Waxhaw man finalist for CNN Hero of the Year for therapeutic riding program

WAXHAW, NC (WBTV) - Harry Swimmer met a young woman named Stacey while out on a walk 23 years ago.

"She has cerebral palsy and is very seriously affected," Swimmer said.

Stacey is also deaf, so Swimmer took the initiative to learn some basic sign language so he could communicate with his new friend. It wasn't long before Swimmer decided to bring her to his horse farm to try riding.

"I brought her out here on a Sunday and put her on a horse. And I knew right then what I wanted to do," Swimmer said.

That was the humble beginnings of Mitey Riders, a non-profit, therapeutic riding program for children with disabilities.

Now, Mitey Riders has a five-member staff that are all trained in therapeutic riding instruction. Swimmer is usually involved in each and every class. He knows each child's name, their schedule, their dispositions, and he knows for sure how to make every one of them smile.

"These are the loves of my life," Swimmer said about the 70 kids who take classes at his farm every week. "Besides my family, these are the loves of my life."

Swimmer, who just turned 87 years old, was recently named a top ten finalist for CNN's Hero of the Year Award. If he wins, Mitey Riders will be presented with a $100,000 check to help fund the organization.

Swimmer said he delights in the idea that no child ever pays to take classes with Mitey Riders.

Voting for the CNN Hero of the Year ends on December 6. The contest winner will be based on the amount of online votes they receive.

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