With 350 applications received for the chance to participate in the 11th annual Great Charity Challenge, presented by Fidelity Investments, the drawing process brought hope, excitement and entertainment for those who followed the GCC lottery drum’s “travels” between Tuesday, Dec. 10 and Monday, Dec. 16. At stake was a share of the more than $1 million in prize money that will be distributed on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington.
Founded in 2010 by Mark and Paige Bellissimo, the event has distributed $13.5 million to more than 240 Palm Beach County charities to date. Blending philanthropy and equestrian sport, the GCC is an exciting show jumping event that unites the community every year.
“We look forward to kick-starting this new decade of the GCC, along with the start of our 12-week season in the company of such outstanding and diverse organizations,” said Mark Bellissimo, CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions. “This year’s applicant list is a true reflection of the amazing work they do to make Palm Beach County a better place. We are very grateful for them and for the continued support of the event sponsors.”
A total of 21 charities were randomly drawn throughout the festivities, in addition to the Wellington Public Schools PTA/PTO/PTSA, the only automatic entry included every year. The selected charities are: Admirals Cove Foundation, Arts4All Florida, Back to Basics, Bella’s Angels, the Children’s Home Society, the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, Dress for Success of the Palm Beaches, the Equestrian Aid Foundation, Feed the Hungry Pantry of Palm Beach County, Hacer Ministry, the Hanley Foundation, Help Our Wounded Foundation, JARC Florida, Little Smiles, Morningday Community Solutions, Quantum House, the Spirit of Giving Network, the Step by Step Foundation, Vita Nova, Wellington Cares and the Young Singers of the Palm Beaches.
The traveling selection format enables the GCC to highlight some of the individuals who make the event a reality, as well as those who support it in the community. Several team and corporate sponsors of the event assisted in the drawing process, such as Postage Stamp Farm Foundation, Equine Tack and Nutritionals, Silver Oak Stable, Pine Hollow Farm, Carriage Hill Farm, Louisburg Farm, Wight Show Stables and the Schaufeld Family Foundation.
Joining co-founder Paige Bellissimo were local community supporters, including Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig, Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone, Councilwoman Tanya Siskind, Councilman Michael Drahos, Councilman John McGovern, Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth, County Commissioner Hal Valeche, County Commissioner Greg Weiss, County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and longtime local news anchor Roxanne Stein.
“As part of our strategy for 2020 to 2030, we want to further encourage and strengthen invaluable partnerships,” Paige Bellissimo said. “The encouragements and true camaraderie witnessed on social media between nonprofits during the selection process, was heartwarming and inspiring. We look forward to working with many of the organizations in the months to come in an effort to amplify the event’s impact. Our objective is to not only give them a financial ‘leg up,’ but also increase their visibility and provide the opportunity to connect with each other to better serve the community.”
Jeff DeMario, CEO of Vita Nova, was excited to have his nonprofit chosen to participate.
“Thank you for this opportunity,” he said “It is because of people and teams like those from the Great Charity Challenge that gives us hope that there are still people who believe in helping others and joining causes like ours. Thank you for that. We thank you from each and every homeless and older foster youth we serve.”
Future charity drawings will be held at random during the first weeks of the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival, and the final two wild card teams will be drawn the night of the event.
Equestrian Sport Productions, the PBIEC operating organization that oversees equestrian events at the venue throughout the year, donates the facility, staff and infrastructure to ensure the success of the charitable event and guarantees that 100 percent of the funds raised are redistributed in the community.
The GCC competition will offer free general admission and will be held Saturday, Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. at the PBIEC, during WEF’s Saturday Night Lights. Free parking will be located nearby at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival show grounds.
With riders dressed up in costumes and horses adorned to match them, this year’s theme of “Broadway Musicals” will pay recognition to the wisdom commonly found in these shows. An art contest and gallery involving all 12 Wellington public schools will highlight #NationalFreedomDay using recyclable materials.
Interested in joining the event? Donations and sponsorships from local families, foundations, businesses, vendors, exhibitors and spectators, ranging from $50 to $50,000, are what make the event reach its fundraising goal of more than $1 million every year. Customized sponsorship opportunities start at $500, while donations of all levels are welcome. For the latest event information and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.greatcharitychallenge.com.