Returning Veterans Find Healing in Equine Therapy

A Dallas Bank uses its heart and money to serve the people who served us.

Human beings search for a greater meaning to life, and CrossFirst Bank in Dallas, Texas creates the conditions for personal fulfillment by encouraging their staff to bring what enriches their lives outside of work into the business.

Carolyn Anderson, CrossFirst Dallas Managing Director of Private Client Services, aligns with their belief that banks have a higher calling than just banking. So when she first joined CrossFirst three years ago, CDC Deposits Corp was one of the first partners she brought into the institution.

“We’re always looking for ways to fund our growth, and deposits are an important piece of what we do – especially core deposits, where we build long-term relationships with our clients. It’s not just a transaction… you become partners in meeting each other’s needs. I developed a great relationship with William Burdette and Rosy Lopez at CDC. For them, their work is not just about growing banks’ deposits. They’re interested in how banks are involved in their communities, and a portion of the interest from their deposits benefits the charities we work with. They loved CrossFirst’s mission as both a banking institution and a service organization.”

Ms. Anderson’s passion for service is contagious. Since she joined CrossFirst Bank, she and her colleagues have embedded themselves in a number of causes including Equest, a local nonprofit that serves over 2,000 people with diverse needs every year using equine therapy.

“I’ve always had horses around me, growing up in Central Kansas.” Ms. Anderson shared. “I’m naturally drawn to the spirit and peacefulness country living provides. You don’t get a whole lot of that in Downtown Dallas.”

Ms. Anderson’s first encounter with Equest took place five years ago when she was invited by a client to their Annual Gala. They had just started their Hooves for Heroes Program for active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their families. She recalled how she was moved by their mission that night:

“So many things resonated with me. I had a sister who had benefitted from equine-assisted therapies 35 years ago before it became popular, and my brother, who has dedicated his life to this country, had just gotten promoted to Inspector General of the Army. Plus, their facilities were located on this beautiful Texas horse farm. I felt like I was being called home, in a way.”

As Ms. Anderson started volunteering at Equest, she began to see the impact equine therapy and the human-horse connection can have on people.

She shared the story of one lady who had retired from the military fully decorated and developed Parkinson’s disease. Her tremors became so severe, she couldn’t hold a cup of water. It started to affect her psyche and she didn’t want to be seen in public. But when you watch her mount a horse, her tremors cease. Her work with the horses has given her new confidence and her relationship with her family has greatly improved.

There are hundreds of transformational stories like this one including that of Jeff Hensley, the founder and former director of the Hooves for Heroes Program, who, after coming home from service in Iraq in 2007, found himself falling into a deep depression, ultimately affecting his children. When he finally reached out for help, members of his community suggested equine therapy. Mr. Hensley recounts:

“My family’s experience working with the horses was so positive that I decided to go back to school and get my master’s in counseling – with emphasis on veterans’ issues and equine therapy. Men and women who have come home and struggled with many of the same challenges I faced are finally healing. By working with the horses, these warriors are building their confidence, enjoying the camaraderie of their peers, and learning to open up emotionally.”

Carolyn Anderson (left) and two attendees at the 2019 Boots and Solutes event.

Ms. Anderson shared, “Everybody looks for their ‘Why’. ‘Why am I investing so much emotional capital in this organization?’ It’s because of incredible stories like these.”

This year, CrossFirst Bank became the presenting sponsor at Boots and Solutes, Equest’s annual fundraiser which benefits the Hooves for Heroes Program. The Bank’s dedication to the event helped sell nearly 400 tickets, which supported veterans in attending as well.

Team members at CrossFirst Bank took on different roles at the event including organization, promotions, and fundraising. Ms. Anderson’s fellow officers plan to take turns chairing this annual event in the coming years.

“It takes $7,000 for Equest to serve a client every year, and it takes $5,000 to feed a horse. The quarterly check Equest receives from CDC’s Impact Deposit Program makes a big dent in helping them operate.” She continued, “There are certain financial institutions that are primarily motivated by the monetary incentives of relationships like these – their ability to grow deposits and fuel their lending growth. It’s partnerships with organizations like CDC, that help us look beyond the responsibilities to our clients and shareholders and use the power of the financial engine to create something really meaningful for those in need in our community.”

"We’re always looking for ways to fund our growth, and deposits are an important piece of what we do - especially core deposits, where we build long-term relationships with our clients. It’s not just a transaction… you become partners in meeting each other’s needs. I developed a great relationship with William Burdette and Rosy Lopez at CDC. For them, their work is not just about growing banks’ deposits. They’re interested in how banks are involved in their communities, and a portion of the interest from their deposits benefits the charities we work with. They loved CrossFirst’s mission as both a banking institution and a service organization."

Carolyn Anderson, CrossFirst Dallas Managing Director of Private Client Services

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