The leaders of Corral Riding Academy gave themselves 10 months to raise $1 million to make sure they wouldn’t lose the farm that’s become a home for struggling teen girls and rescue horses.
They did it in three months.
“We are on cloud nine excited,” Joy Currey, the academy’s founder and president, said Tuesday.
The money will allow Currey to buy the property from her father, Thad Busbice, who owns the 10 acres the academy has occupied since 2008. It also will let her put into motion the dreams she has of expanding the program to reach more young people.
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Perhaps just as important, Currey said, the donations show Corral’s young participants – many who have encountered abuse, trauma and neglect – that they mean something to the 950 people who gave money to the save-the-farm campaign.
“Corral is an extension of these young women, who society has brushed aside or done them a disservice,” she said. “You think they’re forgotten. You watch all these people come around them. ... That’s powerful. These girls have reason to hope.”
Currey and her husband, Robert, started the program on her family’s 50-acre property on Kildaire Farm Road, south of Ten-Ten Road.
Over the years, about 135 girls ages 11 to 18 have gone through the program after being referred by school personnel, mental health providers, the court system and law enforcement.
At Corral, they receive free tutoring, mentoring, vocational training, horseback riding lessons and therapy. All go on to college, which for many, wasn’t a possibility before their participation in the program.
But Corral has become more than just a program or a horse farm. It’s become a safe haven for the girls, who find other girls like themselves. At Corral, the girls and the horses learn from one another about confidence, trust and survival.
It’s that dual purpose that seemed to resonate with donors, said Camille Brown, Corral’s program manager. Of the 950 donors, 600 are first-time donors, Currey said.
“We all went through a time in our lives where we went through tough stuff, and maybe there wasn’t this support,” Brown said. “People can relate to needing someone to be there for you, to support you, to be there to help you get through whatever it is.”
At the same time, people are drawn to horses, Brown said. She said there’s a science to how the horses are used in therapeutic ways at Corral to benefit both the humans and the animals.
The campaign to save the farm started in October, and Currey can’t believe how much has been raised in such a short time, particularly for a small nonprofit like Corral that’s still relatively new.
“To think that a little nonprofit that many people hadn’t heard of, the community buy-in was just palpable,” she said.
Half of Corral’s funding comes from individual donors, while the other half comes from foundations and grants, including from the N.C. Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.
Many of the donors are generous. In the past, individuals and businesses contributed money to renovate Corral’s office and build an arena for the girls to practice their riding. That’s why Currey said it was important to keep Corral at its current location; the community already was invested in it.
After an article on the program appeared in The News & Observer in November, donations started coming in. One woman pledged $100,000. Already, an anonymous donor had agreed to match contributions from new donors up to $200,000.
On New Year’s Eve, Currey started going through a new batch of year-end donations. As she counted up the checks, she realized Corral may have reached the $1 million goal, far ahead of the June deadline.
“I started sobbing,” she said. “I’m a fairly stoic person. It was that uncontrollable cathartic sobbing. Oh my gosh, we’re actually going to make it.”
The proceeds – which ended up topping $1 million – will buy the property. But Currey also hopes to expand the program in Wake County to develop a program for teen boys. She hopes it could open by the fall of 2017 or the spring of 2018. A location hasn’t been determined.
For now, Currey and Brown and the rest of the staff plan to celebrate with the community. A “Million Dollar Miracle” party is scheduled March 19 at 2:30 p.m. at the farm.
Brown said the staff broke the news to the girls – referred to as “the herd” – over the weekend. They cheered and clapped. Many of the girls had been asking about the fund-raising progress, Brown said, even though they didn’t necessarily understand why strangers were pulling for their success.
“The farm on Kildaire Farm Road (now) has more meaning to people,” said Brown, who found many people didn’t know what occupied the property surrounded by subdivisions.
“This gets our story out to people,” Brown said. “That little patch of green with that house on it, this is what we’re doing there.”
Jessica Banov: 919-460-2605; @JessicaBanov
The Million Dollar Miracle party is 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at 3620 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary. To RSVP or learn more about the program, go to corralriding.org.