KINGSPORT, Tenn. - A program dedicated to helping those in need is looking for help of their own.
Small Miracles Therapeutic Equestrian Center relies on volunteers and they are in short supply.
Big smiles are what the Small Miracles Therapeutic Equestrian Center is all about. Laurie Ponder has ridden a horse since she was 3 years old, and next month she will be a sophomore at Science Hill High School. "It's a lot like my second home. When I'm not riding in the summer I come here to volunteer when I can," she told us.
For a year now, Laurie and horse Dunny have been fast friends. He's helped her learn how to be patient, strong, and in control. "It has helped me improve my core and my balance, and it's been helping me in a lot of ways," says Laurie.
Laurie's mom, Carolyn Kornegay, says the reason her daughter started riding horses at a young age is because she was born with physical delays and disabilities. "A year later due to the movement of the horse and the stretching hip she obverted surgery, had no surgery and her hip joints are in place," she said.
Kornegay says the people and volunteers at Small Miracles have made a big difference in their lives. "Not only were they working with Laurie, but they were working with the parent of a child with special needs. That kind of shepherd you have in those kind of moments, they mean the world to us," she said.
The program runs on horsepower and the dedication of its volunteers. It's easy to do during the summer months when college and high school students are on break and have the time, but they will be going back to school. "We need three volunteers for each student. So that could be up to 12 volunteers per lesson and we have anywhere from three to four lessons each afternoon," says Sherri Russell, the program director at Small Miracles.
Those are lessons that Laurie relies upon every time she visits.
To be a volunteer you have to be at least 14 years old. Training with a horse is not required. If you are interested in being a volunteer you can call Small Miracles Therapeutic Equestrian Center at (423) 349-1111.