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"CNN Heroes" to Showcase Harry Swimmer and Mitey Riders



LOCAL BUSINESSMAN, HARRY SWIMMER, HONORED WITH CNN HERO AWARD

WEDDINGTON, NC (April 25, 2016) -- Mitey Riders, a Charlotte area non-profit which offers free therapeutic horseback riding and equine-assisted activities to special needs children, is honored to announce that President and Founder Harry Swimmer, has just been named a CNN Hero for 2016. CNN selects 25 heroes from thousands of nominations, honoring individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities.

Swimmer, a retired Charlotte area businessman, founded the Mitey Riders program 22 years ago on his farm, Misty Meadows, located in Union County, NC. He and his wife Marilyn had previously bred and trained champion American Saddlebred show horses on this property. Then one day, when Swimmer offered a pony ride to a friend’s daughter with cerebral palsy, he recognized the value, the hope and the opportunity horses could bring to kids with special needs – and he was immediately inspired. “I wondered what might happen if I put her on a horse," said Swimmer. "She just lit up…and that's when I knew what I wanted to do and how I could help.”

Since then, more than 700 children with disabilities have been helped by Swimmer’s unique and creative therapeutic riding program. Seventy riders each week attend Mitey Riders for free, performing activities on horseback which challenge them cognitively, physically and socially. Program participants range in age from 5- 18, with special needs such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and muscular dystrophy. Physical mobility benefits of riding can include improved balance, increased strength and greater flexibility. In addition, according to Swimmer, the horse’s natural gait provides rhythmic and repetitive movements similar to human patterns. “Most of these kids experience for the first time the chance to feel like they are walking, and to see the world from above, rather than looking up from a wheelchair.”

Swimmer has also seen confidence and self-esteem grow among his Mitey Riders. “I have had children take their first steps from our program when they weren't able to stand or walk before. I've had children riding with me who became verbal when they were previously nonverbal. I am always humbled by these special moments.” He continues, “Their physical abilities improve, but also they gain a newfound sense of independence on horseback.” To view the segment on Swimmer, visit www.cnn.com/specials/cnn-heroes. CNN will continue to showcase all 2016 CNN Heroes at the CNN Heroes website, culminating in a viewer poll of the designated top ten. Additional information will be available later this fall.

About Mitey Riders

Mitey Riders is a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) Intl. Premier Accredited Therapeutic Riding Center. Its mission is to provide therapeutic horseback riding to special needs children to improve their confidence, self-esteem and physical mobility and, in turn, drive improvements across other therapies and enhance quality of life. Support for the Mitey Riders program comes primarily from sponsors, individual donors, volunteers, and Mitey Rider families. For more information or to donate, visit www.miteyriders.org or find us on Facebook at Misty Meadows Mitey Riders.

About CNN Heroes

CNN Heroes is a year-long initiative that honors everyday people for their selfless, creative efforts to help others. This year marks the tenth anniversary for CNN’s Heroes program; to date, CNN has received more than 50,000 nominations from more than 100 countries, and has profiled more than 200 heroes who work in 80 countries, and help hundreds of thousands of people. Twenty-five CNN heroes will be named for 2016. For more information, visit www.CNNHeroes.com or find CNN Heroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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