What I do is a labor of love. I have a strong calling to live simply and give back to the community.
Carolyn grew up and has lived in the Pittsburgh area all her life. While she worked for 20 years in the business world, she now dedicates all her time to helping children with disabilities. Her husband Neil is often by her side, and he will join Carolyn on the cruise.
Carolyn has been volunteering with RHWPA, Riding for the Handicapped of Western Pennsylvania, for almost 20 years. The program helps 70 disabled children up to the age of 18 each year. The program is run on the strength of volunteers, their fundraising efforts, and donations from the community. The volunteers teach the children about horses and how to ride. The results are stunning. Carolyn is constantly rewarded with big smiles as the kids gain more and more confidence.
For children in wheelchairs, riding helps exercise core muscles they could not otherwise work. It gives them a sense of empowerment and the confidence to take on other challenges they once shunned. It also takes a lot of volunteers because much of the time, the riders need somebody to lead the horse and a person on each side for safety. Children love the program and keep coming back year after year until they finally age out and a slot opens for a new child. Says Carolyn: "I love to watch the kids gain confidence and develop a love for the horses. They may be a little fearful at first, but they get over it quickly. Their accomplishment gives them the courage to take on other challenges. It's very uplifting."
Carolyn also works with special needs children on school buses. This is much more than getting the children on and off the bus safely. It involves working individually with the children, helping with motor skills like buckling up a seat belt, showing them ways to interact with one another, and helping autistic children learn to make eye contact. Says Carolyn: "My mother gave me a wonderful perspective on life. She often said to live simply and serve others. I find that philosophy brings me great happiness and helps others at the same time."