09/10/10 — Seven Springs show to benefit handicapped

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Seven Springs show to benefit handicapped

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on September 10, 2010 1:46 PM

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Annie Snodgrass

SEVEN SPRINGS -- Miss Seven Springs Annie Snodgrass doesn't wear her crown when she's volunteering at the Rocking Horse Ranch in Greenville, but the East Carolina University student still feels like a winner every time one of her therapeutic riding program participants has a breakthrough.

And this weekend, Miss Snodgrass and local volunteers will combine forces and use their pageant talents to raise money for the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association with a dance-and-song variety show at Seven Springs Town Hall.

Miss Snodgrass became involved with therapeutic horseback riding when she first started competing more seriously in pageants. Most larger pageants require participants to donate their time and effort to raising money and supporting good causes, and the riding program quickly became her platform.

"I fell in love with it, and the instructors and the students that I worked with," she said. "I've seen everything that this program can do for people, I thought, what better cause to support?"

The therapeutic riding works with people with physical or mental handicaps to help improve their coordination. It not only provides physical therapy -- the rocking motion of the horse helps improve posture and balance -- the volunteers also use riding as a way to help improve students math, verbal and non-verbal skills, Miss Snodgrass said.

She has seen firsthand the benefits of the program, watching as a woman who experienced a stroke regained her strength, and helping a child with autism become more verbally fluent.

"I had one student who started out, he would just kind of repeat what you said," she said.

The volunteers started playing a word game with him, working on speaking aloud. Over time, they gradually started seeing improvement in his ability to communicate. One day, the volunteers decided to use the name of his horse, Cisco, as an example while the child was riding.

"He had the 'c' and the 'i' and without any prompting he said, 's.' It just blew us all away, we were so excited. It was a visible sign of his communicating with us," Miss Snodgrass said.

The pageant winner decided to put together a fundraiser and will split the money raised between the national chapter of the therapeutic riding association, and the Rocking Horse Ranch where she volunteers.

"I wanted to do something that I could put together. A bake sale's kind of hard to do, and selling things, I didn't know how to go about that. So I thought, a variety show," she said.

This Saturday, 20 dancers from Dancin' Daze, Desiree Autrey's Academy for Performing Arts and Dance Etc. in Kinston will join four singers and Miss Snodgrass herself for an evening of dance and music designed to appeal to people of all ages.

The variety show will begin at 7 p.m. at Seven Springs Town Hall. Tickets are $5 at the door and donations are gratefully accepted.

Former Pickle Princess Blair Mozingo will also perform as part of the evening, along with vocalists Amanda Holland and Brinkley McNeill.

"It's such a great cause that not many people know about, and it's a way to watch young performers sing and dance," Miss Snodgrass said.