Horses Bring Cheer To Residents In Local Nursing Home

Mary Brooker shares an emotional moment with her new friend at Cornerstone Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

Residents at Cornerstone Nursing Home haven’t had a whole lot to get excited about in the last month or so thanks to COVID-19.

Like most adult care facilities across the country, Cornerstone stopped all two-legged visitors early on in the pandemic to protect senior citizens most vulnerable to the coronavirus. On a beautiful spring afternoon, a trio of four-legged guests provided the first form of entertainment many at Cornerstone experienced in a long time.

Horses For Hope, an equestrian and therapeutic riding center based in Raleigh, spent Wednesday afternoon at the facility, as Buddy, Capri and Macey put bright smiles on a group of people who have gone through some lonely times of late.

“They have a lot of people sheltering in place in their rooms,” Carmalee Scarpitti, vice president of Horses for Hope, said. “They can’t have visitors from outside right now, so we thought this would be a great way to carry out our vision, which is to build hope in people and inspire self confidence. We look at this as a way to bring joy to people.”

Natalie McLeod, director of activities at Cornerstone, saw the organization on TV recently and decided to reach out to Scarpitti in hopes of enticing them to Dunn. McLeod found little resistance, as Horses for Hope specializes in raising spirits and were excited about the chance to spread some cheer to a group of people who haven’t seen much of the outside world since spring started.

Buddy finds a new fan in Joyce Lamm when Horses for Hope visited Cornerstone Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

“I love it,” said McLeod. “My residents haven’t been able to see visitors, volunteers, nobody. Day after day. This is something different and it shows love and compassion for somebody. It gives them some type of hope.”

Buddy, Capri and Macey appeared quite comfortable as the stars of the show. The trio went window to window, poking their long heads up to panes of glass reflecting a happy face on the other side. Cornerstone assembled a small group of masked and gloved up residents around the outside gazebo where the horses managed to get up close and personal with those willing to extend an open hand. Hands filled with graham crackers also received pretty positive responses.

“They are beautiful,” Mary Brooker, a resident, said. “They are so lovely. It means a lot and it feels good to be out in the sunshine. I enjoyed playing with that horse. It’s been kind of hard but we’re making it. We’re doing good.”

Bobby Jackson also enjoyed the time outside after being couped up in his room since last month.

Blease MccFadden, a resident at Cornerstone Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, welcomes a special guest.

“I liked the horses, they’re pretty,” said Jackson. “Its been rough. We’re having to stay in our rooms and we can’t go out into the hallway no more. Its meant a lot to be able to get out and get some fresh air.”

Horses for Hope played a key role in helping Scarpitti recover after being a victim of a wreck involving a drunk driver. The organization, like so many others, saw its resources take a big hit during the current economic shutdown and is in need of outside assistance.

“I’m a huge advocate for what Horses for Hope does,” Scarpitti said. “They gave me my life back and they’ve done that for a lot of people.”

Anyone interested in donating is asked to contact Scarpitti at 919-434-8055 or

-Dunn Daily Record