Riders Darragh Kenny, Catherine Pasmore, and Meg O’Mara were the winning team of the fourth annual FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments (FTI GCC) on behalf of their charity JDRF (the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) on Saturday evening at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF). Sponsored by Jessie Pasmore and Martha Jolicoeur and corporate sponsor Stone Hill Farm, the three riders made up the top team of the night over 33 other pro-am teams representing Palm Beach County charities.
A signature event of the twelve-week FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, this year’s FTI GCC will distribute approximately $1.5 million to the 34 lucky Palm Beach County charities that were chosen at random to be represented in the pro-am team relay competition. Each team was made up of junior and amateur riders competing side by side with top professionals.
A crowd of over 5,000 spectators came out to enjoy the family fun event as part of the “Saturday Night Lights” series. The JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) was the winning team of the night with riders Meg O’Mara, Catherine Pasmore, and Darragh Kenny. O’Mara did have one rail down, but the trio’s speedy trips made up for it and their time of 92.361 seconds won the top prize of $150,000 for their charity.
Coming in second was College for Kids – Take Stock in Children, sponsored by the Mirabal Family and G&C Farm as well as corporate sponsor Palm Beach Illustrated. The team consisted of three Venezuelan riders from G&C Farm, including youngest rider Maria Emilia Chapellin Mirabal, Carolina Chapellin Mirabal and professional Luis Fernando Larrazabal with a combined time of 93.248 seconds to earn $125,000.
The first of three wild card charities drawn at the during the night, the Junior League of the Palm Beaches finished third and won $100,000. The team, made up of Perla Boord, Lillie Keenan, and David Blake, was sponsored by Pine Hollow Farm and corporate sponsor Gut Einhaus. They finished with a time of 93.998 seconds overall.
As the professional representative for the JDRF team, Irish rider Darragh Kenny (who turns 25 on Thursday) was thrilled to be competing in the event for the first time. Kenny is known for his speed, and rode the same horse Vanotrouska, owned by Megan Bifano, that he showed in week one’s $55,000 Nespresso Battle of the Sexes.
Commenting on the night, Kenny smiled, “It was fantastic. It is a great atmosphere. I think it is a really good thing that they have here and it is for a great cause. I have never ridden for charity before but I think it is great to have the chance to do that. It is enjoyable for everybody and it is nice that we are giving back to something as well. I would for sure do this again in the future.”
When asked what advice he gave his teammates for the night, Kenny stated simply, “I just told them to win. There was no plan, just go as fast as you can and leave the jumps up.”
Catherine Pasmore (20) was riding her veteran mount My Boy and was even more excited to ride for her randomly matched charity due to a personal connection to the JDRF. Pasmore’s uncle was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and passed away at a young age. The connection gave Pasmore extra inspiration.
“It is personal to me,” she stated. “Obviously all charities are a great cause, but riding for something that hits so close to home was very exciting. It gave me the extra drive to really go for it.”
Pasmore also enjoyed the camaraderie of the evening. “It is just a really fun class,” she declared. “We get to come out and work as a team and I think we all definitely pulled our weight; it was exciting.”
Eighteen-year-old Meg O’Mara echoed her teammates’ sentiments and explained that this was her first time even seeing the class let alone competing in it.
“I definitely was lucky to be able to watch all 24 teams before me because I didn’t really know how it went,” O’Mara noted. “I had a really fast horse, so I was happy about that.”
O’Mara showed Mavis Spencer’s Valencia in the class. She noted, “It was really fun. I would definitely do it every other year. This was my first type of team experience.”
Lora Hazelwood, Executive Director for JDRF, the greater Palm Beach County Chapter, was on hand to accept the $150,000 check for her great cause and cheer on the team. Hazelwood explained that this was the JDRF’s fourth year trying to get in to the FTI GCC.
“The first year we were too late when we applied,” Hazelwood admitted. “The first and second year that we did get in for the lottery we (weren’t chosen from the random draw). This year was our third year (being eligible) and we thought that three times would be the charm, but we had no expectation. We would have been thrilled with just $10,000. We are just completely overwhelmed.”
“It means a tremendous amount to win,” Hazelwood added. “This is a lot of money for any non-profit organization, especially coming off of a recession. This is the most exciting thing that has happened to us in a number of years. We were really pleased to learn that our team sponsor, Jessie Pasmore, has a personal connection to type-1 diabetes and we were not even aware of that. The teams are just randomly assigned, so we think there was some serendipity; there is no such thing as coincidence. We thought that was amazing.”
Source: Equestrian Sport Productions