STAR rider mentors others

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LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) - Jason Graening says riding a horse at Shangri-La Therapeutic Riding Academy has been fun and freeing for him over the past five years. He attends a regular class at the STAR facility in Lenoir City.

Graening, 45, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child. Everyone around him describes him as an inspiring person who lives life to the fullest.

In addition to being a STAR student, Graening volunteers regularly to mentor at-risk youth who take part in a program called Changing Strides at the facility. The youth learn to assist a physically challenged person with riding a horse, not yet learning all of Graening's life story.

Kathy Dolson, STAR Specialty Program Coordinator, said, "The basic conversation we have with our students is that they would be giving a therapeutic riding lesson to one of our students. But the reason Jason is so wonderful is that he is so much more than just a student."

Graening said, "They think that they're giving back to me. The neatest thing, I think I give them more than they realize. We're teaching them about horses, but it translates to so many different levels for them."

Dolson added, "He is very courageous and he's a great speaker, he's a motivational kind of guy just by his outlook on life."

STAR always accepts donations to further its programs that serve the community.