

Staff at Shapiro & Swertferger, which is helping HSBC Bank and Everhome Mortgage with the foreclosure and eviction process at Parkwood Farms, denied the group a meeting with a local attorney but a representative from another office of the national firm spoke with them via telephone.

That attorney said the firm was not allowed to speak with Peterson because she had legal counsel.

The group left photos -- printouts of Special Olympics teams and other students -- on a table in a conference room after the telephone call, which included Peterson's attorney Kurt Raulin.

"We know that the law firm will be contacting HSBC and Everhome and letting them know that they got a visit paid to them," Franzen said at the time. "And that's what we wanted to accomplish today.

Peterson said she does not trust the bank's offer to sell her the property at market value, nor its reported claim that it will forego any eviction activities until after the Christmas holidays.

For now she'll have to take their word.

"Everyone's just happy to get back," she said.

The least of which was not Matt, who clapped with glee as he rode around the therapy center's "arena" on Tuesday.

His mother, watching with a smile, said that Matt is no longer terrified of "anything that's not stable" since starting at Parkwood -- he's since learned to swim, ride a swing and has even bungee jumped. His therapy has, "believe or not," Clark said, even helped his cognitive skills and concentration.

Thanks to Parkwood, she said, "there's no limit now."