Story by Sarah Sabatke

Molly Myers smiles as her son Will ties a rope around a post
Molly Myers takes her son Will to the Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center on Thursday, June 27, 2019. Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

Molly Myers has been bringing her son, Will, to Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center in Columbia for six years.

Will was two years old and unable to walk or talk when he first visited. He is missing a part of his brain that made reaching across the midpoint of his body difficult. Tasks like eating, speaking and walking were delayed.

young boy sits on a horse facing away from the camera, holding the hand of a volunteer walking beside them
Will Myers enjoys his time at the Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center on Thursday, June 27, 2019. Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

At Cedar Creek, he would ride horses with the assistance of staff and volunteers from Mizzou’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Riding helped to develop his core muscles and gave him a feeling for the hip movement needed for a proper walking gait.

Myers, BS HES ’03, hoped the therapy would be beneficial but never expected just how much Will would grow with the program – until, one day, he spoke.

“Go, Babe, go!” Will said, sat atop his favorite horse, Babe. That sentence was Will’s first.

Though just three words, Myers said she started crying immediately. “I was so happy he strung words together … and was commanding [the horse] at the same time,” she says. “I thought my heart might explode, it was so good.”

Myers was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma herself. When she was a Mizzou student, she was active in her chapter and took full part in its service mission, volunteering with what is now MizzouThon and visiting with children staying at MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Will is now eight years old and still rides regularly at Cedar Creek with the help of Kappa Kappa Gamma volunteers. The meaning of that isn’t lost on Myers.

“You just never know when you might need something that you have once donated to,” she says. “Be present where you are and in what you are doing; it just might come full-circle years later.”

MU’s Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter will hold its annual Kappa Klassic Golf Tournament at Mizzou’s Gustin Golf Course in September to raise money for the organization’s philanthropies, including Cedar Creek, the local beneficiary. The tournament is split into two weekends: the Dad’s Weekend Klassic is scheduled for Sept. 22 and the Fraternity Klassic will take place Sept. 28-29. The 2018 tournament raised $45,000, according to Kappa Kappa Gamma Philanthropy Chair Mary Kate Ingram.

“I think its great when Kappas get to interact with [Molly] and her son,” said Ingram, “especially because it shows that what you’re doing these four years with volunteering and giving back can possibly matter to someone like you in the future. “

Ingram said the chapter sends 15 volunteers a week to Cedar Creek, spread out over three shifts. In total, the women volunteer approximately 270 hours at Cedar Creek each semester.

Grace McKevitt, left, and Grace Schollmeyer, right, pose with a rider while volunteering at Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center as members of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Photo courtesy of Mary Kate Ingram.

Meghan Kane, a sophomore from St. Louis, fell in love with Cedar Creek while going through recruitment for Kappa Kappa Gamma. She volunteered with the center for the first time as a freshman.

“…It is honestly one of the best feelings in the world to see the riders smile and hear them laugh,” said Kane, “because not only are you making them feel special and important, but they are making us feel even more special and important.”

Brianna Evans, also a sophomore, started out volunteering at Cedar Creek with her Kappa sisters in fall 2018. She started out once a week and fell in love with it, sometimes volunteering twice a week. She said she’s experienced personal growth beyond what she could have imagined from her time volunteering with the center and working with people of different abilities.

“Being a part of someone’s journey and watching them grow, and knowing I was a part of it, is such a rewarding feeling,” said Evans. “I really believe that one of the best ways to grow as a person is to give back.”

 

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