Edited Press Release
Wellington, FL – February 6, 2022 – The Great Charity Challenge sponsored by Fidelity Investments® (GCC) welcomed back supporters and enthusiasts on Saturday, February 5, 2022, to what is typically the biggest night of the 13-week Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). In whimsical fashion, 33 teams of equestrians and their mounts, representing local non-profit organizations, took to the ring to compete for a share of more than $1.7 million in prize money. The competitive yet gracious atmosphere was back in full force, and this year the invaluable feeling of giving back to the community was felt by people of all ages, with the help of animals of all sizes.
Held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida, for the past 13 years, the GCC has become a highlight of the winter season and has distributed a stunning $17.5 million to 292 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 more than 50 Palm Beach County charities every year. Each team is made up of junior and amateur riders competing side-by-side with top professionals, including Olympians, and all teams are paired with randomly selected Palm Beach County charities.
In addition to the 33 charities that were part of the GCC competition, an additional 40 nonprofits received funding through grants that were awarded leading up to the event. Thanks to many new sponsors in 2022, many charities benefited from exciting new initiatives like the Pet Parade and Costume Contest, which awarded $24,000 in grants, as well as the #BootsforBooks campaign, which will award at least $70,000 in grants to charities that will be announced on February 14, 2022. For a full list of benefiting non-profit organizations, please visit: www.GreatCharityChallenge.com
“Seeing the resiliency our community has shown over the past two years has been both humbling and inspiring. While helping to meet the immediate needs of those in our community, these challenging times have also proven to us the importance of long-term sustainable change,” said GCC co-founder Mark Bellissimo. “Bringing everyone back in a bigger and better fashion not only brings our community even closer, but also sets up those organizations serving our community for long-term success.”
Many groups deserved thanks this year, including: The Ziegler Family Foundation, a significant supporter since their creation of the Grand Prix Society in 2016; The Doyle Family Foundation and their dedication to supporting volunteerism; The Postage Stamp Farm Foundation for encouraging a younger generation to find the fun in giving back; Artemis Farms and Swede Ventures for generously supporting the #BootsForBooks movement; Evergate Stables; and new this year, Francoise Rambach for changing the lives of many with the largest donation ever facilitated through the GCC.
“The fact that Equestrian Sport Productions and Global Equestrian Group cover all costs associated with the event makes the GCC quite unique,” added GCC Executive Director Anne Caroline Valtin. “One hundred percent of the funds raised go straight back to work in our community, creating long-term impact. We are extremely humbled by the level of support witnessed this year and simply can’t thank our donors and sponsors enough for joining forces in championing this community movement.”
This year’s theme challenged us all to dig deep into our imaginations while also capitalizing on a great need in our community. Inspired by their favorite childhood story books, riders dressed up in costumes with horses adorned to match. Enjoying a story book, however, is a luxury many of us take for granted. This year’s #BootsForBooks campaign helped raise awareness for the need for literacy programming in our community. At least $70,000 was raised and will be distributed to organizations with literacy-focused programming. These funds will directly place books into the hands of adults and children and provide them with the support to learn, read, and grow.
The winning team of riders: Caroline Mawhinney, Mia Albelo, and Jessica Mendoza, sponsored by team sponsor Sexton Engineering and corporate sponsor Triple M Farms, came in the ring representing “The Ugly Duckling” and finished with a time of 93.779 seconds. Their strategy and teamwork paid off for Wellington PTA/PTO/PTSA, a local non-profit organization that helps all schools in Wellington, earning them the top prize of $100,000. The sliding scale for the balance of the proceeds, down to 33rd place winning a minimum of $15,000, ensured that everyone was a winner.
Team sponsor Sexton Engineering has been involved with the Great Charity Challenge since its inception.
“I’d like to congratulate the young ladies on this winning team tonight and just say that it’s truly incredible to see young people striving to be on top of the world and help our charities that need it,” said Mike Sexton of Sexton Engineering. “The Great Charity Challenge has given Wellington and Palm Beach County insight to a world that most people never see, and it has allowed us corporations that work with charities to get to know so many more of them. It is a terrific event.”
“We are so grateful for this event because this money, that we wouldn’t get any other way, allows us to really look at our program and close the gap for those kids that need it most. This event has created a permanent place for Wellington schools and that tells us their heart is in this with us,” explained Wellington PTA/PTO/PTSA representatives.
“It’s incredible to combine your passion of riding and to do something good in the world and our local community,” said 17-year-old Albelo. “To be able to help these charities and use our riding to have this incredible effect in the global community is incredible, and I am honored to have this opportunity.”
“The feeling is indescribable,” added Mawhinney, who is 16 years old. “These organizations deserve it all, and I’m so grateful our team was able to raise that much money for our charity.”
“It’s an incredible cause, and it’s just amazing to be a part of it, especially with such a fun team,” finished professional show jumper Mendoza.
Coming in second place was the team for Friends of Palm Beach, sponsored by The Lignelli Family and corporate sponsor La Victoria Farm. The team consisted of Grace Debney, Alexa Elle Lignelli, and Evan Coluccio, who were just over a second shy of the win in 94.885 seconds, earning $90,000 for their charity.
Friends of Foster Children finished third and won $80,000 with a time of 95.075 seconds. The team was made up of Lindsay Tomeu, Olivia Sweetnam, and Shane Sweetnam, sponsored by Spy Coast & Preston and corporate sponsors Merryburn Farm.
“Fidelity Investments is committed to making a difference in the communities where we work and live, and we were proud to be the presenting sponsor of the Winter Equestrian Festival and the 13th edition of the Great Charity Challenge. This important event distributed over $1.7 million to more than 50 charities in the Palm Beach community, which will help assist populations most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dave Cvercko, Regional Head of Fidelity’s South-Central Investor Centers.
In the spirit of collaboration, United Way of Palm Beach County joined forces again with the GCC, enabling spectators near and far to donate to the event online for the first time.
Grant drawings and surprise bonuses also took place leading up to the event’s 13th edition. Thanks to the annual support of the Ziegler Family Foundation, five non-profits were surprised with $10,000 grants. New this year, the GCC awarded three $2,500 grants to organizations who were GCC’s biggest cheerleaders on social media. Additionally, the team at GCC was so inspired by the many submissions for the Doyle Family Foundation Volunteer Initiative that it awarded three additional grants on their behalf. Lastly, thanks to the highly-coveted lottery drum and beloved supporters from all walks of life, non-profits were randomly awarded grants ranging from $1,000 to $7,000. For a full list of grants and donations made through this year, go to www.GreatCharityChallenge.com.
“Seeing how impactful a united community can be has been more than inspiring,” commented GCC Event and Marketing Coordinator, Kelly Arani. “It is an honor to be part of a movement with such generous donors who trust the GCC to direct their support to deserving organizations. Our dedicated charities, riders, and donors all have the same goal: empowering nonprofits. Seeing that goal become a reality on GCC night is just incredible.”
More information on the competition and winning charities of the 2022 GCC will be available via www.greatcharitychallenge.com.