National Volunteer Week: TMC volunteer receives prestigious award

Nancie Roahrig 1For many years, Nancie Roahrig has provided equine-assisted therapy at TMC Hospice and TMC for Children. Her company, Step Up to T.L.C., Inc., has received numerous accolades for bringing peace and happiness to patients when they need it most. Recently, Roahrig received a KOLD Hero Award – a special recognition presented by Heather Rowe, news anchor at KOLD – their story was featured on television earlier this week.

The non-profit has a unique mission. “Our goal is to enrich the lives of those who are in need through healthy interactions with our ponies and horses,” said Roahrig.

The handlers and horses donate their time at children’s in-patient units, rehabilitation clinics, group homes, retirement communities, nursing homes and in-patient hospice locations. You might also see the therapy horses at special events for local schools, Step Up into TLC 4.jpglibraries, and churches.

The organization’s name, Step Up into T.L.C., says a lot about what they do. “Step up” is a common equine term encouraging horses to quicken their pace. The “T.L.C.” part of the title stands for Therapeutic Loving Caballos – caballos being the Spanish word for horses.

Every two weeks, Roahrig and crew accompany two well-trained miniature horses at TMC for Children. Playful hats and ribbons adorn the manes and extraordinarily soft hair of the minis, like Buddy and Chancey.

Step Up into TLC 2A comical and functional addition to their outfits is the shoes – no, not horseshoes. “Build-A-Bear shoes,” Roahrig says with a hearty laugh. The shoes intended for the stuff-able teddy-bears are a perfect fit for miniature horses, and keep their smaller hoofs from slipping on hospital floors.

The gentle horses enjoy getting rubs on the nose and scratches behind the ears. They aren’t shy, and the pair of calm minis walk right up to the hospital beds. While the interaction is soothing for the horses, it’s even more meaningful for the patients and families.

“To have an animal come into a patient’s room with their unconditional love, is an incredible experience,” shared Roahrig. “It becomes a calmer and happier place with something so simple, but so profound, as a wet nose nuzzle.”

Step Up into T.L.C.’s stables house several therapy horses, including miniature horses, ponies, Arabians, a Clydesdales and a Percheron. All are specially-trained to bring comfort.

Step Up into TLC 3Roahrig comes from two generations of horsewomen. Combine that with her certified nursing assistant credentials, and you have a perfect match. In addition, she has experienced the benefits of equine-assisted therapy first-hand.

“I was on the receiving side on two separate occasions with family members, and I saw the benefits and memories that they make,” said Roahrig. “They offer no judgment, which says volumes, and provide a nurturing, safe place for healing.”

She is driven by a strong belief that through her work with horses, she is able to help others regain their sense of self-worth and hope.

Step Up into TLCToni Robinson, a recipient of Nancy Roahrig’s care, best summarized her generosity and expertise. “Horses change lives.”

For more information, please visit the Step Up into T.L.C., Inc. website at or their Facebook page at






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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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