The 17th annual Heart of the West fundraiser was called a “wonderful success” by Carousel Ranch executive director Denise Tomey.
The event, which attracted more than 500 guests to the Agua Dulce Airport on Saturday night, raised nearly $100,000 from the live auction and $70,000 for the fund-a-need program.
The final total for the night won’t be known until all the proceeds are added up from drink and casino sales, silent auction items, sponsorships and other donations.
“In the 17 years we’ve done this event I know we’ve never raised what we’ve raised tonight, far more than we ever have before,” said Tomey. “I don’t know the final totals yet, but it is far more than what we’ve ever raised – literally double on the fund-a-need.”
Tomey said attendance was up as well.
“We have at least 100 more guests attending tonight than last year,” she said. “We haven’t had this many people here since 2009. Tonight has been very successful.”
The annual dinner, auction and children’s riding demonstration benefited Carousel Ranch, a therapeutic riding ranch.
Carousel Ranch provides equestrian therapy to the disabled.
“Therapeutic riding achieves improved coordination, muscle strength, joint mobility, perceptual skills and self confidence,” said Tomey. “Almost every disabled person can benefit from therapeutic riding. We have seen major benefits for our riders who have come to us with disabilities that range from cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism, brain injury, stroke, learning disorders and emotional problems.”
Guests gathered before the sun went down at a makeshift riding arena as Carousel Ranch clients Nata Gomez, 7, Junior Hernandez, 8, Katy Tennesen, 14, Olive Haase, 4 and Desmond Gabriel, 5, demonstrated the skills they have learned during riding sessions at Carousel Ranch.
The children, challenged by a variety of issues from autism, childhood apraxia, congenital myotonic dystrophy and Aicardi syndrome, were rewarded with applause from the Heart of the West guests.
It was an emotional scene with many of the guests wiping tears from their eyes.
At the end of the demonstration each rider was presented with a blue award ribbon by Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises, presenting sponsor of Heart of the West.
Carousel Ranch was founded 16 years ago by Tomey and Becky Graham, Carousel Ranch program director.
“Our first generation of Carousel students have become adults,” said Tomey. “One of first students is now married and living in Rhode Island and another has written and produced her own play,” she said. “Others are in college and two are on the staff at Carousel Ranch. There are more successes then we can recount.”
Tomey said Dana Sachs, a fixture in the riding demonstration for many years, recently gave birth to a daughter, Lily, now 3 months old.
After Tomey and Graham thanked the guests for attending the live auction, led by Mark Drilling of Stokes Auction Group began.
Among the most sought after items in the live auction was a seven-week-old purebred standard poodle puppy from Bloomingdale Poodles. A spirited bidding war found Teri Fox, attending the event with the Paul A. Hughes Foundation, the winner of the black, female puppy.
Michael and Teri Fox also purchased a Los Angeles Kings hockey package for $2,000.
“I’m thrilled, it’s center court, it’s going to be a good night,” Michael Fox said.
The items that brought in the biggest bids were a 15-day Hawaiian Islands Princess cruise, which earned $10,500 for Carousel Ranch after it was doubled up and purchased by two separate bidders, and an ocean front home in the Philippines that went for $4,250.
Wayne Crawford purchased the head table for the 2014 Heart of the West event for $12,000.
“I love Carousel Ranch and every year I cry more than the year before,” he said.
Crawford, a long time supporter of Carousel Ranch, addressed the crowd before the fund-a-need request was made and explained to guests that this year’s project would benefit the “Raise the Roof” campaign to build a $500,000 covered arena.
“We have a $75,000 grant, but only if we proceed immediately putting up the covered arena,” he said. “The covered arena is very important because right now we lose about 20 percent of our lessons to foul weather.”
Tomey said more than 450 sessions were cancelled in 2012 because of heat or rain.
Carousel Ranch has been raising money for several years to build the covered arena and Crawford said the organization was only $150,000 short of the goal.
“I’m asking everybody here to dig deep, please give from your heart,” Crawford said.
Tomey said the success of the fund-a-need request will result in construction beginning this fall on the covered arena.
“It’s finally going to happen,” she said.
For more information about donating to Carousel Ranch or to learn about the programs or volunteer opportunities visit www.carouselranch.org, call 661-268-8010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Source: Santa Clarita News