Closed therapeutic riding center purchased by anonymous donor

Shining Hope Farms to reopen site in January

by Andrew Batten

LONG CREEK – The shuttered therapeutic riding center on Kidd Lane will once again help those with disabilities thanks to an unknown benefactor.

The donor has purchased the former LifeSpan Therapeutic Riding Center, located off Beatties Ford Road, and has contracted with Mount Holly-based Shining Hope Farms to expand their program to the property.

The center, which provided therapeutic horseback riding to children and adults with various levels of disabilities, had been hit hard by an economic downturn that has devastated nonprofit organizations.

The farm’s revenue wasn’t enough cover its costs and LifeSpan, a Charlotte-based nonprofit, couldn’t underwrite it any longer. Leaders were forced to close in late September after seeing a decrease of more than $7 million in donations over the past two years.

“Out of the blue we were approached by a person who wanted to purchase the property from us,” Steve Byrum, LifeSpan board chairman, said. “They knew that with the current economy we had recently discontinued the equine program. The benefactor is familiar with therapeutic equine programs and wanted to restore this therapy to the people who need it in our area.”

Shining Hope Farms Executive Director Milinda Kirkpatrick hopes to have the center open and serving clients once again in January.

“We are absolutely delighted to have been chosen to serve children and adults with disabilities at this site,” Kirkpatrick said. “To have this ready-to-go site available for our clients to use is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We look forward to meeting all of the children and adults we can now serve.”

The donor bought the 21-acre property from LifeSpan for an undisclosed amount. The property is valued at $156,620, according to Mecklenburg County property records.

“With this generous gift from our anonymous benefactor we will be able to have a site with no mortgage and money for operating expenses,” Kirkpatrick said. “This is absolutely incredible. It means we can concentrate on what we do best – helping children and adults – and we can help more people than ever.”

Kirkpatrick and her husband, Paul, began Shining Hope Farms in 2002 on Whippoorwill Lane in Mount Holly, which has eight horses and 11 staff members. The riding lessons serve as an alternative or in addition to clinic therapy. The riding therapy increases self-awareness, muscle tone, memory skills, and sequencing.

Shining Hope Farms serves  80 to100 children and adults weekly and has a waiting list. The backlog put Kirkpatrick on the hunt for an additional site to expand the program.

“We just were inundated with requests for providing services,” she said. “We get calls on a daily basis for people wanting service. I believe we have enough trained professionals to be able to accommodate an expansion.”

The new center will have four horses and three to four staff members. Kirkpatrick wants to begin by serving the 30 riders LifeSpan served until it closed.

“Initially we are going to try and bring in the kids that were being served by Lifespan,” she said. “We are going to set it up so that Mecklenburg County kids have the Kidd Lane location and the Gaston County kids have our current location in Mount Holly.”

Kirkpatrick plans to add horses and additional staff in the future.

Shining Hope Farms, a 501(c)(3) organization, has certified therapists and is authorized to accept Medicaid, private pay and third party insurance, thus giving people the chance to participate in this program that might not otherwise be able to do so financially, Kirkpatrick said.

Shining Hope Farms plans to hold a celebratory opening event in December and to start serving clients in January. For more information, visit www.shining
hopefarms.org

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