When I started writing this story I realized that the founder of Spirit Horse is in effect a essence of a philanthropist. A kindred spirit if I may. Read about him to learn where his passion came from…
Charles I. Fletcher devoted his life to SpiritHorse and our Children with Disabilities. This is his story.
I have always loved horses. When I was 5 years old my father was killed by a drunken driver (we didn’t have the polite term, DUI). I and my four siblings and our mother were cast into instant poverty. I was hired out to my great uncle when I was 7 years old and worked for several summers for him six days a week, twelve hours each day in his cotton fields to help with our finances.
There was a man who visited my great uncles’ tiny store who rode a sorrel horse. This was very backwoods Alabama and they were effectively still in the 19th century. I remember that “Old Man West” had his right ear bitten off in a fight. You could see the teeth marks on what was remaining. One day he let me ride his sorrel horse for about five minutes. I have never forgotten his kindness, especially coming from a man because I had no father and was starving for some man to reach out to me.
I founded SpiritHorse after retiring from Rockwell International, where I rose to the rank of Vice President of one of its subsidiaries, to pay “Old Man West” for his kindness to a lonely little boy.
I am 69 years old now and work seven days each week for SpiritHorse. I teach as many lessons as any of my instructors and walk, leading the ponies ten to fifteen miles each day. I found that all you have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I am also Executive Director and Board President. I work seven days each week, twelve hours each day. I don’t take a day off during each of our three month sessions. I am not compensated financially by SpiritHorse because in not drawing a salary we can serve 100 more children with disabilities each week. We now serve over 450 children, more than any center in the world, and all of our services are free of charge.
When a sibling comes out with one of our participants we toss them up on the pony for a few minutes, still paying “Old Man West” back for his kindness.
I am the world’s richest man because I get paid in hugs and smiles, the most valuable currency that exists. I love my children and I love my job.
I am leaving my ranch to SpiritHorse with the proviso that no child with a disability ever be charged a fee.