Fun and charity alongside social distancing and masks during a pandemic?
Polo players doing dressage? What?!
The Wellington chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County called on their friends and neighbors to put together what has become one of the hottest charity events in Wellington! Elite show jumpers, polo players, and dressage riders, such as Nic Roldan and Nacho Figueras, competed along with other top athletes to win the coveted team title of World Equestrian Triathlon Champion! Even amid a pandemic with fewer spectators the event raised more than $130,000 for the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington.
Eye Candy Land hosted the event at their beautiful property and also entered a team in the competition. Eye Candy team members included Pauline Watterlot as Team Captain, Andreas Cesar Alvarez, Paul O’Shea and Suzanne Wepplo . The other teams competing were sponsored by Ford’s Garage of Wellington and Sebilion PoloGear.
Ford’s Garage team members: Tesia De Lange as Team Captain, Chapin Cheska, Paula Matute, Kerstie Allen Nacho Figueras.
Sebilion PoloGear team: Courtney Muller as Team Captain, Betsy Van Dyke, Vanessa Mannix and Nic Roldan
If you missed it in person or on Facebook live feed this is how it went…
It’s February 15, 2021 and the event is about to start! I arrive at Eye Candy Land and find myself surrounded by beautifully manicured grass, wide open spaces for all the events, and flowering bougainvillea amidst towering palm trees- both the embodiment of the tropical south Florida lifestyle so many have come to Wellington to enjoy this time of year. Riders are warming up and people gather for jumping, the first event. Riders will compete in all 3 disciplines even though they’re experts in just one. Can their skills transfer? I’ll have to wait and see. This could get very interesting!
First they fly around a course of jumps. This event tests strategic riding at a swift pace. Everyone does well and the scores are very close but the Sebilion team takes the win.
Things slow down a little for dressage as they attempt Half Passes (many successfully!), Tempe Changes and Pirouettes. Team Eye Candy impresses the judges and takes home the win for dressage.
The pace picks up again for polo as the players compete in the last discipline. There’s lot of laughing as players discover the fun and difficulty of managing a ball, horse and stick all at the same time! Ford’s Garage takes the win for polo and the then breaks the tie with one last goal to win the 2021 World Championship Equestrian Triathlon!
All this fun and smiling helps to generate considerable donations enabling the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County to serve our youth. The scope and heart of this organization is incredible. Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 7 pm the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County (BGCPBC) provides a safe place for youth of all backgrounds to go so they can develop the qualities needed to become responsible citizens and leaders. They served 9,414 youth last year!
How big is their heart and how agile is the organization? Last year when school announced it would be delayed after summer camp ended August 7th, BGCPBC quickly realized the need to extend camp and covered 3 weeks for first responder families to facilitate a seamless transition to school without interrupted employment for parents. Wow!
All of this comes at a cost offset by kind and generous people coming together for charity events like the World Championship Equestrian Triathlon hosted by Eye Candy Jumpers at Eye Candy Land in Wellington!
Social distancing, masks, remote school and working from home, (and dare we forget the lack of toilet paper), forced us to rely on our own strengths and creativity to persevere this past year. For many, the pandemic has been a burden too heavy to carry alone and the Boys and Girls Club has stepped in to help those in need as a result of the pandemic as well continuing to help those they serve on a regular basis. A few ways BGCPBC has stepped up:
- BGCPBC added 50 new employees to the 53 certified teachers to assist with distance learning.
- All club members received assistance for distance learning including school supplies and free breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner.
- 850 club members came to clubs for distance learning while classrooms remained closed allowing club parents to stay employed and not leave their children home alone.
That’s in addition to:
- Providing over a million dollars in scholarships
- succeeding in helping 98% of their senior club members graduate in time from high school
- Ensuring .87 of every dollar donated goes directly to support each of their programs designed to meet the specific needs of children and teens.
Organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club play an important role during a normal year and even more so in a pandemic. I asked Director of Development, Christine Martin a few questions:
How did the equestrian triathlon idea come about?
Neil S. Hirsch, our Wellington Club namesake, and Kathleen Gannon-Ledsome decided we needed to bring the local equestrian community together to support our Boys & Girls Club children. For many years in Wellington there has been polo, dressage and hunter jumping, but not often in the same location. So, the World Championship Equestrian Triathlon was born. While Kathleen’s family had executed a variety of Equestrian Triathlons in the past, none were like this. The twist in ours, of course, is that everyone competes in a discipline they’re not used to… making it not only more challenging, but comical as well. 4 years later here we are!
How does the BGCPBC benefit from the event?
This event is one of our most sought after events in Wellington during non Covid times which generally attracts nearly 400 guests on average and sells out within days. Sponsorships are sold prior to the ticket release to Team Sponsors, Community Sponsors, and we receive donations raising over $150-$200K annually.
Is there a need that stands out as the most common or most significant among those children you serve?
All of our 17 Clubs across the county are strategically located in areas where children need us most. For many of the Club members that we help, the basics are the most pressing issues right now due to lingering impacts of the pandemic. Hunger insecurity continues to be a struggle for Club family members. Last year Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County handed out 1.2 million free meals and passed out a week’s worth of groceries to more than 100,000 Club family members. Most Club children also need extra academic support due to distance learning. The organization has seen a widening achievement gap created by the pandemic. The Clubs counteract this achievement gap by employing 60 certified teachers across the county and creating academic programs during afterschool hours and summer break.
What are your organization’s biggest needs right now?
As we expand programs to help Club members during these challenging times our fundraising ability has been limited. Due to COVID-19 major fundraising events have been canceled or greatly reduced.
To learn how to help, go to www.bgcpbc.org. We are always looking for mentors, volunteers and community partners!
For information on next year’s 2022 World Championship Equestrian Triathlon go to https://bgcpbc.org/events/2022-world-championship-equestrian-triathlon/
Thank you to Eye Candy Jumpers for hosting and entering a team in the event, to Co-Chairmen Neil S. Hirsch and Kathleen Gannon-Ledsome, and to all the sponsors, athletes and others who donated their time and money to help make this event a success for the children of Palm Beach County.
Sponsors included: Eye Candy, Ford’s Garage, Sebilion Farm, Polo Gear, Bainbridge Companies, Fleur De Lis International Realty, Glenbeigh Farm, PNC Bank, Publix Supermarket Charities, Shelley Paulson Photography, Black Watch Farm, The Dressage Store and Martini & Rossi.
Dressage Judges: PJ Rizvi, Ashley Holzer and Bebe Davis. Music provided by country artist Tom Blake and SL Events and Productions. Announcer: Pro polo player Brandon Phillips. Outdoor lunch provided by Ford’s Garage of Wellington.
To see a gallery of all the images from this year’s World Championship Equestrian Triathlon click here: