[KHTS] The 18th annual Heart of the West fundraiser, to benefit Carousel Therapeutic Riding Ranch, earned more than $100,000 in live auction and fund-a-need donations last weekend.
Nearly 450 guests attended Heart of the West, held on the grounds of the Agua Dulce Airport.
The evening began with the children’s riding demonstration followed by dinner, auction, casino games and dancing.
Therese Edwards, and her daughter Olive Haase, 5, served as emcees of the riding demonstration. Olive is a former client of the ranch and rode in the riding demonstration last year.
“This isn’t just going on a cute little stroll on a pony,” said Edwards. “This is real work. I can tell you, as a mom, when we come home from ranch therapy, she is tired. There is so much that happens during therapy, children develop core muscle strength and so much more.”
Edwards said the cost of such therapy is expensive and parents often have to with battle insurance companies to get their children the therapy they need.
“This is the best kind of work, the kind of work that makes miracles happen,” Edwards said.
Edwards encouraged guests to sponsor a child or a horse at Carousel Ranch.
To kick off the riding demonstration Kiran Dong, 3, and Sophia Gittisarn, 3, rode together on Mo. They demonstrated various aspects of “vaulting” to an appreciative audience.
Guests also cheered on Danny Sullivan, 22, who has ridden at Carousel Ranch for 13 years. He now assists other riders and helps perform chores on the ranch. Sullivan, riding Callie, navigated a series of obstacles during the demonstration.
Ronnie Riegler, 8, earned a huge round of applause from the audience when he stood atop Mo during his riding demonstration.
Edgar Prieto joined Becky Graham, Carousel Ranch founder and program director, atop Annabelle. Prieto, 5, was a little fearful of the large crowd and all the attention, but managed to complete his riding demonstration to a cheering crowd.
After the riding demonstration, Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, presented blue ribbons to all the riders.
Swartz and her family co-sponsor therapeutic riding horse Annabelle along with Alan Buckelew, COO of Carnival Corporation, and his family.
“Carousel Ranch makes an important contribution to the lives of very special children,” said Swartz.
Swartz was accompanied by her 10-year-old daughter Lauren.
“You get to see people who aren’t exactly like you shine,” Lauren said.
Julie Benson, Vice President, Public Relations at Princess Cruises, said the Princess Cruises Foundation has served as presenting sponsor of Heart of the West for several years.
From left: Princess Cruises President Jan Swartz, Annabelle, volunteer Jolie Stroh and Carousel Ranch board member Wayne Crawford. Photo by Michele E. Buttelman.
“This is a very inspirational event,” Benson said. “This event makes you feel very grateful for all the blessings you have in your life. We are happy we can help children here in the Santa Clarita Valley.”
Carousel Ranch founders, Executive Director Denise Redmond and Program Director Becky Graham, welcomed guests to Heart of the West and recounted the nonprofit’s recent accomplishments.
“Because of those of you who contributed last year we celebrated our 17th year by building a covered arena and our kids have been riding under it since June,” said Redmond. “Many of you were a huge part of building (the arena.) We are so grateful to see so many returning faces, and new faces, tonight. We cannot do what we do without all of you.”
Carousel Ranch offers equestrian therapy that combines vaulting (gymnastics on a moving horse) and therapeutic riding (English and Western), “individualized in a goal orientated program for each special needs child,” said Redmond.
“We know how many events there are in the SCV,” said Redmond. “We truly appreciate that you are spending your Saturday night with us.”
Redmond acknowledged the donation of the event sponsors, including the donation of the event location by Agua Dulce Airport which closes the airport to host Heart of the West.
Auctioneer Mark Drilling of Stokes Auction Group headed up the live auction which featured 28 items and a Fund-a-Need donation. Drilling has served as event auctioneer for 10 years.
The 15-day Princess Cruise to the Hawaiian Islands, donated by the Princess Cruises Community Foundation, generated lively bidding. In the end two cruises were auctioned at $4,400 each, earning Carousel Ranch $8,800.
One of the winning bidders, Fred Arnold, said he was unsure if he would take the cruise himself, or donate it to another nonprofit.
“This is a great charity,” Arnold said. “Everything they do here at Carousel Ranch is phenomenal. I can take the cruise or donate it to another charity, but the most important thing is that Carousel Ranch gets the money.”
Nearly $70,000 was raised in the live auction.
Standard poodle puppy
A 12-week-old male black standard poodle puppy charmed the audience before being snatched up by Beverly Loughnane for a $1,000 bid. The puppy was donated by Poodles by Bloomingdale and Mary Ellen Bloomingdale spent much of the evening showing off the well-mannered puppy.
“Standards are the smartest dogs,” said Loughnane. “This is a wonderful, wonderful dog.”
Loughnane said she was excited to have won the puppy and decided to name him “Spur.”
“It really was a spur of the moment decision to bid,” she said.
An inspirational video shown before the fund-a-need portion of the live auction featured a few of the 85 clients of Carousel Ranch and the need to expand the services of the ranch. The ranch currently has a waiting list that exceeds 150 students.
Carousel Ranch board member Wayne Crawford addressed the crowd and spoke about the importance of the covered arena that was financed by donations.
“For the first time in Carousel Ranch’s 18-year history no lessons were canceled because of inclement weather,” Crawford said. “Thank you for being part of that. Last year was a miracle; we raised nearly $50,000 from Fund-a-need.” [Hundreds of silent auction baskets were up for bid at the 18th annual Heart of the West to benefit Carousel Ranch. Photo by Michele E. Buttelman.]
Crawford asked the audience to “open up your hearts” and donate to Carousel Ranch.
“This is your chance to make a difference for Carousel Ranch,” said Drilling. “Your donations go a long way at Carousel Ranch.”
The audience responded by donating $38,750 to Carousel Ranch.
Total proceeds from the evening still to be tallied will include the silent auction, bar proceeds and sponsorships.
Redmond said students and horses still need sponsors at Carousel Ranch.
For more information and to donate to Carousel Ranch and to learn about programs or volunteer opportunities visit www.carouselranch.org, call 661-268-8010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.