Lindsay Tomeu, dressed as Wendy from Peter Pan, and Bonapart.
Wellington, FL – February 6, 2016 – Horses and riders braved pouring rain in the name of giving on Saturday night as the 7th Annual Great Charity Challenge, presented by Fidelity Investments® (GCC), was featured during week four of the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Shane Sweetnam, Kaely Tomeu, and Lindsay Tomeu were the winning team riders on behalf of the George Snow Scholarship Fund, team sponsors Spy Coast & Preston, and corporate sponsor Fidelity Investments® in the night’s event at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL.
In its seventh year, the Great Charity Challenge awarded over $1.65 million dollars in 2016, with 100% of proceeds distributed in full to 50 Palm Beach County charities, bringing the event up to $9.2 million distributed to date. The competition is a pro-am team relay with each team made up of junior and amateur riders competing side by side with top professionals.
Mark Bellissimo, who founded the GCC with his daughter Paige, said, “We truly saw the dedication of everyone involved in this event tonight. The weather was not on our side, but the horses, riders, grooms, trainers, sponsors, charity representatives, spectators, and staff braved some incredible weather conditions for this special event. We can’t thank them enough. We know how much of an impact the GCC has for Palm Beach County charities, and for everyone to stick through it means so much. Congratulations to all of our riders, charities, and sponsors for a wonderful night, despite the rain.”
Spy Coast & Preston sponsored this year’s winning team in addition to corporate sponsor Fidelity Investments®. The theme of the event was “fairy tales,” and the top three riders dressed the part of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and Wendy from the famous children’s story. Lindsay Tomeu (dressed as Wendy) jumped first at the 1.10m height with Bonapart, a 15-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding. Kaely Tomeu (Tinker Bell) was next to go riding Belle Bleu S, a 15-year-old Holsteiner mare. Shane Sweetnam (as Peter Pan) anchored the team at the 1.30m level, flying through the course aboard Darero, an eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. Together, the horses and riders completed the fastest time of 89.55 seconds to win the top prize of $150,000 for their charity.
“It feels really good. It is more exciting that it is for a good cause and not just for our own satisfaction,” Kaely Tomeu stated.
Her younger sister, Lindsay, added, “I am thrilled. I honestly thought we would never win it. Every year we think we have a chance and something happens, so I am delighted.”
Sweetnam remarked, “Obviously we had a really strong team this year. Kaely wins a lot, Lindsay wins a lot, and I had a nice horse that has just come into the country and was really good out there. It is nice for the George Snow charity. They told us beforehand that if they went over $60,000, there was a donor that was going to give an extra $100,000, which is really great, so that gave us an extra incentive to give it as much as we could.
“You never know how things are going to go here. There are so many fast riders, we would have been happy to be in the top three,” Sweetnam added. “It is great for the foundation and a great cause. Every year this event gets bigger. Mark (Bellissimo) and the team have done an incredible job.”
The George Snow Scholarship Fund is dedicated to helping individuals in financial need through a scholarship program for residents of Palm Beach County who are continuing their education. Their goal is to help deserving individuals within the community achieve their career goals, an objective which has the added benefit of bettering the community at large. In short, their goal is to insure that no deserving scholar in the community will be deprived of higher education because of a shortage of funds.
Timothy Snow, president of the George Snow Scholarship Fund, was on hand for the evening and proudly accepted the winning check on behalf of his organization.
“We were in the GCC one of the first years, and we have been trying to get back in ever since,” Snow said of the event. “We were thrilled to be chosen this year and the fact that we won it is an amazing blessing. I am essentially speechless.”
Snow went on to speak about watching the team’s winning round and how the money will help his organization.
“First of all, I want to thank every rider that rode in this event tonight,” Snow stated. “With the conditions that we had with the rain, they really had a lot of heart, and they gave a lot to all the charities that are going to benefit here tonight. It was an amazing event all the way around. When our team came out, we did not really know what to expect. We met our team earlier and they seemed very confident, so that felt good. But when they went out and they turned in the time that they did, which was so substantially under everybody else, I could not believe it. It was amazing. They are obviously a very talented team and they showed it tonight for sure.”
Since its inception the George Snow Scholarship Fund has awarded over 7.3 million dollars in educational grants. In the year 2015 alone, the Scholarship Fund awarded $615,791.15 in scholarships and scholar support services to 67 students. This level of support places the Fund as one of Palm Beach County’s largest sources of educational grants. The Fund aims to grant at least one award to each public high school in Palm Beach County. Known as experts in scholarship administration, the George Snow Scholarship Fund has developed a reputation for creating innovative programs, which address the educational needs of those in our community.
“Our organization helps young people in Palm Beach County continue their education on to college,” Snow detailed. “What we look for are young people who have financial need, but are what I like to call ‘rock stars’. They are very talented, they have great academics, they are active in their school and community, but most all have overcome major challenges in their life. There are all kinds of circumstances, and yet they have not allowed those circumstances to impede their success, and they are at the top of their peer groups. We are there for them, and what sets us apart from most every other organization of our kind as scholarship providers, is they become part of our family. We buy them computers if they need them to go to school, we get their college physicals for them, we just wrote a check to a young lady who needed a root canal, so we have an emergency fund for them, and many different programs. We do for them what we would all do for our own sons and daughters.”
Snow also spoke of the extremely generous anonymous donor who gave the charity an additional $100,000 for their win.
“He said that if we had reached the $60,000 level, he would give us an additional $100,000, so tonight is essentially a quarter-of-a-million dollar night for us,” Snow declared. “It is unbelievable. It is so special, and the people who organize this have no idea the good that they are doing in our county. They are a huge blessing to so many people, and we thank them for that.”
Coming in second place was the team for Bella’s Angels, sponsored by EnTrust as well as corporate sponsor Wellington Equestrian Realty. The team of Sydney Shulman, Cloe Hymowitz, and Sophie Rueben completed the course with a combined time of 93.94 seconds to earn $125,000 for their charity.
Kids’ Cancer Foundation finished third for the second year in a row and won $112,500.The team was made up of Ignacio Maurin, Emanuel Andrade, and Victoria Karam, sponsored by Hollow Creek and corporate sponsor Meralex Farm. They finished with a combined total of 94.48 seconds.
The GCC features a sliding scale for the balance of the proceeds down to $15,500 for 37th place, ensuring that everyone is a winner.
GCC Executive Director Anne Caroline Valtin said, “Tonight’s class was a true demonstration of sportsmanship and philanthropy. Even with some of strongest rains we’ve experienced this winter, the teams and riders did not back down. Their dedication to these organizations was nothing short of stoic. We can’t thank them enough for braving the weather, all in the name of helping!”
New for 2016, the Grand Prix Society was formed for donors over $50,000 by the Ziegler Family Foundation. This new initiative offers donors the opportunity to designate all or part of their support to a limited list of cornerstone Palm Beach County nonprofit organizations, which resulted in an additional $50,000 of grants distributed during the evening.
More information on the competition and winning charities of the 2016 GCC will be available soon. For more information on the GCC, please visit www.greatcharitychallenge.com.
Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.