Equinox Ranch of Cullowhee has received the Kirstie Ennis Foundation Award.
Equinox Ranch is a local treatment program for combat veterans suffering from PTSD that will help them rebuild their lives. Equinox must first remodel their riverfront home, built by former Western Carolina University Chancellor Cotton Robinson.
“We’re so honored to be a recipient of funds raised by this amazing veteran,” said Margo Capparelli, the founder of Equinox Ranch. “The funds will be used to make the upstairs bathrooms handicapped accessible.”
Ennis said that it was an easy decision to choose Equinox Ranch because they could feel the organization’s passion for helping veterans.
Kirstie Ennis, the daughter of two Marines, enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17. During her military career she worked as a mechanic and helicopter door gunner. While serving in Afghanistan in 2012 she was seriously injured in a rollover helicopter accident in which she lost her teeth, jaw and injured her brain, spine, face and shoulder. Ultimately, her leg was amputated above the knee. Since the accident she has endured more than 40 surgeries.
Since then she has earned a Masters in Education and is studying for her Ph.D. She has found healing in nature and has set her sights on climbing seven summits of the world. She has already completed four and is heading to Mount Everest next month. Ennis is an avid snowboarder and is part of the para-Olympic team. Thanks to the outdoors she does more now on one leg than she ever even dreamed of doing on two.
Ennis is a role model to many. In addition to her many triumphs, she speaks candidly about the emotional turmoil she endured and a suicide attempt she made a year after the accident.
Recognizing there were many nonprofits needing support raising awareness and fundraising, Ennis decided to take action. The Kirstie Ennis Foundation was incorporated and makes regular grants to charities.
Equinox Ranch is a nonprofit treatment center created by professionals who have served in the armed forces, business, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans will begin and end their yearlong program with a two-week stay at Equinox Ranch, with support during the year from the Veterans Administration and civilian care.
Equinox Ranch will offer a longer and more comprehensive program than anything already in existence, according to Capparelli.