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Wellington Garden Club Helps Make The Community A More Beautiful Place

Wellington Garden Club Helps Make The Community A More Beautiful Place

“Gardening Makes a World of Difference” is the motto of the Wellington Garden Club, which has been helping to make the community a more beautiful place for nearly four decades.

Founded in October 1981 by a few local women who held meetings in one another’s living rooms, the club began with lots of good ideas and a few bylaws. Yet the women had the foresight to become part of something bigger, joining the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs just a few months later.

Founding members of the club included President Mary Clark, Vice President Mary Rowe, Treasurer Inge Parrish, Recording Secretary Paula Giambrone, Corresponding Secretary Judy Frank, and members Melinda Beasley, Connie Diforio, Marilyn Elliot, Mary Giovanetti, Phyllis Greenberg, Isabel Johnson, Grace Rocket, Alberta Weldon and Lily Wiggan.

“The club’s original scrapbook is interesting to look through,” said Jan Seagrave, the group’s current president. “The women used to do a bazaar; did landscaping for Habitat for Humanity homes; created little handmade programs; and typed up pages for a yearbook that we have professionally printed today. They did a lot of flower-arranging classes where now we have flower show judges and master gardeners as members, and the judges sometimes do arrangement classes.”

Over the past 40 years, the club has grown quite a bit, and with that growth came changes.

“We have added to what our mission statement and motto are, we’ve added activities, and we meet at the Wellington Community Center now,” Seagrave said. “There’s so much to what we do. The club has evolved over the years from that group of wonderful ladies who got it started to a club with more of a sense of community than we had before.”

Some of its original charter members remain on the roster, linking the past to the present. “It’s about how far we’ve come with the club and what we’ve learned in the past to bring forth to give to the community,” Seagrave explained.

The group continues to invite informative guest speakers to its meetings and hosts a biannual Garden Walk tour of members’ gardens, but it also established a butterfly garden at the Wellington Dog Park, currently maintained by the Boy Scouts; sends kids to ecology camp; offers scholarships to high school students interested in the earth sciences; and even honors the military.

This upcoming Memorial Day, the Wellington Garden Club will unveil a Gold Star plaque at the Wellington Veterans Memorial to honor family members of servicemen who died in the line of duty. This marker joins the Blue Star marker currently in place at the memorial, also donated by the Wellington Garden Club. The Blue Star marker was the result of a club fundraising effort, while the Gold Star marker was underwritten by a club member and her veteran husband.

“The markers are part of a national initiative,” Seagrave said. “We also partnered with the Village of Wellington. They gave us a place to put the marker, they allow us to have our ceremony there and they maintain it — and the beautiful landscaping around it.”

It was incoming President Maria Wolfe who led the marker charge.

“Being the daughter of a World War II and Korean War veteran, and spouse of a Vietnam veteran, honoring our servicemembers is very important to me,” she said. “When I found out that the National Garden Clubs had this program and the village didn’t have even one marker, I took it upon myself to do it. The Blue Star marker was dedicated on Veterans Day 2019.”

Wolfe spoke at the ceremony when the marker was unveiled. “We had 50 club members in the parade — everybody was just so excited to be a part of it and support it,” she said. “And now, as the pandemic slowly recedes, we felt like it was time to put in the Gold Star marker, and we’d like to invite all Gold Star families to attend the dedication, this time on Memorial Day.”

Twig Morris has been a member of the Wellington Garden Club for 15 years, joining just two years after she moved to Wellington.

“The club’s membership grew a lot after I joined. There were so many new communities opening up, and also the club was trying to get into as many local publications as possible,” Morris said. “We attracted new members during our garden tour and the plant sales we held at the Wellington Community Center. People bought plants and found out about the club.”

The Wellington Garden Club also began focusing more on the youth of the area, forming junior garden clubs and establishing a children’s community garden behind the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club in Wellington together with the Young Professionals of Wellington. “We meet every Tuesday at 3 p.m. with the kids,” Seagrave said. “We weed, trim, cut, plant — but mainly it’s the education, from planting the seed to reaping the harvest. A lot of these kids think that fruits and vegetables only come from Publix.”

Teaching local gardening is a key focus of the club today.

“We want our youth to learn about gardening, to love gardening and to respect the environment,” Morris said. “Our scholarship committee does a lot of fundraising. We donate $5,000 in scholarships to local students pursuing a degree in environmental sciences. We send kids to the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs’ SEEK [Save the Earth’s Environment through Knowledge] summer camp. We sponsored one young man for two years, and he was so inspired by the program that he went on to Duke University to study environmental law. That makes us proud.”

The club also provides enough funding to send seven to nine campers to Wekiva Youth Camp, a sleepaway camp near Apopka that is sponsored by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and is certified by the American Camping Association.

And although club bylaws prohibit political activity, e-mail blasts do go out informing members about meetings they may choose to attend as interested citizens. A recent Village of Wellington meeting where the future of a wetlands preserve was on the agenda was one such example.

“We are about education in the environmental and ecological areas,” Seagrave said. “As president, I want to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the club in 2021 and then, in 2022, the 40th anniversary of our joining the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs.”

People and plants — both are important to Wellington Garden Club members. “A lot of club presidents aren’t as lucky as I am,” Wolfe said. “They have so much paperwork to do. My therapy is to get in there and get my hands dirty — plop things in the ground and watch them grow.”

Learn more about the club at www.wellingtongardenclub.org.

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Show Jumper Catherine Tyree Perseveres To Develop A Thriving New Business

Show Jumper Catherine Tyree Perseveres To Develop A Thriving New Business

From the moment her mother sat her in the saddle, Catherine Tyree knew that her love for horses was larger than life. Her early success as a junior rider and young athlete at the top of the sport would lead to milestones such as representing the United States show jumping team at just 23 years old, an accomplishment only a small handful of people have the honor of reaching in their lifetime. What she did not realize, however, is that her love of the sport would evolve into a career and business that would both challenge and fulfill her more than ever before.

Under the tutelage of John Brennan and Missy Clark of North Run as a junior, Tyree made the switch to professional status at age 26. She spent one year working at North Run in order to gain more experience in the operations and logistics of running a competitive show barn.

In November 2019, Tyree made the decision to go out on her own, creating her own business, Catherine Tyree LLC, and settled in the heart of the Wellington community.

“My parents have always been incredibly supportive of my passion and dream of being in the sport, and they were very encouraging when I started thinking about starting my own business,” Tyree recalled. “My trainers gave me a wealth of knowledge and confidence in myself, which helped me believe that I could go out on my own. Both John and Missy have given me all the tools I needed to do the job right, and they have been incredibly supportive along the way, which I am very thankful for.”

But establishing the new business would not come without its fair share of challenges.

As Tyree began work to organize the foundation of the company and tackle the common challenges that first-time business owners face, the COVID-19 pandemic put an immediate halt to horse shows around the world, instantly changing the landscape of the equestrian industry and forcing Tyree to quickly pivot her strategy.

“There are a lot of growing pains when you are first starting a business. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking to go out on your own, and COVID-19 only made things more complicated,” Tyree explained. “In some ways, it was perfect timing, because we were able to stay in Wellington for longer than usual. I was able to refine things and really get a hold on what I wanted to do and how I wanted things to be run. On the flip side, without showing so much, I found it to be difficult to continue to put myself out there as an athlete. Looking back on it though, it was a blessing to be able to really take the time and not feel pressured to hit the ground running.”

Through the trials and tribulations of the first year, Tyree faced adversity with grace and grit. She learned from each experience and opportunity that arose and used her growing knowledge to excel in her business. She found solace in her friends and family, and she continued to expand Catherine Tyree LLC with new staff members, while also acquiring up-and-coming horses, one of her favorite aspects of building a high-performance show jumping program.

“You need the right people around you who understand that getting started is the hardest part, with many bumps along the road,” Tyree said. “If you have people who are willing to stick by your side and help in whatever way they can, it makes it a lot easier. You also need a good support system with people you can lean on when things get tough. You need people cheering you on and reminding you that these struggles are something everyone goes through. I’ve been lucky to have the right people behind me to keep nudging me forward and giving me encouragement every step of the way.”

Now 27 years old, Tyree’s perseverance through new situations and difficulties during her first year of running a business has only made her into a better rider, businesswoman and equestrian. While her passion still lies in developing young, inexperienced horses, she is eager to expand her business model into training other athletes. Tyree looks forward to sharing her love for the horses and sport with the growing team beside her. She encourages those contemplating starting a new business to be persistent in what they want and to believe in themselves.

“Having confidence in yourself no matter the circumstance is key. It’s always hard, no matter what sector you’re in, to start your own business,” she said. “I tell myself that the people who are successful are the ones who stay dedicated to their career and never lose sight of what they really want. I think when it gets tough, you just have to hold your head down, keep going and know that you’ll come out on the other side.”

To learn more about Catherine Tyree and her equestrian business, follow her on social media or visit www.catherinetyreellc.com.

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Danny & Ron’s Rescue Makes A Lasting Impact On The Community Through Efforts During The Pandemic

Danny & Ron’s Rescue Makes A Lasting Impact On The Community Through Efforts During The Pandemic

Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta’s mission for their namesake dog rescue has remained steadfast since its inception: to ensure dogs in need always have a safe, loving home of their own, and those who have not received the care they deserve are given a second chance at life.

Throughout the years, the duo has become known as a beacon of hope both here in Wellington and at their other home base in Camden, South Carolina, as a shining example of humanity in their quest to better the lives of all animals they come into contact with.

Robertshaw and Danta, mainstays of the Wellington community and partners for nearly 30 years, founded Danny & Ron’s Rescue and operate the rescue out of their home in Camden. The nonprofit is foster-based in Wellington. Lifelong equestrians who have dedicated their lives to dog rescue efforts and making a positive impact on their communities, they have been traveling to Wellington for 30 years to compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival, and they made the community their home when they purchased a house in 2000. Their desire to help animals and the people who love them live the best lives they can continues to drive their philanthropic efforts every day.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the uncertainty that gripped communities around the world was amplified for nonprofit organizations. With job loss and sickness that accompanied the pandemic, it became more and more difficult for people to provide for themselves and their four-legged family members. After first establishing health and safety protocols for their own staff members and volunteers, Robertshaw and Danta put their heads together to figure out how they could best aid those around them who needed it most.

With an average of 75 rescue dogs in “The Doghouse,” a name coined for their home from their documentary Life In The Doghouse, the team at Danny & Ron’s Rescue quickly adapted to the new safety protocols and adjusted to new methods of “meet and greets” for potential dog adopters. With supplies like toilet paper, paper towels and vital cleaning items in tight supply, it was a great challenge to find everything they needed in such large quantities to keep the operation running as normal. Nevertheless, they were able to keep their doors open for the houseful of dogs that relied on them, thanks to the help of each person who contributed to their mission, either with funds, supplies or time.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Robertshaw and Danta, with the help of their full-time rescue team as well as volunteers, have spearheaded food drive efforts to supply families and their pets in need with vital resources, allowing many to keep their animals in their homes. They have donated more than 95,000 pounds of dog food, distributed through the Feed the Hungry Pantry of Palm Beach County, since beginning their efforts last year. In addition, they have made contributions to Meals on Wheels of the Palm Beaches, local spay and neuter shelters, and Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control by pulling dogs from the shelter to find them loving homes throughout the years. Earlier this season, they received the Robb Report’s Horsepower Award for their continued philanthropic efforts in the equestrian community and beyond.

But Robertshaw and Danta have not sustained their rescue operation alone — they have depended heavily on donations from generous donors in the local community and beyond, allowing them to continue full steam ahead to make sure every dog living with them continues to receive care.

Contributions of all amounts help dogs receive a visit to the veterinarian, medication and follow-up treatment needed for routine and severe health challenges.

In the last year, 289 dogs found loving homes through Danny & Ron’s Rescue, pushing the number of dogs saved since the start of the rescue past 12,300. More than 110 dogs belonging to struggling families also received urgent and lifechanging veterinary care, and the rescue team was able to deliver vital supplies to animal rescue organizations after Hurricane Laura devastated Louisiana. Left homeless and abandoned, 17 dogs were taken to the safe haven of “The Doghouse” after the hurricane.

Robertshaw and Danta’s feature-length documentary Life in the Doghouse, from Ron Davis, the director of the award-winning film Harry & Snowman, was featured on Netflix and made major waves around the world after its release. Now available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, the film offers an inside look at the everyday operations of the dog rescue and inspires all to spread the word about their mission and make a positive impact on a local, national and global level.

To learn more about Danny & Ron’s Rescue, or to make a donation, visit www.dannyronsrescue.org.

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The Mother-Daughter Duo Julie And Lillian Khanna Are Changing Lives By Changing The Odds

The Mother-Daughter Duo Julie And Lillian Khanna Are Changing Lives By Changing The Odds

Being a mom is perhaps the most demanding yet rewarding job there is. But when you have the odds stacked against you, it takes a special kind of grit — and the support of community — to become the mother you yearn to be.

Wellington resident Julie Khanna knows something about that.

Raised by a hardworking single mother at a socioeconomic disadvantage here in Palm Beach County, she became a single mother herself as a teenager. Although she couldn’t finish high school with her friends, she sought a GED. And after overcoming many obstacles, Julie, a first-generation college graduate, completed her degree with young daughter Lillian at her side.

Today, as a successful entrepreneur and mother of three, Julie realizes what it took to change the odds for her own life as well as her children’s. As the recently appointed chair of the development committee at Community Partners of South Florida, she now has the chance to change the odds for others.

“I really fit the model of the teenagers that Community Partners of South Florida is trying to help,” Julie said. “They are committed to transforming the lives of children and families facing social, emotional and financial adversity. Looking back, I know if I had Community Partners in my corner, they could have been an advocate for me. Teens need someone to fight for them.”

Julie’s daughter Lillian is that someone.

As Julie’s first order of business as chair, she appointed 19-year-old Lillian to become a volunteer member. Believing in the power of youth, Julie knows that “real change happens through them.”

Lillian, like her mother, sees how she can be an advocate and a voice for change.

“I am especially grateful to have a position where I can bring the unique perspective of teenagers and share their concerns,” Lillian said. “My mom worked really hard to provide a life for me that wasn’t riddled with the same challenges she faced, but I can still be a voice for other young people in economically challenged groups and bring a realistic view of their challenges.”

Scott Hansel, CEO of Community Partners of South Florida, is thankful to have this mother-daughter team drive awareness and fundraising for the nonprofit agency.

“Julie’s lived experience as a single mother and Lillian’s advocacy for youth will benefit the parents and teens we serve tremendously,” he said. “They are deeply in touch with what it takes to help families build their own strengths and resiliency as we strive to do every day through a comprehensive system of supports, including health, housing and community.”

Julie and Lillian Khanna are no strangers to volunteerism. And they share one particular cause: youth. Julie has served the Boys & Girls Club here in Wellington for more than eight years through fundraising and supporting events, including the annual dinner-dance. She is also a board member of Prom Beach, collecting prom dresses for teenagers, a volunteer at the Soup Kitchen in Boynton Beach, and an advisory council member for Around Wellington.

Lillian, a communications major when she attended the Bak Middle School of the Arts and the Alexander W. Dreyfoos High School of the Arts, has used her voice to speak for her generation, which earned her a seat on the countywide youth council, Future Leaders United for Change, at just 16 years old.

A representative from the organization heard Lillian speak at a Wellington town hall meeting after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting about students’ concerns. That speech launched her early career as a youth advocate, eventually rising to a leadership position on the steering community for Future Leaders United for Change, a part of Palm Beach County’s Birth to 22: United for Brighter Futures Alliance that supports youth who are experiencing homelessness, in foster care or are facing other socio-economic challenges.

Lillian sees her role as a way for others to share youth voices and be heard to determine their own futures.

“We will never know a person’s full potential unless we give them an opportunity,” Lillian said. “Teenagers are more useful than anyone would ever think when you give them a position of power. Instead of being talked about, they need to be talked to. I was given that opportunity, and I’m using it to change my life and the lives of others.”

When you speak to Lillian, you can see the impact of a mother like Julie, who believes in “investing feverishly” in her children. Julie has instilled the value of volunteerism in all her children, as well as the spirit of entrepreneurship.

Lillian launched her own videography company, L Khanna Productions, at the age of 14, and today is producing videos for nonprofits and the equestrian community while a full-time student at Florida State University. Thirteen-year-old Nikhil, a communications major at Bak, started his own tech support business with the know-how to build computers piece by piece. Not to be outdone by her siblings, 12-year-old Devi owns and operates a home-ground spice business, Devi Masala, that she started at the age of eight, and counts Vanilla Ice and Sara Hopkins Ayala as customers. Her web site, www.devimasala.shop, was built by her brother.

Julie brings all her children’s businesses together to support her own, Khanna Connections, a communications firm specializing in medical and health industries that includes Wellington clients the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation/JDCHealth Specialty Center; the Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Disorders Institute of South Florida, the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. “Our work overlaps, and we all find ways to work together professionally,” Julie said.

The Khannas also keep much of their business in Wellington, and they are grateful for the lives they have been afforded during their 11 years living in the community. “Wellington has provided a lot of opportunities for my family,” Julie said. “For us, it’s about the relationships and friends we have made and how that has translated to our community involvement and our business.”

Lillian sees her relationship with her mother and her entire family in the same way she views her role with Community Partners of South Florida and their mission to partner with families to help them succeed. “We can accomplish on our own, but together we’re unstoppable!” she said.

To learn more about Community Partners of South Florida, visit www.cp-cto.org.

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Rachel Docekal Helping Local Nonprofits Adjust Their Fundraising Efforts For The Virtual Era

Rachel Docekal Helping Local Nonprofits Adjust Their Fundraising Efforts For The Virtual Era

Since the inception of charitable giving, the mechanics have remained the same: Get a group of like-minded people together. Discuss common concerns. Seek resources for a course of action.

Then last year, people could no longer gather together. For many organizations, it was a catastrophic situation, yet others knew of Rachel Docekal’s long career helping nonprofit organizations. Her firm was able to help groups overcome lockdowns and quarantines, which often had a drastic effect on charitable giving.

After years in the in-house philanthropic and nonprofit fundraising industry, Docekal, a longtime Wellington resident, formed her own company, the Lyrae Group, to fulfill a service opportunity. Her former employer, the Hanley Foundation, became her firm’s first client.

“We are typically developing and coordinating about six major philanthropic or nonprofit events at any given time,” Docekal said. “We take an organization from the present to what is possible.”

Docekal has a doctorate in organizational management and has spent years determining what organizations need immediately, as well as developing for them a future strategic planning process. She typically works directly with the CEO or a designated point person.

Moving to Wellington from Pennsylvania with her husband in 1998, Docekal has seen the community grow up around her.

“Every year is new and exciting, it is a really great place to live,” she said, adding that it is also a great location for her firm, both with fundraising, and also firms cycling back to have her help with future strategy.

“Many philanthropic organizations use a recipe, but one size doesn’t fit all,” Docekal said, stressing that the past year has proven that adage.

March 2020 upended the entire nonprofit fundraising industry.

“It was remarkable. Gatherings came to a complete halt,” Docekal recalled. “Nonprofits provide essential services, and the audiences served by them are being provided critical services that people can’t do without.”

Those funding needs remained, even though the world had shut down. “Each organization’s needs are unique, but all require funding and resources,” she said.

The first event on her schedule after the shutdown was a golf tournament, which Docekal quickly rebranded as “Putt in Your Pajamas.”

“We were able to pivot to a different type of event overnight,” Docekal said.

With clever direct mail pieces and support collateral with a fun theme, highlighting that this was an event where you could stay home in your most comfortable attire and participate on your own schedule, the event was a success. “It turned out to have actually raised slightly more money than the previous year,” Docekal said.

Following events also went full virtual, with the same creative style of promotional pieces.

“We’ve held virtual silent and real auctions with more planned,” Docekal said.

These types of events worked so successfully that other organizations have followed in the Lyrae Group’s wake. “Others are now emulating us,” she explained.

Docekal said that the key to success during these challenging times is to work within the everyday barriers and constraints to provide innovative solutions for new opportunities. “You have to move forward and focus,” she said.

In one notable example, for what is typically a sit-down dinner for the Lifesaver Scholarship Fund, direct mail was used. A letter was sent to past contributors who have helped send people for addiction treatment.

“The theme was a bundt cake decorated like a lifesaver, and the event had a live cash call,” Docekal said. “Nowhere did we ask for a donation, we just thanked them for their previous support, and the donations beat all records.”

Docekal has also worked on organizing events not directly tied to fundraising. Some events distribute food such as rice from Florida Crystals, school supplies and clothing, or provide physicals for children requiring mobile services, as many of them or their parents did not have access to a car.

Work to support children in need is very important to her. “There are severe challenges, and the pandemic could set back children,” Docekal said.

The group also set up a walk-up center to provide appointments for the Health Care District to eliminate some of the required travel. “We provided walk-up services in the actual neighborhood,” Docekal said.

Docekal believes that as things get back to normal in the coming months, people will not return to all of their behaviors from the pre-pandemic era. “Things are changed forever,” she said.

This will likely mean that events will include both physical and virtual components.

“People are eager to get together again, so you’ll have the in-person component,” Docekal said. “Smart organizations will embrace the technology and use techniques [learned over the past year]. Participation on consulting boards is at an all-time high. It is a ‘happy accident.’ The donors have been acclimated to use these virtual events.”

This means that busy people will be able to participate in fundraising events as they see fit.

“People don’t have to travel and lose the travel time to and from a meeting or event, they just log on and participate,” Docekal said.

For more information about Rachel Docekal and the Lyrae Group, visit www.lyraegroup.com.

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A Deep Love For Horses And The Equestrian Community Drives Hannah Selleck’s Ambition & Goals

A Deep Love For Horses And The Equestrian Community Drives Hannah Selleck’s Ambition & Goals

Story By Athena Sobhan | Photos By Daniel Zuliani

Hannah Selleck’s dedication to equestrian sports fuels her career as a professional show jumping athlete and inspires her work out of the saddle.

Selleck, 32, has come to Wellington every year since 2013 to train at the highest level and compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival. As the only daughter of actors Tom Selleck and Jillie Mack, she grew up understanding that passion is one of the most important drivers in pursuing any career. She has taken that advice seriously, establishing herself as a successful show jumper and influential business owner in the equestrian community.

Blond, gorgeous and boasting an athlete’s frame, Selleck’s earliest memory of riding is at the age of four on a Shetland pony named Sheba. Although she fell off twice during her first lesson, she got back on and quickly learned to manage the pony while staying in the saddle.

“I was determined to figure out how to work with this cute little pony,” Selleck recalled during a recent interview in Wellington. “That moment taught me that persistence and perseverance are necessary to ride.”

From then on, she was hooked. Lessons continued at the Foxfield Riding School in Westlake Village, California, where Selleck also boarded her first pony, Taffy Apple.

“My family and I bonded together over riding, and some of my fondest memories are learning to ride alongside my mom,” Selleck said. “Both of my parents are incredibly supportive of my passion for horses, and they’re always there to cheer me on. They never tried to pressure me to pursue something else. To their credit, they learned about equestrian sports at the same time I did — when I started competing at 10 years old.”

Before Selleck became a decorated equestrian athlete, she had her eyes set on the rodeo. Selleck was originally transfixed by barrel racing and eager to learn the ropes and become a barrel racer herself. As fate would have it, no horses were available for Selleck to train with, so she quickly pivoted and found a similar thrill in show jumping.

“For me, it has been about the speed and that adrenaline surge when I complete a jump off with my horse,” she said. “In the ring, I’ve always been known as a fast rider, and I think part of that stems from my early fascination with the rodeo.”

Over her career, Selleck has earned a number of top accolades in international show jumping competitions. One of her biggest achievements came in the summer of 2011, when she earned second place at the Spruce Meadows North American tournament, one of her top finishes to date at the five-star level.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve grown more cautious of unnecessary risks, especially as I’ve sustained injuries,” she said. “You quickly realize that you only have one body, take care of it and ride smart, as there is very little margin for error at the top of the sport.”

In 2018, Selleck broke both her fibula and tibula when her stirrup didn’t release properly in a fall. The injury sidelined her from competition for seven months, but Selleck was back successfully competing in early 2019.

During last year’s lockdowns, she took the extra downtime to focus on training physically for the upcoming season, but she also turned to mindfulness training as a way to enhance her performance during competitions.

“Recovering from a serious injury can be physically and mentally taxing,” Selleck said. “I’ve worked closely with a sports psychologist to practice visualization techniques that have helped me get back into the competition mindset.”

She also had additional support. “I was lucky to have my partner Barla, a horse I’ve competed on for seven years, to help my comeback in 2019,” Selleck said. “The trust that we built together over the years was a motivating factor to enter the competition ring again.”

While she prepares for competitions, Selleck is also diving into her education and working toward her MBA at Pepperdine University, aiming to open doors for her career outside the ring. Alongside her athletic career, Selleck founded Descanso Farm in 2010 as a boutique breeding operation, but recently transitioned to a boutique sales business.

“Most jumping horses are bred in Europe, and I recognized an opportunity to import those horses into the U.S. to compete,” she explained. “Working with so many equine partners over the years has given me the experience and knowledge I can apply toward a training and sales operation.”

Selleck also serves as an ambassador for Brooke USA, the nonprofit organization focused on promoting the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules.

“Show jumping is a tight-knit community, and I work closely with Brooke USA because they promote equine and humanitarian welfare, which are issues close to my heart,” she said. “I hope to also one day start my own nonprofit organization to continue giving back to the community and beyond.”

For Selleck, every decision she has made throughout her career stems back to her love of horses.

“My goal right now is to enjoy each moment with my horses as I work my way back to the top level of the sport,” Selleck concluded. “It’s a blessing anytime I get to compete. It’s important to be present in the moment that you’re in because we are so, so lucky to work with these animals every single day.”

Visit www.descansofarm.com to learn more about Hannah Selleck and Descanso Farm.

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Young Equestrians Take Challenges In Stride As They Progress In Their Careers

Young Equestrians Take Challenges In Stride As They Progress In Their Careers

By Georgie Hammond and Meagan DeLisle

Each year, thousands of equestrians of all ages flock to Wellington, escaping harsh winter weather elsewhere to enjoy near-perfect temperatures while competing in the winter equestrian capital of the world.

While this year’s events look slightly different due to the pandemic, young equestrians are doing everything they can to take the usual challenges of the sport and the additional tribulations of these unprecedented times all in stride.

“Young equestrians face many growing pains as they progress in their riding and move through the different phases of the sport,” said Geoff Teall, one of the country’s most prominent equestrian trainers and judges. “This year, especially, these athletes are having to adapt and change all of the time to overcome obstacles, both physically and mentally. There are many moving parts that go into the success of a young rider, whether they are just learning to ride, moving up to jump new heights, or adjusting to life changes that alter the way they compete in the sport, so it is vital that they maintain level headedness and have the support they need.”

Ava Scharbo

At 13 years old, Ava Scharbo is just starting to find her footing in the show ring. While she has four years of experience competing, Scharbo recently reached one of the biggest milestones in a young rider’s career as they continue to grow and develop their skills: transitioning from a pony to a horse.

“I was definitely a little nervous getting on a larger, stronger animal,” Scharbo explained. “The biggest challenge for me has been taking time to go back and revisit things I thought I already knew. My trainer, Geoff Teall, has taught me that in order to move forward, you have to sometimes go back to basics first.”

With the progression from pony to horse comes a jump in competition level as well, something Scharbo found intimidating at first. With help from Teall, however, she is learning to manage her nerves and persevere, even through the difficult times, by taking things one step at a time. Scharbo has also made efforts to maintain her confidence in her riding by practicing nearly every day, something that has recently been made easier thanks to her family’s move to Wellington to become full-time residents.

“If there’s a magic potion for nerves, I haven’t found it yet! This sport challenges me every day I get on my horses, whether I am in the show ring or not,” Scharbo said. “The one thing that keeps me going is knowing that there is always another ride and there is always another show. If I didn’t have a good lesson, or a good show, I need to break my ride down stride-by-stride and figure out why, so the next ride goes better than the last.”

Raine Whitman

Like Scharbo, 14-year-old Raine Whitman has confronted her fair share of trials as a young equestrian. In January 2021, Whitman started a fresh partnership with a new horse, a shift that takes copious amounts of patience and diligence in order to be successful. While this is not her first horse, Whitman’s junior riding career is at a pivotal point as she gears up to start competing in the “Big Eq,” one of the most competitive divisions in junior equestrian sport. Whitman experienced excellent results with her previous horse at some of the nation’s most prestigious competitions in 2020.

However, now more than ever, her resilience is being tested as she learns her new horse and makes strides toward the upper level of junior competition.

“The hardest part of any transition is trusting in the process and not allowing frustration to get the better of you if the results are different than your expectations. It’s important to keep working hard and stay focused,” she said. “Thankfully, the transition to my new horse, Clearano Z, happened early in the season, so it was the perfect time to get straight into the show ring and start building our relationship. He was already at my barn, Carriage Hill Farms, before I purchased him. That was a huge help for me in understanding the type of ride he needs because my trainers already knew him really well. He is a very willing partner and enjoys his job, which made the process of learning a new partner really fun.”

With a positive mindset and a strong support system in place, Whitman has turned the challenges before her into learning opportunities every step of the way. In true athlete fashion, she has used her moments of uncertainty to fuel her ambition and drive.

“I think hard work and dedication have helped me progress and move up through the divisions,” Whitman said. “I am focused in my training on learning the necessary skills to get to the next level. I am dedicated to learning as much as I can outside of my lessons as well, like riding without stirrups, and riding extra horses or ponies to gain experience while strengthening my leg and balance, which improves all aspects of my riding.”

Brittany Hildebrand

For 29-year-old Brittany Hildebrand, the transition from her junior career to now competing as an adult amateur all the while balancing a busy school schedule posed a new set of challenges that many young equestrians of a similar age find themselves facing. As a graduate student in the marketing program at Baylor University, Hildebrand not only has to juggle a demanding school schedule, but she is also very involved in the care and maintenance of her own show horses.

“It has definitely been a trial-and-error process,” Hildebrand said. “I’ve had to work really hard to find what schedule works best for me and my horses in this phase of my life. I’m very lucky to have a great support system in place with my trainers Conan and Becky O’Connor and my barn team, who help me every day, but I’m extremely hands-on and active in all aspects of my horses’ management.”

While each week looks different based on the needs of her horses and her rigorous school schedule, Hildebrand has settled into a bit of a rhythm while showing in Wellington this season.

“Mondays are our off-days for the horses, so I can be fully dedicated to school. My classes are in six-week, online sessions, and while most people might think online school is easier, the turnaround time for assignments is tight. Other days, I typically am at the barn from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then can give myself an hour break before diving into my schoolwork through the evening. When I’m showing, I have to get a bit more creative with my schedule. If I have a big assignment due, I may need to rely more on my support team to help me. Every week looks a little different, but we adjust to make sure the horses are getting the daily management they need and to allow myself the time necessary to be successful in school.”

With her recent move up in competition level to the High Amateur-Owners and an overall goal of establishing consistency in her riding this circuit, maintaining a flexible rhythm is essential in all areas of Hildebrand’s life at this stage.

No matter what stage of their riding they might be in, young equestrians of all ages must demonstrate an innate ability to roll with the punches and adjust to new obstacles on a daily basis.

From transitioning to new divisions, adapting to new horses and demonstrating the ability to balance all aspects of their busy lives, the hurdles may seem never ending. But it is the passion for the sport and their love for the horses that unites these riders, who are at very different places in their lives — and those two things make all of the trials and tribulations a worthwhile endeavor.

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Lexus International Gay Polo Tourney Returns For A Fabulous & Safe Weekend

Lexus International Gay Polo Tourney Returns For A Fabulous & Safe Weekend

The Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, went off without a hitch from Thursday, March 25 through Sunday, March 28, with the tournament itself presented on the International Polo Club Palm Beach’s U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 on Saturday, March 27.

After the weekend’s four events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the players and fans were eager to take to the field this spring for a safely produced series of events.

This was the first time playing the Gay Polo League’s signature event on IPC’s Field 1 — one of the most famous polo fields in the world.

The event was COVID-conscience with mask compliance and social distancing. However, these precautions did not hinder the wonderful energy of the athletes or attendees, nor dampen the creative efforts of the tailgate decorations.

Four teams played in the exciting two-day tournament. Players came from Washington State, Texas, New Jersey, Florida, Virginia, New York and Argentina. This year, the league welcomed six players making their GPL debut. And for the first time, two teams were composed entirely of LGBTQ+ polo players.

Every year, the league engages new players, both LGBTQ+ and allies. “The exceptional thing this year is the number of players competing in GPL for their first time,” said Chip McKenney, the league’s founder and president. “Our teams reflect the diversity of our communities, and we are grateful to each player who participates and supports GPL.”

This year also set a new record of three LGBTQ+ polo professionals competing. Other professionals and players are LGBTQ+ allies and strong supporters of diversity, human rights and inclusion.

Joey Casey, owner of the Palm City Polo Club, home club of GPL Polo, is the driving force behind providing polo ponies and professional polo players, who volunteer their time and skills to the league.

“GPL is always a fun event, unique in many ways,” he said. “I am a strong advocate for polo and recognize the value of bringing in new players to the sport. I’ve worked with GPL for 11 years, and each year gets better. It’s a blast.”

McKenney was thankful to host a successful event after a difficult 2020 season. “We are delighted with the event, and we are thankful for the ongoing support of our distinguished sponsors that stood by us during 2020 and continue to partner with GPL to promote diversity and inclusion,” he said.

“When companies like Lexus and Douglas Elliman Real Estate collaborate with LGBTQ+ events, like GPL, it speaks volumes about their positive company values and inclusive culture. All of our sponsors share our mission to elevate and promote equality for everyone,” McKenney continued.

Attendees enjoyed great polo coupled with the chance to participate in the traditional tailgate competition, as judged by Hotels at Sea and Celebrity Cruises. Tailgates this year were limited to groups of 12 people each and separated to ensure social distancing, yet this did not slow down the creativity of the community.

“It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying their time together while staying safe,” McKenney said.

Another fun tradition during the tournament weekend was the GPL Polotini event on Friday, March 26. Instead of the usual Wigstock competition, this year’s theme was “MASK-QUERADE,” with the best mask taking home both bragging rights and a trophy.

The event’s charity partner was SAGE USA, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ seniors. McKenney is very proud that the event was able to help this worthy nonprofit.

“With COVID-19, a lot of people are limited on funds, but correspondingly, the needs are more significant than ever,” he said. “The senior community was hit very hard, and SAGE does a wonderful job of helping elderly people avoid isolation and being shut in.”

Despite the cancellation of last year’s tournament, the GPL still hosted a summer fundraiser to support SAGE USA. With a matching pledge from Cherry Knoll Farm, the organization raised $20,000 for the nonprofit. For more information about SAGE USA, visit www.sageusa.org.

In these uncertain times, GPL is happy to be able to host a tournament that so many Wellington locals enjoy, and that draws a crowd from around the country. A successful, safe, enjoyable event was a marvelous start to the Florida spring season.

Learn more about the Gay Polo League at www.gaypolo.com.

 

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Gauntlet Of Polo Series Partners With U.S. Polo Assn. To Support Polo Charities

Gauntlet Of Polo Series Partners With U.S. Polo Assn. To Support Polo Charities

Story by Stacey Kovalsky  |  Photos ©Global Polo Entertainment

U.S. Polo Assn., the official brand of the United States Polo Association and primary sponsor of the Gauntlet of Polo tournament series, is making generous donations to multiple polo charities as part of the exciting tournament series currently underway at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.

Recipients will be selected by the first and second place teams of each of the Gauntlet’s tournament finals. The Gauntlet of Polo is one of the pinnacle tournament series globally in high-goal polo competition. This highly competitive event features the most skilled athletes and finest horses in the world.

“The sport of polo is at the heart and soul of our brand, so we wanted to ensure that these worthy, polo-based charities were a component of this high-profile polo event,” said J. Michael Prince, president and CEO of USPA Global Licensing, which manages the global U.S. Polo Assn. brand. “As a cause-based brand that supports philanthropic events around the world, U.S. Polo Assn. is extremely honored to partner with these amazing teams and charities during these challenging economic times.”

Because of the important causes these charities represent, U.S. Polo Assn. will also make donations to any charity not represented by a team. In total, more than $50,000 will be donated. The USPA is grateful to all the teams participating in the Gauntlet and to U.S. Polo Assn. for not only being the top sponsor of the series, but also for generously donating to these notable polo charities.

These donations will continue to bring awareness and support to the polo community.

The participating charities include: Homes for Horses, Polo for Life, the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, Polo Pony Rescue, the Polo Players Support Group, the Polo Training Foundation, Replay Polo, the Retired Racehorse Project and Work to Ride.

Homes for Horses is a national coalition dedicated to increasing collaboration, professionalism and growth in the equine rescue and protection community. Members are committed to ending horse slaughter and all other forms of equine abuse. The coalition is an initiative of the Animal Welfare Institute and currently includes more than 520 members representing horse rescue and sanctuaries throughout the U.S. and beyond.

Polo for Life is dedicated to helping families facing the challenge of surviving childhood cancers. The nonprofit organization focuses on direct impact initiatives by partnering with local organizations to ensure the needs of patients and their families are met and their financial hardships resulting from a cancer diagnosis are minimized. Polo for Life is the driving force behind Polo for a Purpose, which has raised nearly $2 million for the benefit of local organizations.

The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the sport, its history, development and traditions by acquiring, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting collections, as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport. The museum is a rich repository of documents and physical treasures, which include works of art, historic trophies, artifacts, books, statistics, periodicals, films, videos, recordings and memorabilia.

Polo Pony Rescue rescues equines, primarily former polo ponies that have been neglected, abused, seized by law enforcement or are at risk of slaughter; provides any needed veterinary care, rehabilitation or retraining; and finds them new, loving homes. They also offer permanent retirement to horses who have physical or mental conditions rendering them no longer able to be ridden.

The Polo Players Support Group provides financial assistance to seriously injured or ill players and grooms. PPSG created the annual 40-Goal Polo Challenge in partnership with U.S. Polo Assn. to raise funds to help members of the polo community in financial crisis caused by physical injury or illness.

The Polo Training Foundation is dedicated to cultivating the future of polo while making it accessible and fun for everyone. PTF supports polo training at all levels, including beginner clinics, intercollegiate/interscholastic tournaments and clinics, and international player exchanges. PTF also seeks to encourage the highest standards of sportsmanship and promotes international good will through polo competition.

Replay Polo’s mission statement is “Save Polo Ponies. Transform People.” The organization devotes itself to repurposing retired polo ponies that are far from the end of their usefulness, having the experience and character to be “repurposed” for continued usefulness in important new capacities.

The Retired Racehorse Project exists to facilitate placement of thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in equestrian sports and serving the farms, trainers and organizations that transition them. Since its 2010 founding, RRP has put a spotlight on these horses with social media efforts and events, and it has inspired thousands to choose an “off-the-track” thoroughbred.

Work to Ride is a nonprofit, community-based prevention program that aids disadvantaged urban youth through constructive activities centered on horsemanship, equine sports and education. The program is housed at Chamounix Stables located in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Work to Ride programs and activities are designed to explore new ways of engaging youth in significant educational, social and cultural experiences that are otherwise unavailable.

To learn more about this initiative, visit www.uspoloassnglobal.com.

 

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Wellington Rotary Club Emphasizes The Importance Of Service Above Self

Wellington Rotary Club Emphasizes The Importance Of Service Above Self

By m. Dennis Taylor 

The importance of giving can never be overemphasized, and there’s always joy in acts of giving. This timeless bit of wisdom is taken to heart by the Wellington Rotary Club, which has been continually serving the community for 40 years.

Rotary International — of which the Wellington club is a local affiliate — is a service organization that spans the globe promoting peace and health. “It has promoted everything from polio vaccines to infrastructure and equipment for indigenes in South America,” said David Berns, the current president of the Wellington club.

The local branch is active in a range of activities, from helping hand out free food to those hardest-hit in the area by the COVID-19 pandemic, to supporting shelters for those less fortunate.

Ask any Rotarian, and you’ll get a litany of reasons to get involved with the group, but most of the explanations could easily fall into the category of bettering oneself by improving the local and worldwide communities.

The group has spent most of the past year partnering with the Village of Wellington, Feeding South Florida and others to provide weekly food boxes to some 900 local families.

“We provide six to 10 people each week to supply helping hands at the distribution point,” Berns said.

Every Tuesday morning, hundreds of cars line up at the Mall at Wellington Green for an efficient distribution of a week’s worth of supplies that have meant a great deal of difference in the lives of locals hard-hit by the present circumstances.

Another on-going project has been to get a “Buddy Bench” in each of the elementary schools in the village, with a program of peer “ambassadors” trained and set up to support anyone who feels isolated or bullied. Such a child is encouraged to merely sit on the designated, colorful bench and is soon met by another student to talk with them. The popular and successful program is being expanded.

The arrival of Santa in the end of the annual Wellington Holiday Parade is arranged by the group, as are gifts for children in hospitals and for healthcare workers. For decades, the club has supported the Back to Basics program to provide school uniforms for students returning to school each year and holiday gifts for children each December. People in times of trouble who need a place to stay are helped by the club’s longtime support the Lord’s Place, a program serving the local homeless population.

The club’s annual peace initiative and ceremony is considered by many to be one of Rotary’s signature events. Held at Wellington Rotary Peace Park near the Wellington branch library, this special event includes presentations, performances and awards presented to winning students. The events are organized and presented in honor of each United Nations International Peace Day by the Wellington Rotary Club.

Past president and 23-year club member Don Gross said the peace initiative is one of his favorite club activities. “It is held the third Sunday in September around the United Nations Peace Day, which is Sept. 21,” Gross said.

There are contests in all the schools with prizes awarded by the club. “We have a poster contest for the elementary students, poems from the middle schoolers and an essay competition for the high schools,” Gross explained.

Gross is also enthusiastic about the club’s annual dictionary giveaway to third graders.

“It has been going on for 20 years,” he said. “We give a dictionary to each student in third grade. Some people ask why we give a book when you can find everything on Google, but the kids love it. It is their book. They can hold it in their hands and flip through it.”

These are just some of the many acts of giving that the club participates in. “We primarily work in the background,” said Berns, who explained that the group doesn’t seek out publicity.

Gross said that the club works wherever it sees a need. “It is involved behind the scenes in every aspect of the community providing benefits,” he said.

That group has changed in complexion since its founding in 1980. “Originally, it was older retirees,” Berns said.

Then, when women began joining the previously all-male Rotary, the changes were marked. “Today, we are about a 50-50 mix of men and women, and the group of nearly 50 active participants itself has more younger people in their 30s and 40s,” Berns said.

Gross agreed that the shifting demographics have brought beneficial changes to the club for this era.

“Years ago, ‘supporting’ a program might mean writing a check. Today, it is the hands-on hours put in by the members, not just money,” Gross explained.

He said that members are a group of mostly businesspeople and professionals, and still many are retired. Since the chapter’s inception, even before the Village of Wellington was incorporated, the members have been and still are community leaders interested in the social good.

Community Services Coordinator Maggie Zeller joined the club some eight years ago. She pointed out that the original Rotary organization was founded in Chicago in 1905, and it wasn’t until 1987 that the all-male organization began accepting women members.

“I truly believe in the Wellington Rotary Club,” Zeller said. “I agree the club has changed with women joining… We helped it evolve from just the check writers who supported things in the past. I think we bring a humanitarian, caring and nurturing perspective of giving back to the community.”

While today’s Wellington Rotary Club is now an organization of men and women with spouses encouraged to get involved in the projects as well, “It is far from a mere networking or social club,” Gross said. “The mindset is on community service.”

That community mindset has been consistent over the years of growth in the Village of Wellington, the changing needs of its residents and the expansion of demographics in the club. Throughout it all, however, has been the simple joys contained in the act of giving.

For more information about the Wellington Rotary Club, visit www.wellingtonrotary.org.

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