Wellington, FL - February 20, 2011 - The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Florida transformed into a field of dreams for 32 Palm Beach charities in the second annual FTI Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® where over a million dollars was raised in an exciting Pro-Am show jumping event on February 19.
A signature event of the 12 week FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, the event featured 32 teams of three riders ranging in age from 11 to 70 where amateurs competed side by side with their professional heroes. Each team was randomly assigned to a charity to compete for $1,020,000 in prize money with the winning charity receiving $150,000 with a sliding scale to 32nd place of $10,000. A crowd of 6,000 came out to enjoy the family fun as part of the Saturday Night Lights series which continues through April 2nd.
Every team was generously sponsored by an equestrian family with additional monies coming from corporate and individual donors as well as all proceeds from ticket and VIP table sales for the evening's event produced by Equestrian Sport Productions, which donates its staff and venue for the event.
The winning team, competing for Wheels for Kids, set a blazing fast time of 91.376 seconds. The riders were Olympian Pablo Barrios, 18-year-old Luis Fernando Larrazabal, and 14-year-old Emmanuel Andrade. All three riders are from Venezuela and competed for team sponsors, Gustavo and Carolina Mirabal of G&C Farm. The Mirabals, Barrios, and Larrazabal live in Wellington, FL.
The second place team, consisting of riders Amy Millar, Karina Aziz, and Jordan McPherson, won $125,000 for the Horses N' Heroes charity when they finished in a time of 93.976 seconds. Their team sponsor was Susan Grange.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward led the team sponsored by Susan Goldstein. Joined by riders Danielle Goldstein and Marley Goodman, they had a time of 94.140 seconds to win $100,000 for the YMCA of the Palm Beaches.
Andrade set the pace for the winning team around the first part of the relay course. "He was flying!" Barrios said. "I think they really enjoyed competing on a team like this."
All three riders felt that competing for charity was a unique experience and one that they would want to do again. "It is unbelievable to get the money for the charity. It is a great idea and it is a great way to help the kids with all of those donations. $1,020,000 is amazing, and it is really special for us to be a part of this. It feels great to help in some way," Barrios said.
Team sponsor Gustavo Mirabal said, "This was one of the classes that we really wanted to win because it is something special. It is a great feeling to know that we can help so many charitable organizations in one night and, we are always going to support these classes."
The winning team received the largest share of the prize money for their randomly assigned charity, Wheels for Kids. Denise Jungbert, the founder of Wheels for Kids, was extremely excited to be able to provide wheelchairs for children with permanent physical disabilities on her waiting list with the money won in the event.
"It is amazing," Jungbert said. "This is our first year and we are so excited to have been a part of it. If we came home with $10,000 we were going to give out a chair, but oh my god, now we can give out ten chairs!"
She continued, "To be able to compete with the big dogs and be able to win is just amazing. I am so excited. I want to go national eventually, which will take some time, but to win something like this we can make this happen. There is no other event that I have ever heard of in this country that gives out to so many organizations."
Jungbert responded to an open call for all Palm Beach County based charities to throw their name into the "riding" hat to participate in this exciting event. Over 160 charities serving Palm Beach County applied to be included in the 2011 FTI Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® in a random drawing held at the Holiday HorseFest at the Meyer Amphitheatre last December.
The charities were then randomly assigned to the teams to create an equal chance for winning. This unique multi-charity approach has also allowed the event to assemble a diverse portfolio of charities covering animal rescue, children's causes, family care, public health, senior care, medical support, equestrians, education, the arts, and the environment among others.
For the second place winner it was a Cinderella story, but this Cinderella didn't need a prince, just a horse. Horses 'N Heroes was started by Mindy Morrow in 1994 as a way to continue her love of horses and give back to the community. The program serves underprivileged girls and gives them the opportunity to bond with horses and through the experience gain self-esteem and learn about responsibility, team work, commitment, and more.
Mindy was overwhelmed with emotion, "By the grace of god we get by every month and this money will help get us through a whole year. These girls are so excited. All the girls who rode for our team last night were so amazing and we loved the girl team riding for the girls' charity. We teach our girls that you can make a difference in your life no matter where you come from. They form a magical bond and focus on the horses and academics. Ninety percent of the girls who come through our program go on to college when most of their families never graduated from grade school."
And as proof to bonds formed that night - the next day all the girls from Horses N Heroes were treated by their team sponsor Susan Grange to an afternoon at her farm and riding demonstration.
Mark Bellissimo, CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions, sent out his thanks for the evening' s success, "I want to thank the team sponsors without whose generous support we would never have been able to create this event. The level of appreciation from the charities, many of them smaller charities with limited resources, was astounding, and it is immensely gratifying to see how many lives are touched by the significant money raised tonight. For everyone who was a part of this event from the sponsors to riders to the staff, we share in the pride of what the equestrian community can do when it comes together and reaches out in a broad based spirit of giving to surpass our one million dollar goal to benefit 32 Palm Beach charities. In only its second year, the FTI Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® has become the defining event of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival."
Results: FTI Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments
CHARITY TEAM SPONSOR PROFESSIONAL AMATEUR / JUNIOR AMATEUR / JUNIOR Team Total Time Charity Prize Money
1 Wheels for Kids Gustavo & Carolina Mirabal Pablo Barrios Luis Fernando Larrazabal Emmanuel Andrade 91.376 $150,000.00
2 Horses N' Heroes Susan Grange Amy Millar Karina Aziz Jordan MacPherson 93.976 $125,000.00
3 YMCA of the Palm Beaches Susan Goldstein McLain Ward Danielle Goldstein Marley Goodman 94.140 $100,000.00
4 Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper Tom & Jeannie Tisbo Jeffrey Welles Lauren Tisbo Nicole Chrighton 94.510 $85,000.00
5 Oasis Compassion Agency Maura Thatcher Maggie Jayne Madeline Thatcher Sydney Shulman 94.745 $70,000.00
6 Partners International Women Cara Raether Callie Schott Shannon Spencer Lydia Ulrich 94.779 $60,000.00
7 American Red Cross Christian Woschenko & Diane Rodich Caitlin Venezia Christian Woschenko Mireya Godoy 96.966 $50,000.00
8 Drug Abuse Treatment Association Justin & Lee Kellogg-Sadrian Anne Kursinksi Nickie Wiingaard Susannah Wise 97.047 $37,500.00
9 Equestrian Aid Foundation Ahmed Alali & Beth Johnson Candice King Brittni Raflowitz Ahmed Alali 97.786 $25,000.00
10 Resource Depot Murray & Teri Kessler Reed Kessler Murray Kessler Teri Kessler 98.125 $20,000.00
11 Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options Robert & Lisa Lourie Shane Sweetnam Julia Lourie/Kaitlin Campbell Kaely Tomeu 98.137 $18,500.00
12 Norton Museum of Art Cathleen Rooney & Ricky Moyer Debbie Stephens Arly Golombek Michael Murphy 98.787 $18,000.00
13 The Lord's Place Hunter & Jeannie Harrison Rodrigo Pessoa Christina Kelly Olivia Weeks 98.969 $17,500.00
14 Children's Place at Home Safe Mark & Katherine Bellissimo Laura Kraut Paige Bellissimo Nicole Bellissimo 99.554 $17,000.00
15 Crohn's and Colitis Foundation David Burton Sr. & Mr. & Mrs. D'Ambra Will Simpson Barbara Ruziska Allison Blais 100.157 $16,500.00
16 Caridad Center Richard & Sara Mershad Paul O'Shea Ricky Mershad Gabriela Mershad 100.799 $16,000.00
17 Loggerhead Marinelife Center Georgina Bloomberg Georgina Bloomberg Mahala Rumell Meghan MacPherson 101.915 $15,500.00
18 George Snow Scholarship Fund Andrew & Carlene Ziegler Tiffany Foster Caitlin Ziegler Jessica Rooks 103.028 $15,000.00
19 Hospice of Palm Beach County Bruce Duchossois & Mr. & Mrs. Boyer Schuyler Riley Daniela Cordero Hayley Barnhill 103.665 $14,500.00
20 YWCA of Palm Beach County Pasmore Stables & Pin Oak Farm Julie Welles Catherine Pasmore Sophie Simpson 104.807 $14,000.00
21 Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park Sand Castle Farm & Friends Sarah Segal Donald Little Tori Corts 105.164 $13,500.00
22 Children's Foundation for Equine Assisted Therapy Roger & Jennifer Smith Jennifer Hannan William Coleman Chloe Reid 105.340 $13,000.00
23 Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center Falconwood Enrique Gonzales Salvador Onate Luis Alejandro Placencia 106.018 $12,500.00
24 Urban League of Palm Beach County Caroline Moran Bob Kraut Shawn Casady Bobby Kraut 106.549 $12,000.00
25 Wellington Community Foundation Dan & Ellen Crown Ashlee Bond Spencer Smith Ailishe Cunniffe 106.733 $11,500.00
26 Kids Cancer Foundation Dr. Betsee Parker Ken Berkley Heather Hooker Victoria Colvin 106.743 $11,000.00
27 Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County Bob Johnson Brianne Goutal Ashley Collins Zoellen Speelman 106.783 $10,750.00
28 Danny and Ron's Rescue Lucy Mitchell-Innes & Mr. & Mrs. Gammino Chris Ewanouski Melissa Jacobs Lucy Mitchell-Innes 111.087 $10,500.00
29 South Florida Science Museum B.G. & Suzanne Porter Ragan Roberts Wilton Porter Lucas Porter 112.977 $10,250.00
30 The King's Academy Lea Allen & Amb. & Mrs. Ronald Spogli Margie Engle Lea Allen Caroline Spogli 113.937 $10,000.00
31 Junior Achievement of South Florida John & Daveanna Fleischhacker Ashley Fleischhacker Liza Finsness Laura Belmont 115.009 $10,000.00
32 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society The Stein Family Molly Ashe-Cawley Alexis Stein Olivia Jack 115.220 $10,000.00
The FTI Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® was supported by many generous sponsors. We thank them for recognizing our riders who donate their talents for free and our team sponsors for their contribution.
Each rider on the first place team was presented with a complimentary one-night stay at the Brazilian Court Hotel & Beach Club in Palm Beach and a gift bag prize pack with goodies from the Official WEF Wear Boutique, an Arbonne International gift certificate donated by Anna Hall, a mini photo session and desk portrait by famed equine photographer Barbara Bower and delicious horse cookies from Paddock Cakes.
The Team Sponsor for the first place team is being presented with a generous three day, two night stay at the Ritz Carlton Residences at Singer Island donated by Lionheart Capital. The package also includes a gift certificate for the Capital Grille and Saks Fifth Avenue and gift items from the WEF Wear Boutique, Arbonne International and Barbara's Visions.
Each Rider on the second place team is being presented with a Nespresso coffee machine and a gift bag prize pack with goodies from the Official WEF Wear Boutique, an Arbonne International gift certificate donated by Anna Hall, a mini photo session and desk portrait by famed equine photographer Barbara Bower and delicious horse cookies from Paddock Cakes.
The Team Sponsor for the second place team is being presented with a complimentary one-night stay at the Brazilian Court Hotel & Beach Club in Palm Beach and gift items from the WEF Wear Boutique, Arbonne International and Barbara's Visions.
Each Rider on the third place team is being presented with a gift certificate towards a custom Triple Crown blanket, which can they can design their very own blanket at BuildYourOwnBlanket.com. They are also getting the gift bag prize pack with a beautiful leather lead from English Riding Supply, an Arbonne International gift certificate donated by Anna Hall, a mini photo session and desk portrait by famed equine photographer Barbara Bower and delicious horse cookies from Paddock Cakes.
The Team Sponsor for the third place team is being presented with a WEF Wear Boutique Equestrian Gift pack including gift items from the WEF Wear Boutique, Arbonne International and Barbara's Visions, a gift certificate towards a custom Triple Crown Blanket at BuildYourOwnBlanket.com and an Equivisor.
For more information on the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, please visit www.equestriansport.com.
Photos: Riders in the Great Charity Challenge watch the competition. The winning presentation for the Mirabal team and Wheels for Kids. Denise Jungbert celebrates her team's victory. The group from Horses N Heroes with their team. The Kessler family competed for Resource Depot . Photos © Anne Gittins Photography, Sportfot, and ManciniPhotos.