Palm Beach County/Marion County, FL Eighteen year old Daniela Stransky of Miami Beach, 13 year old Sheer Levitin of Delray Beach, 11 year old Victor Bastet of Wellington, Florida, and 10 year old Daniel Karam of Caracas, Venezuela and other like-minded youngsters banded together to raise thousands of dollars to help buy feed and care for the 30 mounts at the South Florida non-profit organization Horses N Heroes. When not in the saddle at the Winter Equestrian Festival, these young show jumping talents were busy hoofing it door to door, stable to stable, selling raffle tickets for the first-ever Step by Step Foundation Feed Drive. "Horses can change lives," said Stransky, a senior at Miami Dade High School who has been competing in the jumpers since she was 12. "Being able to interact and care for these animals, just spending time around them, is amazing. We wanted to help Horses N Heroes so that the girls in the program could continue to experience the joy that comes with horses."
"I have a great team of young equestrians who want to help," explained Liliane Stransky, the founder of the non-profit Step by Step and owner of Stransky's Mission Farm in Wellington, Florida. "They took it upon themselves to go out and sell as many raffle tickets as possible, not just to horse people at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center but to their friends, neighbors, teachers, and people in their communities who may have never even sat on a horse, let alone fed one! Horses N Heroes, which has locations in Marion County and in Palm Beach County, doesn¹t have the money to cover the cost of feed! We all wanted to make a change and help out, but it is an ongoing process. No matter what, horses have to eat!"
"I made $320 for the charity," added Levitin, a 7th grader who competes in the Junior Jumpers. "I ended up selling raffle tickets to my neighbors with my friends, just knocking and going from door to door, asking people at the Mizner Country Club. Most people said 'No' after we told them the money was going to feed a hungry horse," laughed Levitin, "but it was a lot of fun!"
It was Bastet who sold the winning ticket to Mercedes Brugal, "It was funny," remembered the Children's Jumper competitor. "Every time I saw Mercedes at the horse show, she would ask me when we were doing the final drawing. And she was the person to win first prize and the Pleasure Bike!" The second place prize, a Children¹s Bike, went to Perla Capriles and third prize, another Children's Bike, went to Paddock Cakes founder Bryan Bock, who immediately donated it back to Step by Step to be used for the next raffle.
"We see an average of 8 to 10 girls, aged 7 and up, every day who live close to, or below, the poverty level," explained Mindy Nolan-Morrow, the Executive Director of Horses N Heroes. "It costs us over $15,000 a month to run the program. Each horse costs approximately $500 per month, and we use more than 90 bags of feed, 400 bales of hay, and 200 bags of shavings. But its worth it, it is a labor of love. The girls not only get to ride and learn about the horses, but they are hard workers and do most of the chores, feeding, haying, cleaning the stalls and the paddocks. One hundred percent of any funds donated go to taking care of the horses and the farm. Every single day is a challenge just to keep the barn doors open. When people like Liliane and the kids at Step by Step step into help, it is a huge blessing for all of us."
"This Step by Step Feed Drive Raffle was such a success, we would like to do others throughout the year," added Stransky. "We will try to plan on having other raffles throughout the year at all the big shows, like WEF as well as Ocala, Atlanta, Kentucky, Colorado and even Canada. It is always great to help those in need, and it is especially satisfying to be able to help the horses that we all love so much!"
Founded in 1994, Horses N Heroes became a 501(c)3 in 1997. The non-profit organization is dedicated to providing an equine learning and mentoring experience for young children who come from families with extreme financial constraints. At no charge, these kids are given the opportunity to bond with horses and are taught all aspects of horsemanship including but not limited to riding, grooming, feeding and caring for the donated horses. For further information on either charity go to www.horsesnheroes.org and www.stepbystepfoundation.com.