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Heroes Among Us: Hero 'horses' around to help kids

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Posted at 10:14 PM, May 12, 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — For Jermo Reese, you could say horses have always been in his blood.

“Being born and raised here, I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t know where to begin, so just going to work with him, I learned a lot of stuff”, says Reese.

“Him” is his grandfather Frank Williams, a legend in the horse industry and a valuable member of the Keeneland training team for decades.

“He was known as their yearling breaker, exercise rider, foreman, a little bit of everything”, Reese remembers.

“it sounds like he was an amazing inspiration to you”, I remarked.

“He was. The first time that I actually got to see him ride…I was riding a go-cart at the time and he said they were going to the opposite side of the farm to ride. They started out walking, just a trot…when I seen him go into a full gallop and tuck down, I was like ‘oh man, he’s the real deal!”

Williams passed away in 2015 and that’s when Jermo received an inspiration.

“There was a news story where a gentleman was getting indicted for recruiting kids into gangs. Me being raised here in Lexington, I could understand how easy that was, because there’s not a lot of things for kids to do”, says Reese. “I thought this was a great opportunity because, had it not been for my grandfather, I would not have known how to get into horses. I know there’s a lot of kids who want to get into horses, but they don’t know where to start.”

He created the non-profit called “Frankie’s Corner” with the sole purpose of giving kids an alternative. The 4th generation horseman brings out his four horses twice a week for local teenagers to learn all about the trade and so much more.

“We teach them all the essential basics from cleaning out stalls, learning how to walk a horse, how to put a halter on and things like that. But we also go a little deeper in that we teach them how to build a resume. We also teach them how to have an elevator speech, because you never know who you’re gonna meet.”

Jermo estimates he’s touched thousands of local kids with the program and the impact he’s had is obvious.

“it makes me know what I want to do when I go to college”, says Saniya McKenzie, a 12-year-old program participant. “It gives me a lot of skills for life. If I ever encounter a horse, I’ll know what to do.”

Saniya’s mother Larissa agrees and says she can see how the program has helped her daughter mature.

“She kind of has a vision of want she wants to do and where she wants to go now. It’s expanded her mind to what career she can go to, it’s not just riding horses. The many different avenues regarding agriculture and equine – it’s been very good for her”, says Larissa.

“I feel very grateful for this opportunity, because growing up this was something that I always wanted to do”, says 16-year-old Keila Savage. “I’ve always wanted to ride horses, and then when there’s a program and I can do it for free, I feel very blessed and just happy to be a part of the program.”

“You have to be a part of the change you want to see”, adds Jermo.