Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) awarded its first quarterly Medicare Agent Community Impact Grant to Rolling Ridge Riding, in Reidsville, North Carolina. Directed by Mark Davis of NC State Grange and his wife, Kathryn, a pediatric physical therapist, Rolling Ridge Riding is a free, therapy-based horseback riding program serving children with disabilities. It’s a place where parents find a support system, and children who are differently-abled develop friendships, self-esteem, and skills to help them accomplish new things.

Fran Gary, Blue Cross NC Senior Vice President for Government Markets, recently met Mark and Kathryn and was immediately moved by the mission of the couple’s Rockingham County non-profit.

Rolling Ridge Riding
In 2000, Kathryn was working with a patient who was struggling to walk and knew the girl needed something more. Having read about equine-assisted therapy, Kathryn invited the family out to the farm to see if this form of therapy could make a difference. After three successive Saturday rides on Honey, the farm’s boarded horse, the girl began taking some steps in her walker.

Other parents of children receiving therapy at the clinic saw the girl walking and wanted to know how this breakthrough had happened. The girl’s family told the other parents about Kathryn and Mark’s farm and the “magical horse.” That’s when the phone started ringing off the hook.

Kathryn told Mark, “What parent wouldn’t go to the moon and back to help their child accomplish these types of achievements? We have to continue offering this service to these parents and their children.”

And Rolling Ridge Riding was established. The non-profit now serves up to 60 special needs children and their families during a typical riding year.

“Seeing a need, making a difference, focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion…it’s what Rolling Ridge does. And it’s what we’re doing every day at Blue Cross NC as we work to make health care more accessible for all North Carolinians,” said Fran Gary, Senior Vice President of Government Markets for Blue Cross NC. “As a company, and as individuals, this Medicare Agent Community Impact Grant allows us to listen to what inspires our agents and helps us better understand local needs. We’re striving to be better, do better, and honor the service leadership of our agents and how local organizations serve and impact their communities.”

Since Rolling Ridge Riding was established, it’s estimated that volunteer licensed physical, occupational, and speech therapists have provided more than $3 million in free therapy to children throughout North Central North Carolina and South Central Virginia. Rolling Ridge Riding offers two programs:

Therapy Rides
Held each week, from spring through the fall, participants receive therapy, as well as a basic education component, on horseback from licensed therapists, educators, and a host of volunteers, often from Rockingham County Schools, who volunteer their time. Children with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, developmental delays, autism, genetic/congenital birth defects, and neurological disorders have learned to sit up, walk, and even talk. Some autistic children who don’t talk at school begin talking while on horseback.

Equestrian Team
The equestrian team is made up of special needs individuals, ages 7 and up. On Saturdays, the team learns to ride and competes in adapted classes in horse shows, like 4H and other open shows in Rockingham County.

Rolling Ridge Riding is accomplishing what it was built to do – become a gathering place where everyone comes together to form a positive community. The non-profit depends solely on donations, fundraisers, and grants, and has no administrative costs or staff salaries. Blue Cross NC is thrilled to support agent Mark Davis and his wife, Kathryn, who are extremely dedicated to the important work being accomplished at Rolling Ridge Riding.

“We are thrilled, honored, and humbled to receive the initial awarding of the Medicare Agent Community Impact Grant for Rolling Ridge Riding,” said Mark Davis, who has worked with Blue Cross NC products for the past 23 years. “To have this kind of support for our small non-profit is huge. Kathryn and I were shocked when the award was announced and having Fran and her team come to our annual fundraiser a few weeks later to present the check was just over the top. With Fran and her team at the helm, Blue Cross NC agents have a very bright future, and I am truly excited to see what the future holds for us!”

To learn more or to support Rolling Ridge Riding, please click here. Look for more information on our Medicare Agent Community Impact Grant, including how to apply, early in 2023.