Here in the Northwest, you don't need to look very hard to find people we like to call Smile Makers. They are those unsung heroes who go out of their way to brighten the lives of others. And it's the reason Seattle Refined is teaming up with Delta Dental of Washington to celebrate Smile Power.
Smile Power is a statewide community engagement campaign, celebrating the power of a healthy smile. Beginning next month, the Tooth Fairy and the Smile Power team will roll into your town. Delta Dental of Washington will celebrate members of your community who give back through acts of kindness and good deeds by surprising them with gifts and charitable donations.
In 2016, Delta Dental of Washington recognized Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center as a Smile Maker, donating helmets for their riders and sponsoring a horse for a month.
"We have a unique program in Whatcom County because we're the only program that serves people of all ages with all different types of disabilities" said Hilary Groh, Program Director at Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center. "So, anything from physical to cognitive to emotional. Our youngest start at age four, up into their 70s."
"It's a long-term program," explained Julia Bozzo, Founder. "When people get here, there's a benefit. There's a lot of learning going on. It carries into their everyday lives and the lives of their families. And that's what you can't see. It's pretty amazing."
The program includes six horses that are specially trained to be versatile, athletic and adaptable.
"They have to be kind; they have to be gentle," said Bozzo. "But, it goes well beyond that. People think, with therapeutic riding especially, that they're pony rides, you might lead the person around, but all of our horses walk, trot, canter and do some jumping. And, they have to be able to immediately adapt themselves to the rider."
"Without the horses, we couldn't do this program," continued Groh. "They are the literal backbone of this program. And, our overall goal is that people enjoy themselves and have a good time. I know I've done my job when people leave with a smile on their face."
That mission is what inspired Delta Dental of Washington to recognize the center during the Smile Power campaign.
"It means a lot to us, especially because they supported Kleng. Kleng has been in our program for over 20 years," explained Groh. "He won National Horse of the Year in 2009 and in 2013, he was inducted into the Horse Star Hall of Fame as a humanitarian equine. And he's served hundreds of riders here."
The center doesn't receive any funding or insurance payments, so it relies greatly on the support of others.
"A lot of people who may not have known about us outside of Whatcom County have now heard about our program, saw pictures in the newspaper or stuff on social media," said Groh. "It's brought more exposure to us which we really appreciate."
Do you know someone who goes above and beyond his/her daily duties? Nominate them as a Smile Maker!
Delta Dental of Washington plans to hit the road April 25-27, May 23-26, July 11-14 and August 1-4 and 29-31.