By Heather Vaxer
Photos by Farah Butt of Equine Photoz
Have you ever considered how lucky we are as horsemen to have the opportunity to ride horses; let alone being able to afford the expenses? Give a Buck is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support therapeutic riding centers. The charity was formed in 2013 by Sissy DeMaria and began funding the Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast in Vero Beach, Fla., which provides therapeutic riding programs for children and adults with disabilities.
Since then, Give a Buck has spread throughout Florida, and now includes chapters in Georgia and North Carolina. Dr. Heather Kuhl, co-founder and vice president of Give a Buck, loved DeMaria’s idea and what it stands for, which caused her to jump right in at the start. Give a Buck asks horse owners to give as little as a $1, a buck – or as much as they can – added to their monthly boarding payment, to therapeutic riding programs for children and adults with physical or mental disabilities. The program also aids those who are economically disadvantaged.
At the core of Give a Buck is the Young Ambassador (YA) program, which gives teens and young adults, ages 7 to 17, the chance to support the special mission to ensure that no one is denied access to this life changing therapy. The YA program was created by Isabel Ernst, 13, and is critical to Give a Buck’s success and mission. Isabel, who acts as president, and Hana Bieling, vice president, lead the Young Ambassadors monthly during the school year at meetings and assist with a variety of fundraisers.
Not only do the ambassadors value compassion and responsibility, but they all share a common love for horses. The Young Ambassadors participate by selling Give a Buck merchandise, including t-shirts, hats, polo shirts, and bumper stickers at horse shows and serving on committees for social media, gratitude, hospitality, and publicity.
Annually, the ambassadors work and prepare for the Jump for the Children Gala at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. At this fundraiser, kids 7-17 compete in a pony derby during the day. This year’s Jump for the Children Pony Derby Classic will be held on March 11. Going into the night, there is a gala held to fund raise for the charity, and gives competitors the chance to party after a long horse show day.
The gala holds a silent auction and accepts donations throughout the night. Every ambassador on this annual event is seen working hard setting up and putting it together from start to finish. The overall idea of the Young Ambassador program is to encourage others to become involved through leadership and selfless actions.
Donations are currently provided to the Appalachian Therapeutic Riding Center, Good Hope Equestrian Training Center, Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast, Stable Place of Davie, Naples Equestrian Challenge, and Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center. All of the therapeutic riding centers offer everyone with a disability the opportunity to experience how horses can help and heal them. With the assistance of the Young Ambassadors and selfless volunteers, Give a Buck is able to assist those who need it the most.
TPH Intern, HEATHER VAXER, 17, Delray Beach, FL, is a senior at G-Star School of the Arts in the IB program. She has a passion for filmmaking and is currently riding in Wellington.