Shane Sweetnam and Heart on Fire ©Sportfot.
Wellington, FL – February 6, 2021 – HOPE: one word, four letters and so much more. For 46 Palm Beach County Charities, the feeling of hope shifted into a reality on Saturday, February 6, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). What is usually the biggest night of the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), the Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® (GCC) pivoted to a blend of in-person competition for riders and virtual celebration for charities and supporters. Those supporters cheered as equestrians and their mounts, representing local non-profit organizations, competed for a share of more than $1 million in prize money.
Held at PBIEC in Wellington, Palm Beach County, Florida the past 12 years, the GCC has become a highlight of the winter season and has distributed a stunning $15,928,227.66 to 276 local non-profit organizations.
Determined to show the power of united communities, the GCC is an exciting show jumping event that combines equestrian sports and philanthropy, bringing hope to Palm Beach County charities every year. Three riders made up the top team of the night out of 23 pro-am combinations, which are paired with randomly selected Palm Beach County charities. Each team was made up of junior and amateur riders competing side-by-side with top professionals, including Olympians.
In addition to the 23 charities that were part of the GCC competition, an additional 24 non-profits received funding through grants that were awarded leading up to the event. For a full list of benefiting non-profit organizations, we invite you to visit: www.GreatCharityChallenge.com.
“Seeing the level of need in our community and knowing how difficult the past year has been, we quickly realized that we couldn’t turn our backs on our most vulnerable neighbors,” said GCC co-founder Mark Bellissimo. “We are truly grateful to see that the community was able to adapt to this format while stepping up to provide crucial funding to local organizations.”
A moment of silence at the beginning of the event paid recognition to all of the friends of GCC we lost and those who we lost to the pandemic in the past year.
Following a year of uncertainties and challenges, the GCC featured riders dressed up in costumes and horses adorned to match them, paying recognition to the #Heroes who stepped up during the pandemic as well as those who have inspired us to push beyond our own limits and driven us to “dream bigger.”
The winning team of riders – Lindsey Tomeu riding Bonapart, Ashley Vogel on Lucy in the Sky, and Shane Sweetnam aboard Heart on Fire – sponsored by team sponsor Spy Coast and Preston and corporate sponsor Diamante Dressage, came in the ring representing the United States Army as their heroes and finished with a time of 91.664 seconds. Their strategy and teamwork paid off for their assigned charity YWCA of Palm Beach County, a local non-profit organization that is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all, earning them the top prize of $100,000. The sliding scale for the balance of the proceeds, down to 22nd place winning a minimum of $15,000, ensured that everyone was a winner.
For more information and results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.