NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Kim Niggel is our Extraordinary Person of the Week, because of her efforts to help all walks of life enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life. She does so with the help of horses and a few other animals.
Caution. Smiles are ahead. Life changing smiles, Niggel says.
"When we've got kids on her, she is just the sweetest," Niggel says on one of the horses in the program.
Niggel started the non-profit Coastal Therapeutic Riding Program, or CTRP, in 1999 with just one horse and a mission.
"We serve all ages from small children to the elderly," Niggel said. "All types of disabilities; from folks with emotional trauma or something going on in their life that's very difficult and needs an outlet and recreation that's supportive and positive, to the child that's in the wheelchair, that needs physical activity recreation to stimulate things for them."
Seven horses in all now help Kim's mission, which evens the odds and makes a little magic.
"A lot of these folks haven't been able to do a lot of what we take for granted: bowling, baseball, horseback riding," Niggel said. "And when we give them that opportunity, we empower them, and it's a beautiful, amazing thing to see."
There are no handicaps on this farm.
"We bring our riders up the ramp. If it's a wheelchair or a walker, or even somebody who just needs assistance walking, this is an easy grade," Niggel said. "If we have a smaller horse or pony, we have a lower setting, or come up to the higher level for the taller horses."
Over the years, folks here have seen people progress from wheelchair to literally moving on their own.
"The walking of the horses is very similar to the walking gate of a human," Niggel said. "It teaches the body that muscle memory as you're riding the horses. It teaches you that movement that you can simulate on your own two feet."
And expect some horse play on this ranch.
"We have all these activities for kids to do while on horseback. You have the cones, the rings. They can throw rings on trees, because it's fun," Niggel said. "The bean bag toss, chalkboard to draw on while on the horse, basketball on horse, they can go through the noodles. They call it the noodle car wash."
A noodle car wash? Well it just doesn't get any cooler than that!
Eeyore the donkey and Sidney the pig are pretty cool, too.
The ability to bring joy and laughter and empowerment within anyone's reach at Russell's Reach? It makes Kim and all her volunteers extraordinary.
The group is hosting a regional horse show to raise money May 3. Here are the details:
Cape Fear Dressage and Combined Training Association (CFDCTA) will hold the Cape Fear Classic Dressage and Combined Training Benefit Horse Show on May 3, at 8120 Sidbury Road (CTRP), Wilmington. Held on the grounds of the program it benefits, the event will begin at 9 a.m. with local equestrians competing all day. CFDCTA hopes to top the Fall show donation of $3,000, thanks to show participants, community donations, and the silent auction held the day of the show.