Local church event to help therapeutic horse centers

Wil Petty Staff Writer

September 12, 2013

A Grassy Creek United Methodist Church fundraiser, which raises money for therapeutic horse riding, is entering its 19th year.

“(The church) originally did it as an outreach mission and to bring more people into the church at the time,” said Cheryl Little, a church member and event organizer. “A lot of us were really into horseback riding, so that’s what got us into having the horse theme.”

Originally starting as a one-day event on the third Sunday in September, the event has expanded across a whole weekend, from Friday Sept. 13 to Sunday, Sept. 15.

The church gave the money to A Leg Up, a nonprofit therapeutic riding center out of Abington, Va., when the event first started. After the center closed, they started helping several other centers in the area.

All money raised in the event goes towards nonprofit organizations which offer horse facilitated therapy. This year, the church will raise the money for The Appalachian Therapeutic Riding Center, located in Burnsville.

Little said the church, after expenses, will raise between $15,000 and $18,000 for the organization.

“There are disabled children that have different problems that ride the trained horses,” she said. “When a child has never walked before, riding horses gives the body the same sensation as though the child was walking.”

Little said therapeutic horse riding has also allowed some children to make their first sounds.

“All of the centers we have helped are part of nonprofit organizations,” Little said. “With the economy the way it is, they have a hard time making it, so what little we do, it does benefit (the centers.)”

Numerous activities occur throughout the three day event. Several meals, trail rides, a bonfire, a church service and a silent auction are all part of the action.

Items that have been sold at the auctions include paintings, furniture and tickets to Dollywood and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

“When we first started ‘A Leg Up,’ it was a one day event,” Little said. “It has now got to a point where people started camping out on Fridays.”

Little said there is no charge for attending the event and everything is by donation.

In order to go horseback riding throughout the weekend at the fundraiser, people must bring their own horses.

“We do not provide any horses,” Little said. “We usually have between 80 and 100 horseback riders come every year. It’s a pretty large event.”

While the event has continued a long time and has become a tradition for many riders in the area, Grassy Creek UMC is a small church.

Little said the church’s congregation is close to 50 members.

“It’s a lot of hard work for a very few of us, but we manage because we know it is a tradition and people look forward to it,” she said.

Primitive camping is provided and stud horses are not allowed.