Winter Equestrian Festival Great Charity Challenge Distributes Over $1 Million to Palm Beach Non-Profits

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Monica Preston of team sponsor Spy Coast and Preston, Ashley Vogel, Shane Sweetnam, Lindsey Tomeu, Lisa Lourie of team sponsor Spy Coast and Terri Kane of corporate Sponsor Diamante Dressage in the award ceremony.

WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 6, 2021–More than $1 Million was distributed to local non-profit organizations in the 12th annual Great Charity Challenge Saturday night with the winning team representing the U.S. Army sponsored by Spy Coast Farm and Diamante Dressage the corporate sponsor earning the top prize of $100,000 for YWCA of Palm Beach County.The GCC, a highlight of the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, distributed more than $1 million in prize money this year to bring the total to $15,928,227.66 to ­­­­276 local non-profit organizations over 12 years of the event.

The GCC is a show jumping event that combines equestrian sports and philanthropy with three riders making up the top team of the night out of 23 pro-am combinations. 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 presented by Fidelity Investments, an additional 24 non-profits received funding through grants that were awarded leading up to the event that featured riders dressed up in costumes and horses adorned to match. The format was a blend of in-person competition for riders and virtual celebration for charities and supporters, tailored to meet coronavirus restrictions.

“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.”

Co-founder Paige Bellissimo commented, “While this year’s event looked very different than our usual full stands, our focus remained the same: to ensure that local non-profit heroes receive a financial ‘leg up’ during these challenging times. We are so grateful for the support and generosity of the event sponsors and donors who make this possible!”

The winning team of riders–Lindsey Tomeu riding Bonapart, Ashley Vogel on Lucy in the Sky and Shane Sweetnam aboard Heart on Fire–represented the United States Army as their heroes and finished with a time of 91.664 seconds. Their strategy paid off the the assigned charity, YWCA of Palm Beach County, a local non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity earning 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.

Second place team of Edie Wetzel riding Annabelle, Charlotte McLaughlin aboard Elmo and Daniel Coyle on Essedon earned $90,000 for Junior Achievement of the Palm Beaches.

Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County finished third to win $80,000 with a team made up of Keira Foster on Ash Ville Rock, Olivia Markman riding Zanta Fee Van T Hofterrijckel and Zayna Rizvi aboard Chaplin W, sponsored by Peacock Ridge and corporate sponsor Rosner’s Appliances.