Looking for a way to help her community and promote a lifelong love of horses, Chino Valley's Cathy Kirk decided her windfall as Foothills Bank Employee of the Month could find a home at Horses with H.E.A.R.T.
Part of the bank's recognition program is to provide $250 for the honored employee to donate to the organization of their choice.
"I wanted to donate to a local group, and after reading an article on Horses With H.E.A.R.T. I knew the money would be put to good use," said Kirk. "I know when I go out riding, you forget everything, all of life's problems, and just ride. Some of the people the organization works with can really benefit from that."
In its twentieth year of operation, Horses With H.E.A.R.T. uses Hands-On Equine Assisted Riding Therapy to help people with various physical, emotional, and mental challenges to develop riding and social skills.
"We provide therapy for people of all ages and all disabilities," said organization Executive Director and Special Olympics Coach Pam Berry. "We have a new program for people 55 and older who are experiencing age related disabilities, and we're expanding our veterans' program that allows us to reach out to vets that aren't currently in therapy programs."
Berry said that equine therapy allows people to develop independence that they might not be able to find in other forms of therapy.
"We had one young man who started with us when he was about 11 years old," said Berry. "His disability is autism and he has worked his way through our therapeutic program, into Special Olympics, and now he has graduated high school and is taking farrier courses at Yavapai College. He was a shy little boy that hid behind whoever brought him and now he goes out into the community to tell others about his experiences here."
Berry said one of the benefits of equine therapy is the bond developed between horse and rider.
"Horses can really help people feel needed, part of something, without any judgment," she said.
The Foothills Bank employee recognition donation is just one of the many community programs the bank is involved with, and according to Kirk, just one of the qualities she enjoys about her job.
"Foothills Bank is a good company, and this is a great thing to give back to the community," said Kirk.
"We are very happy to support the Chino Valley community. We congratulate our team member on her award and commend the Horses with H.E.A.R.T for their invaluable service to the community.," said bank president Wayne Gale.
The local Foothills branch, located at 1932 N. Highway 89, is one of seven branches throughout Arizona. For more information visit www.thefoothillsbank.com or call Northern Arizona Region President Tom Dolan at 928-778-6648.
For more information on Horses with H.E.A.R.T. call 928-533-9178 or visit www.horseswithheart.org.