A local woman says horseback riding changed her life for the better and now she is working to make sure others have the financial means to ride. Ajia Cherry was diagnosed with cancer at a young age.

“When I was 4 years old, I was diagnosed with a type of cancer called neuroblastoma. It was a very rare type of cancer for that age,” Cherry said. “It was a tumor wrapped around my spinal cord.”

Cherry spent nearly a year in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Little did she know that battle would lead her to where she is today. An accomplished Equestrian and trainer. Cherry explains, “When I was sick, what is now known as make-a-wish, you know I had like 3 wishes and I wanted a pony and they were like how about a pony ride?” She got that pony ride and was hooked. Years later, her Dad bought her a horse, “My Dad has since passed so he’s a very special horse to me.”

Cherry is a cancer survivor but says she still faces potential side effects and “at one point in time, one of the side effects they were worried about me having was disintegration basically of the lower discs in my spine,” Cherry said. 

She was tested for that about 10 years ago and doctors were amazed by what they didn’t find. She remembers her doctor saying, “I don’t know what you’re doing but whatever you’re doing, keep doing it because it’s the only reason you are not experiencing this. I was like I don’t know what I’m doing. I work out and ride horses. That kind of got my wheels spinning.  If I was educated and I knew what I was doing, imagine what I could do not only for myself but for other people.”

That’s when she decided to quit her job in sales and become a certified fitness trainer and riding coach. Cherry also started an annual fundraiser…raising thousands of dollars to give others the opportunity to ride.

The fundraiser is an annual 5k. Walkers, runners, and horses take part. So far it’s raised thousands of dollars for the Genesee Valley Riding and Driving Club.