Ahesahmahk Dahn has been selected to receive the 2020 Joe Kelly Maryland Million Unsung Hero Award. Presented annually by the Board of Directors of the Maryland Million Ltd., this award honors the memory of Joe Kelly and celebrates important characteristics that are valuable but often unrewarded. It recognizes honesty, hard work and humility - qualities which serve as inspiration to others.
Dahn, a former Baltimore city elementary school teacher and service member in the U.S. Army, founded City Ranch Inc. in 2007 to introduce the children of Baltimore to horses by providing accessible and affordable horseback riding. Its creation inspired by his own love of horses and fueled by the loss of his nephew, the non-profit equestrian program and its herd of nearly 20 horses occupy a 29-acre farm in Windsor Mill, Md.
"Being chosen a recipient of this award really gives encouragement [to] what we’re doing at City Ranch, [showing] that we’re valued in the industry and that the industry thinks what we’re doing is significant," said Dahn. "To be recognized for that, from your colleagues, says an awful lot about what they think of you."
Dahn, along with his staff and volunteers, transport their horses to Baltimore city schools, nursing homes, residential treatment centers and any other facility that wants to host them, while also offering children the opportunity to volunteer on the farm to learn more.
"You [get to] see a child overcome his or her fears and become an excellent rider or excellent trainer, and you know you passed along to someone your interest in an animal and how to maintain that animal and care for it so that it can survive and strive and at the same time, you get the opportunity to interact with a non-human on a personal level," said Dahn.
City Ranch’s mission “is to help redirect urban youth away from violence by offering opportunities to foster personal growth through working with animals,” while its purpose “is to develop positive character in children through the joys and responsibilities of horsemanship and to bring horseback riding to the urban environment.”
“A horse lover and enthusiast since his early childhood, a military veteran, and an educator, his life is one of service for others,” wrote Dr. Michael Harrison, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, who nominated Dahn for the award. “His work demonstrates a deep belief that the association of horses with [children] is a positive, and potentially life-changing, experience.”