I Caught you Caring: Meet Francie Fortune

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 5:54 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - More than 60 million people, including three million children, struggle with some type of disability.

Disabilities can be major or minor, affecting both adults and children in different ways. Often, it leaves families fearful about what the future may hold. But Francie Fortune, executive director of the SunCatcher Therapeutic Riding Academy, is committed to helping people through her love of horses and the outdoors.

SunCatcher offers equestrian therapy sessions to people of all ages with special needs including down syndrome, the autism spectrum, cerebral palsy, PTSD, and ADHD.

Fortune, who grew up in the Black Hills, landed at SunCatcher first as a volunteer. It was during one of her first sessions she realized she had found her passion.

“There is an amazing, amazing joy in being able to help people gain courage and gain confidence in themselves, as well as help their families and caregivers see that maybe the future that they were full of fear for, actually not so much filled with hopelessness and things that their child or their loved one won’t be able to do but filled with things and opportunities that they never would have had otherwise,” said Fortune, on why her job brings her delight.

Amber Quinn, an instructor at the academy, says Fortune is the most dedicated individual she knows.

Quinn continued to say “I never meet an individual who works harder or cares more about what she does and there is you know like in most nonprofits not a lot of money to it. But she just pours everything that she is into Suncatcher and works tirelessly, she runs circles around the rest of us and she’s so motivated and committed and I guess really, she just believes in what she does completely.”

Fortune believes that a disability is just a different ability and that by extending hope and respect to individuals they are capable of anything.

“And whether it’s more obvious to other people that you have different abilities than they might, we’re all dealing with some kind of struggle. And so, it’s just loving people where they’re at and helping them see what they are cable of instead of being focused on what they can’t do,” said Fortune.

Members of the community can meet Fortune during their ‘Sundays at SunCatcher’ where people are invited to come out and volunteer by grooming or walking the horses. The next event takes place Dec. 11 at 1 p.m.