WELLINGTON, FL – March 17, 2008 – The Challenge of the Americas is pleased to announce that the event held on March 8, 2008, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL, raised $300,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“I am so pleased to announce that we are able to donate $300,000 for breast cancer research,” said Mary Ross, founder and chairman of the Challenge of the Americas (COTA). “In addition to the funds that sponsors and patrons donated, there are also many people to thank who contributed their time, their services, and their products to make this event a financial success. Foremost, I would like to thank my co-chairs, Tamara Gerber and Elizabeth Zimski, who were with me every step of the way in creating the competition format, planning the gala, and working with our sponsors and patrons. I could not have done it without them.”
Ross noted that sponsor contributions, both in funds and donations, significantly helped the COTA effort. One of the primary cost-savers this year was the donation of the use of the facilities at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. “We did not have to take money from the event’s budget to pay for a venue this year. Venue rental in previous years has taken a big chunk of our budget,” Ross pointed out. Honorary Chairpersons Katherine and Mark Bellissimo, through their Equestrian Sport Productions, donated the use of this year’s Challenge venue.
Ross related that this year’s COTA saved thousands of dollars in insurance costs as well, due to the generous donation of coverage by Cunningham & Cunningham Livestock Insurance, Inc. The Monroe, NY, based company has donated coverage every year for the past seven editions of the event.
“We also have sponsors who donate special touches to the festivities, which we otherwise could not afford to do at the caliber they provide,” said Ross. “And that includes the cocktail reception that Hampton Green sponsored, the wines donated by King Ferry Winery, and the hundreds of pink roses for the gala centerpieces that Red Barn Feed & Supply flies in from Colombia every year. It’s also a nice treat for our gala patrons to receive the traditional gift bag and we had wonderful goodies donated this year from Dark Horse Chocolates and Donna Karan, Inc.”
Ross noted that the riders and judges also received gifts, compliments of Neiman Marcus. In addition, all eight members of the winning team at this year’s COTA received a Therapeutic Blanket from Back on Track.
Helping outfit the three teams competing in the COTA this year, four topnotch tack shops and equipment suppliers – Horse of Course, Dover Saddlery, Ecogold, and Personalized Products – donated saddle pads for the COTA riders. “We require that our riders wear classic Grand Prix show clothes for the High Jump and the Musical Quadrille, so it’s absolutely great that they all get brand new matching pads for their teams,” Ross said.
Ross pointed out the significant role that her promotional partners – Dressage at Devon, DressageDaily.com, Radio Station 97.9 WRMF, and the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) – played in helping to get the word out about the event and increase attendance. Plus, Miriam Morgan and her EquestrianGraphics.com created the COTA website, program, and poster. “Our promotional budget is extremely tight, so we depend on the donated publicity and creative contributions of these topnotch organizations to help publicize the Challenge nationally and locally,” said Ross. “Since we were once again a sell-out at the gala, I’d say they did an excellent job!”
The major fundraising element of the 2008 COTA was table sales at the Challenge Gala – the dinner/dance that follows the competition. The Challenge Gala has been a sold-out event every year since its inception. Ross has changed locations for the gala four times over the years, and has added space each year to accommodate the growing number of patrons. This year, a record 750 guests attended the Challenge Gala in the expansive International Club. Three tiers of table pricing, ranging from $2,000 to $6,500, accommodated guests at tables of eight, filling the venue with nearly 100 tables.
At each place setting at the Challenge Gala, a card was offered on which guests could pledge additional contributions to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. At the gala, a Silent Auction provided another opportunity for guests to add to the fundraising effort.
Expanded seating in the General Admission category for the 2008 COTA also contributed to this year’s fundraising success. Tickets were available at the gate for $20 each on the night of the event.
The COTA competition featured three teams – each sponsored by companies who have returned for several years running –Purina Mills, Morgan Stanley, and SSG Gloves. “Their donations as team sponsors are significant to our fundraising, and not only that but they’re all companies who love this event and are committed to helping with funding breast cancer research,” related Ross. “I feel very lucky to have the support of these particular companies.”
The centerpiece of the Challenge of the Americas is the three teams competing in the High Jump and Musical Quadrilles, and Ross noted the huge contribution of those involved, including the riders, horse owners, coaches, choreographers, soundtrack producers, judges, and jump crew. Ross also noted that a support crew for the horses is also provided on site through sponsors Palm Beach Equine Veterinary Clinic and Pepe Lara of Palm Beach Farriers.
“The High Jump adds a whole new element and audience to our event. Jose ‘Pepe’ Gamarra is our point man for putting the teams of jumpers together, and we depend on his expertise. Steve Stephens and his crew did a great job in formatting and supervising the High Jump competition,” said Ross. “The quadrille participants spend months creating and practicing these quadrilles, which are the main draw for our event. I can’t thank them enough for the huge donation of time they put into this. Our announcer, Brian O’Connor, does a fabulous job every year of keeping track of the action, dealing with last-minute changes, and boosting the audience excitement – he is essential to our event. The Challenge is also lucky to have a Host Committee with over 30 members who donated their time to making this year’s Challenge such a success.”
Ross noted that with the tremendous corps of volunteers involved in the COTA, Volunteer Coordinator Kim Chisholm was key in organizing their activities. “Kim supervises the whole team of volunteers, from signing them up to coordinating their roles at the event,” related Ross. “I especially congratulate her on the super job she did with the volunteers checking in 750 guests plus the General Admission. It was quite an undertaking, but Kim set up a super system and streamlined the process. It was the smoothest and quickest COTA check-in we’ve ever had.”
The reward for everyone involved in the Challenge of the Americas is seeing the amount of money raised for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Ross noted. “Everyone who worked with the event, and all those who contributed by attending, are responsible for the $300,000 contribution we can make this year, and they can all be very proud of that,” stated Ross. “I’m looking forward to working with everyone again for the 2009 Challenge of the Americas.”
For more information about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, visit www.bcrfcure.org. For more information on the Challenge of the Americas, visit www.challengeoftheamericas.com.
2008 Challenge of the Americas Teams
Team USA Purina Mills
High Jump: Todd Minikus and Emily Williams. Musical Quadrille: Lynda Alicki, Pamela Goodrich, Chris Hickey, Susan Jaccoma, and Bent Jensen, and Betsy Steiner. Coach: George Williams. Choreography/Soundtrack: Terry Gallo of Klassic Kur.
Team Can/Am SSG Gloves
High Jump: Ainsley Vince and Martin Hoygens. Musical Quadrille: Jacqueline Brooks, Jacqueline Paxton, Kayce Redmond, Chris Saunders, Gary Vander Ploeg, and Simone Williams. Coach: Eva-Marie Pracht.
Team International Morgan Stanley
High Jump: Darragh Kerrins and Eduardo Salas. Musical Quadrille: Marco Bernal, Patrick Burssens, Mikala Munter Gundersen, Karen Lipp, Cathy Morelli, and Silke Rembacz. Choreographer/Coach/Music Selection: Beth Zimski. Soundtrack: Marlene Whitaker of Custom Freestyles, Inc.