Hartford’s Patricia Kelly: Ebony Horsewomen CNN Hero of the Year Nominee
SPOTLIGHT on EXCELLENCE October 2014
Hartford's Patricia Kelly: Ebony Horsewomen CNN Hero of the Year Nominee
Every year, CNN recognizes ten everyday people doing extraordinary things, giving one of them the opportunity to receive $100,000 and be named the CNN Hero of the Year. And this time around, a Hartford woman is in the running.
Patricia Kelly, an equestrian and a Capital City native, helps to empower youth nationwide through her nonprofit Ebony Horsewomen, which provides lessons in horseback riding and animal science to more than 300 young people a year. “Urban children are denied so much,” Kelly said in a phone interview. “What we are trying to do is unlock the genius, the brilliance in children to live their best life,” she said.
Kelly founded Ebony Horsewomen in 1984 with the intention of creating an organization for the cultural and social enrichment of black women. But Kelly said it wasn’t long before the group realized that, in an urban environment, children were worse off than they were.
So in 1987, Ebony Horsewomen shifted its focus from women to children, and began providing the city’s youth with a positive outlet, and a break from “worrying about the going ons you often find in an urban setting,” Kelly said. The organization now offers riding lessons, a day program, a summer camp, and various other equine-focused learning and growing opportunities for young people in the greater Hartford area and beyond.
“These programs are very therapeutic for any child…particularly children who have some special needs,” Kelly said, noting that many of the program’s participants find their way to Ebony Horsewomen by way of referrals for this type of specialized therapy. While helping young people is the program’s ultimate goal, Kelly explained that the benefits Ebony Horsewomen contributes to the community are “layered.”
The organization is based in Hartford’s Keney Park, an ecologically rich area with “every kind of species you want,” according to Kelly.
“This is a working farm, a natural setting, a very calming setting,” Kelly said. “It is a real benefit to have a place in the community that is a farm."
And Kelly's work has not gone unnoticed. Kelly was chosen as one of the 2014 Top Ten CNN Heroes earlier this month, and is now in the running for the title of CNN Hero of the Year, which comes with a $100,000 grant.
"A lot of people think we teach kids how to ride, and that is true. But it is not really what we are going after," Kelly said. "We want to unlock the caged heart so that they will dream, and dream big."
Voting continues through Nov. 16. To vote for Kelly click here.
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