Margaret Meade said it best when she wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” In June of 2008, a group of riders from North Carolina came together on a mission to improve the quality of lives of breast cancer patients. This group loaded their horses, joined by friends and family, and made the drive to Prince George Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD to participate in the PVDA Ride for Life. They brought with them $7800 in donations and determination to make a big difference in many lives.
The first NC Caravan for the Cure consisted of event riders, a Pan-Am Gold medalist, a USDF Gold Medalist, adult amateurs with varying levels of riding experience, and several non-riders who were there to support and volunteer their time. Four members also happened to be cancer survivors. At the end of that year, they felt significant loss after losing one of their founding members to the disease. Inspired by her courageous battle, the group was determined to participate in the Ride for Life again in 2009 stronger than the year before, hoping to raise twice as much money for the cause. Fundraisers were organized, wristbands and t-shirts designed to sell, emails sent, letters mailed; all in hopes people would be inspired to donate as much as they could, even in the challenging economic climate. The group was elated when they found out they had raised $20,000!
Other than the capability to raise funds, what makes this group special is the camaraderie among them, even though several come from different barns and compete against each other on a regular basis when at home in North Carolina. One member, Susanna Stevens, summed it up wonderfully when she said “We often get so wrapped up in the competition that we fail to be supportive of others. The NC Caravan for the Cure has provided me with the support of fellow equestrians all competing with a common goal, to raise money for a cause greater than what we could do alone. I feel there is no greater gift than giving back and that is what the NC Caravan for the Cure has allowed me to do.”
Several members of the NC Caravan for the Cure are also members of their local GMO, North Carolina Dressage and Combined Training Association (NCDCTA). The fact that the NCDCTA board and membership have been so supportive of their members participating in a PVDA run event, further demonstrates how the Ride for Life transcends your typical dressage show. NCDCTA president Jennifer Mitchell shared these thoughts “Breast cancer has hit so many of us either personally or someone we care about. It’s kind of shocking. It is a great thing when our love for horses and passion for dressage leads us into a common effort to do something that benefits something bigger than ourselves. I am REALLY proud of the large number of our members who went to the PVDA Ride for Life and was glad that NCDCTA could help by having our members promote it on our website and in our newsletter.”
In addition to those who travel to Maryland to participate, there are many other NC Caravan for the Cure members who provide invaluable support by volunteering their time with fundraising, editing articles and providing services to the group that would otherwise cost money to obtain. The group continues to grow as more North Carolina dressage riders learn of the effort. One recent addition to the group planning to participate in 2010 is Angelea Kelly-Walkup of HorsegirlTV. In addition to seeing their own participation grow, the NC Caravan for the Cure hopes that other GMO’s and dressage groups across the country will be inspired to come together and participate in this very special show.