Posted: August 29, 2023

Thanks to a seven-figure estate gift to the Franklin County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Center's endowment from a longtime volunteer, the center’s future is now brighter than ever.

Franklin County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Facility

Franklin County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Facility

Since 1982, the Franklin County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Center has provided recreational and therapeutic horsemanship activities to individuals of all ages with varying special needs. Thanks to a seven-figure estate gift to the center’s endowment from a longtime volunteer, the center’s future is now brighter than ever.

The bequest comes from Angela Weagly, a 1965 graduate of Penn State with a degree in marketing who passed away in October 2022. A large portion of her gift will become part of the center’s endowment, boosting the center’s operating budget. The center was created by Penn State Extension educator Robert Kessler, who provided leadership and sweat equity throughout his career and after his retirement in 2010. To celebrate Weagly’s dedication as a volunteer and her generous gift, the center plans to honor her this fall.

“The Franklin County Therapeutic Riding Center has been instrumental in providing positive experiences for youth in Franklin County for over 40 years,” said Joshua Rice, Extension’s assistant director for 4-H youth development programs. “The generosity and dedication to providing those experiences to youth, embodied in Ms. Weagly’s extraordinary gift, help ensure that we can continue providing a high-quality experience for many youth. Her generosity impacts not only the 4-H program but also the entire community.”

Michael Martin, the South Central Area Educator for Pennsylvania 4-H, agreed, saying, “The instant feeling when this gift was received was a great relief of financial stress. This gift will enable strategic planning that was previously a second thought to constant fundraising. While fundraising will continue yearly, this gift greatly diminishes the worry of supporting day-to-day operations, and for that we are thankful.”

The center, which began with only 1 acre and three riders, has grown in popularity through the decades. Today, the facility’s 25 acres house three riding arenas and a 10-stall horse barn and accommodates both riding and driving programs. All instructors are paid and certified through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.

A resident of the Waynesboro area, Weagly started volunteering at the center in the early 1990s and loved seeing what the students could accomplish in the program. Along with helping one of the riding instructors, she also sponsored one of the center’s horses for many years and would work with the horses through the winter when the program was in between sessions. According to fellow volunteers and center employees, Weagly had a passion for the program and horses.

“Angela was a very friendly, personable and welcoming person,” said Carol Hoover, current center volunteer and former volunteer coordinator. “I looked to her as a mentor who was willing to take me under her wing as a fellow volunteer. She really showed her passion through her actions. She was dependable, responsible, caring and encouraging to the students.”

When Susan Rotz, the center’s director, learned about Weagly’s bequest, she said she was shocked but grateful.

“Angela knew what we did and was aware of the financial challenges,” Rotz said. “The center has grown so much that it costs a lot more to operate. We’ve come close to closing several times through the years, but something always came through. Angela really came through for us with this gift.

“She loved horses and she loved the riders who came. She loved to ride herself and knew the benefits of riding.”

For volunteers, Weagly’s gift is inspiring.

“I think, like me, Angela saw what this type of therapy can do for people,” Hoover said. “It’s a unique form of therapy, and you can see the effects and long-term benefits. I think she saw firsthand what this type of therapy can do and wanted to see that the program would survive. What a beautiful way for her to give back.”

For Rotz, this gift is validation of the work she and her fellow employees and volunteers are doing — that they’re headed in the right direction and will continue to be able to offer these services to those who need them most.

“It’s reassuring that someone thought that much of our program that they wanted to invest their money in it,” Rotz said. “We will always need community support, but this gift is amazing and will help keep us going. I thank Angela every night for her generosity.”

For more information about the Franklin County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Center, visit its Facebook page. To make a gift to support the center, visit

Donors like Weagly advance the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve and lead. Through philanthropy, alumni and friends are helping students to join the Penn State family and prepare for lifelong success; driving research, outreach and economic development that grow our shared strength and readiness for the future; and increasing the University’s impact for families, patients, and communications across the Commonwealth and around the world. Learn more by visiting

Administered in Pennsylvania by Penn State Extension, 4-H is a nonformal educational youth-development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helps young people develop knowledge and skills to become capable, caring and contributing citizens. To find your local program, visit the Penn State Extension website at

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