Category Archives: Feature Stories

Wellington The Magazine, LLC Featured Articles

Generational Women

Generational Women Understanding Motherhood And The Bond Mothers, Daughters & Granddaughters Share!

Generational Women, our focus this month, explores how the unique familial bonds that are shared can extend into successful business partnerships.

Many people have their mom as the top person on speed dial when the good, bad or ugly happens in life. And this is for good reason. There is scientific evidence pointing to the incredible bond between mother-daughter relationships, which trickle down to granddaughters as well.

Moms are likely to understand where you are coming from when faced with life’s challenges, as she has experienced a similar journey. She is also less likely to pass judgment.

Mothers and daughters know how to get on track and stay on track, easily taking a disagreement to a laughing frenzy in moments — and their unconditional love for one another stays intact. But it is a big leap taking this unique relationship into the business world.

On the following pages, you will learn about three unique families, and how they prove that mother-daughter teams can work! Whether it is within the equine industry, lifestyle or the beauty world, learn how it all began and how their success continues through the strength and determination of Generational Women. Who better to build and capitalize on then your mom?

 

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A Strong Foundation

A Strong Foundation Kristen Hamel Tackles Motherhood & Her Family’s Foundation With Grace

By Sydney Jones

It’s not always about what you have, but what you can give. In 2017, Kristen Hamel and her husband Jim set out to make a difference by providing financial support to organizations that help their local communities, as well as the education and well-being of disadvantaged people through their own Hamel Family Foundation.

As a mother and new grandmother, Hamel has always made it a priority to teach her children to help others and be active in their communities.

Although Hamel and her family are based in Richfield, Wisconsin, she has always spent a lot of time in Wellington for the Winter Equestrian Festival. Growing up on a farm, she developed a love for animals, especially horses, at a young age. Fostering that love in her daughter Sydney became a way for their connection to grow and for their ties to the horse world to deepen.

“It has always been a dream of mine to own a barn here in Wellington,” Hamel recalled. “We purchased the barn in July of 2020 with the intention of me being here more often. However, the pandemic actually allowed my husband to work remotely, so we bought a home here as well, to allow the family to visit more often. Through the horse world, I’ve met a lot of really great people, so my network is here. My animals are here. It just fits us.”

Although the Hamel family is constantly moving in many different directions, the foundation provides an outlet for them to come together throughout the year and discuss their ideas.

Hamel’s two older sons, Nickolas and Jacob, are both married, while Sydney is currently attending Scripps College in California.

Along with their children, Kristen and Jim come together to decide which organizations they are going to focus on that year. “We do it as a family. We discuss who loves what and what research they have done. We put it all on the table and take a vote on who we feel could best benefit from our support. Not only has it been great for our kids to be involved with giving back, but it has allowed Jim and I to learn what they’re really passionate about as they grow up,” Hamel said.

The Hamel Family Foundation takes pride in the organizations it supports. “We follow along with the charities that we support to keep up with what they’re doing,” Hamel explained.

The family dedicates their time to organizations that are consistent in their efforts and that maximize their donations for the true cause of the organization.

“We support a charity in Wisconsin called Family Promise. This organization sets out to help battered and abused women who need life’s essentials: housing, clothing, food, etc. They work through several churches and apartment buildings in the area, and I feel really strongly about it,” Hamel said. “Another organization that we are especially passionate about is Casa Guadalupe. This charity was brought to the table by Sydney, and it places emphasis on supporting the Hispanic communities in our area by providing them with the resources to become citizens, receive medical care, get an attorney, etc. We feel that especially in the last couple of years, everyone needs help, and we are grateful to make a difference where we can.”

For Kristen, supporting the equestrian community also weighs heavy on her heart. The foundation proudly supports the National Horse Show with the Hamel Family Foundation 3’3” Equitation Championship, as well as a scholarship through the United States Hunter Jumper Association. “I’ve always loved supporting the sport. I love watching the equitation championship at the National Horse Show because it’s a little mix of everything, and it’s such an important stepping-stone in junior riders’ careers,” she said.

The USHJA scholarship is also an important piece of the puzzle for the Hamel Family Foundation.

“Education has always been very important to Jim and I. It started with our kids; we didn’t care what they wanted to do, as long as they were educated in it. So, we started the scholarship with the intention of helping out whoever needed it, whether they were extending their education or just starting out,” Hamel said.

Hamel’s heart for giving has been passed down to her daughter Sydney.

“It’s a great feeling to have the opportunities that I do to give back,” Sydney said. “It’s a little nerve wracking to take on decisions that have the power to change lives, but it’s great to be able to help people who need it most. I love that we get to connect with different charities and actually see a difference happen through our donations.”

The Hamel Family Foundation is a family affair, but Kristen wouldn’t want it any other way.

Learn more about the foundation at www.hamelfamilyfoundation.org.

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Amazing Style Is Empowering

Amazing Style Is Empowering Mother-Daughter Team Claudia And Monica Diesti Help Keep Wellington Residents Looking Their Best

Story By Deborah Welky | Photos By Abner Pedraza

Today, well-known local stylists Claudia and Monica Diesti work together to keep Wellington residents looking and feeling great. However, the life they are living today seems light years away from where it began.

Claudia Diesti was only in her 20s when she grabbed her seven-year-old daughter Monica and whatever personal items she could carry and fled her homeland of Colombia forever.

“I was in an abusive relationship and struggling through a really bad divorce,” Claudia recalled.

The mother and daughter were able to stay with an aunt and uncle in Miami for a short time, but Claudia knew she had to move on.

“I saw my self-esteem go down. I was not in the best place in my life,” Claudia said. “But I discovered that putting on a good appearance made me feel better about myself. When I had a good hair day, it empowered me. Empowered women feel good about themselves.”

It was this realization that made her rethink her career goals.

“In Colombia, I was studying to be a dentist — a different kind of beauty. But I had to quit college. When I got here, I needed a new beginning,” Claudia said. “So, I went to the Total Nails & Hair Academy in West Palm Beach to learn to be a stylist. I learned hair cutting and coloring techniques.”

Watching her mother, Monica also got interested in the beauty business.

“I got interested through my mom, by watching her work,” said Monica Diesti, now an adult. “I was seven when she started to go to beauty school. She would bring the styling heads home to practice on, and I would play with them. When we moved here, we were running away from my biological father. We grabbed what we had and ran. In America, we couldn’t afford a babysitter, so sometimes she would bring me to the school with her. The owner was nice enough to let me sit on the side.”

Monica always enjoyed all things art, even during her school days.

“I was always very artistic,” she said. “I won art competitions in school and was always drawn to anything artistic or color creative. So that led me to want to be more of a colorist. I started out in salons just working as an assistant — doing shampoos, the laundry, making sure the salon was clean.”

In the meantime, Claudia was speaking with a Realtor, looking to move to a place with the best schools for her daughter. The Realtor told her that Wellington has the best schools.

By 1997, the mother-daughter team had moved in and made their home in the community.

“We love the families,” Claudia said. “The community is beautiful, and we’ve been growing together.”

“My mother has gone through many hardships and has some health issues,” Monica added. “I am grateful that I can now help her out. I get to give back to her for everything she has given to me.”

After her high school graduation, Monica attended the same beauty school her mother once went to.

“The owner knew me from when I was little, and I told them I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps,” Monica said.

As she has grown in the business, Claudia has gone from employee to independent owner.

“In the beginning, I was working for other people,” she said. “In 2000, I started working independently, renting a chair in someone else’s salon, and then having a little beauty room in a spa.”

By 2010, Claudia and Monica were working side by side. By 2014, they had their own corner studio in a professional business suite. Their Wellington Beauty Room is currently located at 1043 S. State Road 7, Building E, Suite 118.

Now known as one of the top stylists in Wellington, Claudia has taken advanced courses in Canada, Taiwan and Paris.

“I wanted the best schools around to improve my education,” she said. “I wanted to give clients confidence in my abilities as a professional. I wanted to know everything I could about how to achieve the best look for each person. We ask how much time they spend on their hair each day, then work to accentuate their features for their lifestyle. Because I work with my daughter, it’s like four eyes looking at one person. We love our work, and our clients know how hard we work. We realistically try to get the best look for each person and make each client feel good.”

Along the way, this mother-daughter team has diverged a bit in the type of clients they work with.

“My mom caters to the business owners, attorneys, doctors, doctors’ wives and other professionals,” Monica said. “Due to the creative aspect, I specialize in avant-garde colors, unicorn colors, fantasy colors, rainbow-colored hair. I work a lot with hair extensions — that’s one of our big things. We can also do makeup if a client has an event that day and doesn’t want to make an extra appointment somewhere else.”

Hair extensions are huge in the beauty industry now, but they take special expertise to do well.

“We’re certified in four different methods of hair extensions and many different brands,” Monica said. “My mother was a L’Oréal educator, and I spent some time at the London academy for L’Oréal.”

Because the Wellington Beauty Room is owned by these “generational women,” the mother-daughter team attracts many mother-daughter and husband-wife clients. More and more male clients are finding out about them — and the Diestis encourage men to think more about their hair style.

“Often they have shoulder-length hair, and they’re going for a short haircut,” Monica said. “We call it a hair transformation. My mom is the one who does men’s haircuts. We also offer a VIP luxury experience where we block out the salon from other clients and do a makeover.”

That’s certainly the answer for someone who isn’t sure how to visualize or communicate what they want but still wants to emerge from the salon like a butterfly from its cocoon.

“Sometimes the salon is the only place you can relax and have that time to yourself,” Monica said. “You come out feeling rejuvenated and refreshed and relaxed.”

Visits to Claudia and Monica Diesti at the Wellington Beauty Room are by appointment only. For more information, call (561) 632-5425 or visit www.wellingtonbeautyroom.com.

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Holland To Wellington

Holland To Wellington
Show Mom Patricia Bade Van Motman Is Passing Down What She Learned To The Next Generation

By Olivia Airhart

Growing up in a horse family is like being raised with communal parenting; instead of one mother raising her child, every pony in the barn gets a chance to impart life lessons. Growing up as a rider in a horse-centric family means being raised by your toughest critic, but also your biggest fan and supporter.

In a realm where the horse bug is passed down from generation to generation, life-long equestrian and now second-generation horse show mom Patricia Bade van Motman has made it her life’s mission to not only raise her daughter by the ways of the barn, but also give equestrians all across Europe the same opportunities by founding an educational hunter and equitation organization, HJE Holland.

Originally from Westchester, New York, Bade van Motman grew up on the back of a horse. In her words, it all started when “my dad married my mother and her horse.” Bade van Motman had the horse hook deep in her soul, devoting herself to the cause not just as a hobby, but as a way of life that would end up coming back to her full circle.

“My poor mother drove the family station wagon and our trailer to any pony club event or horse show I wanted to go to,” Bade van Motman recalled. “So, when I had a daughter of my own, I knew that I would raise her the same way my mother raised me — in the saddle.”

After moving to The Netherlands and having her daughter Candice, Patricia was eager to share her love of horses, so she did as any horse mom would do and bought Candice her first pony at just three years old.

“When Candice was old enough to actually ride and not just go around on the leadline, one pony grew to five with 15 little kids riding with Candice at our home. I studied the full set of USPC [United States Pony Club] manuals to do my best at teaching all those children, and we ended up having a homegrown pony club right in our backyard,” Patricia recalled. “Once Candice was six, we also started hunting together. I would go out on my 17.3-hand horse, and she would gallop ahead of me at the very end of the leadline on her 11-hand pony. I thought my arm would eventually grow in length trying to hang onto her as she kicked that pony along faster than my horse! When she was old enough to do it on her own, she would gallop ahead of these experienced men and their massive hunt horses and out-jump them over every single hedge on her tiny little ponies.”

Pony after pony, Patricia watched Candice develop into an incredible young rider.

“She just had that calming nature about her and determination to figure out how they ticked,” Patricia said. “Being trained in the American style of riding in the hunter and equitation rings myself, taking my child to horse shows in Holland where the sole objective is to win at all costs in a speed-based jumping competition, I saw a risk to child safety and a lot of undue stress placed on the ponies that, as an equestrian myself, made me really upset and frustrated.”

As the demand for Patricia’s training grew larger, she knew she had to enlist some extra hands.

“If you want kids to learn to spell, entice them by making it a spelling bee,” Patricia said. “I wanted to create the infrastructure for the young riders back in Holland, so they could learn to ride responsibly. I made my mission to make equitation fun and enjoyable, but also educational, so they would be able to carry those skills on in their toolbox for any ring they enter.”

When Patricia finally put a stake in the ground and committed to starting HJE Holland, a wise American horseman told her to “call Joanie.”

Little did Patricia know that “Joanie” was none other than Joan Scharffenberger-Laarakkers, a 10-year veteran of the USET, winner at Aachen and countless Grand Prix and Nations Cup events, as well as championing the equitation medal finals in her youth.

“From that day forward, Joan has been a devoted trainer, clinician and vice president of HJEH,” Patricia said. “Thankfully, Joan is now the primary trainer for Candice, as her abilities have progressed beyond my scope in the jumper arena.”

With a dream to build a foundation for proper technical riding that was available to children and adults alike of any socioeconomic background, Patricia gathered seven of her equestrian colleagues and flew here to Wellington.

“For you to put your shoulder to the wheel, you must see Valhalla,” Patricia said. “So, I organized a group of dedicated horsewomen who felt the same way I did about the lack of options for training in Holland to participate in a United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) judge training course. We were absolutely blown away by what we saw and experienced at WEF in Wellington. From the grandeur of the hunter derbies to the extensive offering of equitation classes, including the 50-plus divisions and the awesome tiny equestrians at Pony Island, my team was solidified on that one trip alone, and that is how Hunter Jumper Equitation Holland got started. In a country where practicality trumps passion projects, I knew I had to pull out all the stops to convince the Dutch public to try something new, and Wellington sealed the deal.”

Thanks to a collegial request from Joan, Candice was invited for an 11-week internship with Andre Dignelli at Heritage Farm in the fall of 2021. Candice experienced first-hand why Andre and his students are so successful. The attention to every detail of equitation training made an impression on the young pupil.

“She is so grateful for the opportunity, and I was impressed with the progress in her riding in such a short amount of time,” Patricia said. “Since then, her commitment has grown even stronger. The way in which you address riding and horses is similar to how you address life. You overcome fears, you laugh a lot, learn to control your temper, master the art of patience, always show kindness and learn how to work collaboratively in a group dynamic. I was able to not only teach my daughter all of these life lessons but watch her experience them for herself developing as a rider and avid equestrian.”

The bond Patricia formed with her daughter over horses sparked a flame in the passionate equestrian’s core to not only be the best mother to her daughter, but step into the role of horse show mom for any and all equestrians, young and old, in The Netherlands. Just like her mother before her, Patricia Bade van Motman has earned the title and continues to pass down the equestrian lineage to the next generation.

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A Focus On Quality Of Life

A Focus On Quality Of Life Inspired Living Brings Its Unique Take On Senior Living To The Western Communities

Story By Mike May | Photos By Abner Pedraza

If you are in your senior years and are looking for a place to live that can provide comfort and assistance with daily activities, or you are caring for a loved one suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may want to consider an assisted living or memory care community — and if you are living in the western communities, be sure to check out Inspired Living Royal Palm Beach.

Inspired Living Royal Palm Beach opened in December 2020, conveniently located at 11911 Southern Blvd. This state-of-the-art facility caters to seniors who want to maintain their quality of life and yet need some type of daily support.

“The communities were designed and built with state-of-the-art technology, amenities and programs, with the intent to meet and exceed the needs and expectations of our residents and families,” Inspired Living CEO Steven Benjamin said. “We’re built for one purpose, to take care of moms and dads.”

Inspired Living Royal Palm Beach is a luxury senior living community designed with today’s senior in mind. Service and care plans are personally customized to each resident, providing them with a specialized life plan to help them maintain the quality of life they deserve.

“We are a resort-style senior living community that caters to residents 62 years or older,” Inspired Living Royal Palm Beach Executive Director Matthew Sarnelli said. “Our community has 104 apartments consisting of studio and one-bedroom apartments. We are licensed to care for up to 114 residents.”

Inspired Living provides a service that is in high demand.

“We provide the housing solution for adult children who are looking for a safe, homelike environment for their moms and dads,” Sarnelli explained.

At this local facility. Sarnelli and his team of caring professionals are personally committed to providing the best possible care and services.

“At Inspired Living, we are driven by a higher purpose, moved to serve moms and dads as if they are our own,” Sarnelli said.

According to Sarnelli, Royal Palm Beach is an ideal location for Inspired Living to have a brick-and-mortar presence because of the expanding senior population in Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee and The Acreage.

When residents move to an Inspired Living community, they are encouraged to transform their apartment into their own “home sweet home.”

“The residents rent their apartments, and we encourage them to personalize them as much as possible with family pictures, artwork, a favorite chair,” Sarnelli said. “Whatever they can to make their new home warm and inviting. We want our residents to live and not just exist.”

The amenities at Inspired Living Royal Palm Beach are numerous. They include a fitness center, bocce ball, shuffleboard, a putting green, corn hole, bingo and a movie theater. At the fitness center, residents have access to fitness classes, strength training, Zumba, yoga, tai chi and balance classes. These fun social and wellness activities allow residents to get adjusted quicker to their new living situation, which builds friendships, which, in turn, enhance their physical and cognitive health. That’s a win-win for all involved.

At Inspired Living, a holistic approach is utilized so residents get healthy and stay healthy. And if you need specific long-term therapy, such as physical, occupational or speech therapy, it’s provided as well.

When you move to Inspired Living, you deserve to live your best life, and Sarnelli and his team are focused on providing just that.

Other than care services, dining is a crucial aspect of selecting the right senior living community to call home. Inspired Living’s dining service features three chef-prepared meals daily with restaurant-style, tableside service. They offer anytime dining, which means you can elect to sit with friends during scheduled dining hours or stop in anytime of the day for a meal.

The facility also has a bistro with snacks and beverages available all day, providing a refined and delicious dining experience around the clock. As a side note, Executive Chef Evelyn Vega De Garcia recently won the Inspired Living Battle of the Chefs competition held in Orlando in March.

“The goal of Inspired Dining is to provide the personalized service which residents deserve and expect by combining creative cuisine, exceptional nutrition and service excellence,” Sarnelli said. “At Inspired Living, dining is an important social experience for our residents. We also have a happy hour from time to time, which is very popular.”

If a resident needs a ride to a certain location in the area, Sarnelli’s team is there to assist, thereby saving the resident a possible taxi, Uber or Lyft expense.

“We provide transportation to medical appointments, shopping outings, restaurants and scenic rides to the beach,” Sarnelli said. “And if provided with enough notice, we can take a resident to other locations, as well.”

Inspired Living Royal Palm Beach is open daily for private community and model tours. The community will also provide a complimentary lunch with your tour reservation. They have several special events going on each month that visitors are welcome to attend.

To learn more about Inspired Living Royal Palm Beach, visit www.inspiredliving.care or call (561) 507-0989 to speak with a senior living counselor.

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Helping Combat Veterans Reintegrate

Helping Combat Veterans Reintegrate Local Nonprofit Unified Dream Helps Area Veterans Return To Daily  Life

Story by Mike May | Photos by Abner Pedraza

The biggest battle that many of today’s veterans face is not the enemy they found on battlefields in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, it’s at home in their own communities as they attempt to reintegrate into regular society after serving their country in the United States military.

To help fellow veterans make a successful transition to civilian life after serving in combat, Jake Hampu, a retired U.S. Marine, has stepped forward and created an organization to help veterans re-adjust to civilian life.

That group is called Unified Dream, a locally based nonprofit that Hampu founded in 2017. Since its inception, the group has been volunteer-driven with Hampu at the helm as its founder and president.

“I knew that I had a greater calling in life than leading men in war,” said Hampu, 39, whose military service includes a 2002 deployment to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a nine-month deployment to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005. “I knew there were many veterans out there who needed help integrating back into regular society.”

According to Hampu, the strengths that many veterans display on the battlefield can actually hinder them in their daily lives when they return home.

“Soldiers are tough, stubborn and hard-headed,” explained Hampu, who once led 30 men into war and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2001 to 2006. “Today, veterans struggle to ask for help and assistance when they return home. Veterans are looking for that sense of accomplishment and purpose that they had while serving in the military. When we get out of the military, we have to find a new mission.”

With Hampu’s leadership at Unified Dream, nearly 80 veterans to date, and their family members, have received assistance on finding that new mission. Often this means dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“PTSD is for real, and the impact of it is also felt by family members of their loved ones who have served in the military,” Hampu said.

While family members love their veteran relatives, their lack of understanding of life in combat often creates a major disconnect back home. “Unless you went through it, you can’t totally understand it,” Hampu explained.

One of his most impactful military experiences was dealing with the loss of a close friend and colleague. “The day after I lost one of my best friends in Fallujah, I was back out on the battlefield,” Hampu recalled.

In civilian life, people pause, mourn and reflect the loss of a close friend or a relative. In the military during wartime, the mission must continue. And it did for Hampu. “For years, I felt survivor’s guilt because my friend had a wife and child back home. Yet I survived that day for something greater in life,” he said.

For Hampu, that greater calling is his work with Unified Dream.

At Unified Dream, veterans are coached and counseled so they find hope, gain self-respect, deal with depression and look forward to daily life again. One of Unified Dream’s coaching tactics is to get veterans involved in community projects that help intertwine them with the local community.

“Veterans need a sense of accomplishment in their daily lives, just as they had when they wore a military uniform,” Hampu said. “Since 2017, our local veterans have helped more than 50 local nonprofit organizations. By veterans helping others, we help them.”

But that’s not all. “We also teach good health and wellness habits,” he said. “We get veterans using yoga and meditation. We also take the veterans on adventure group outings where we go snorkeling, biking, hiking and target shooting. We are now planning a paintball session.”

The element of camaraderie that soldiers experience during military life is a missing ingredient in their civilian lives, which is why adventure group outings are so important to them. “The friends you have back home often don’t compare to the friendships you form in the military,” Hampu explained.

It doesn’t take too long to make a positive impact on their lives.

“Within a few months, we begin to notice a difference in the lives of veterans,” Hampu said. “They regain their self-respect, they are looking for more things to do, and they start living a life of peace and purpose. Family members often approach me because they notice a positive change in lives of their loved ones.”

Aside from his work with Unified Dream, Hampu also has a full-time job with the Palm Beach Kennel Club, where he coordinates video, photography and marketing projects.

While he is the executive director of Unified Dream, it’s not a one-man show. Hampu has the dedicated assistance of many other local veterans, who support Hampu’s passion for helping fellow veterans reintegrate into daily life.

The organization has evolved with the help of Hampu’s longtime friend Matt Baker, a fellow veteran. “Matt fully understands the struggles of reintegration,” Hampu said.

His army of local supporters include a dedicated group of board members and volunteers, such as Bill Garland, Jeff Hmara and Matt Vermilyer.

“Bill Garland, a former member of the United States Army, is my right-hand man,” Hampu said. “Jeff Hmara is a retired U.S. Army colonel who cares. He has been instrumental in our growth and is somebody I look up to. Matt Vermilyer is a former Marine who is willing to help, very passionate about our cause, and is a true leader.”

While Hampu is delighted with the progress of Unified Dream, he’s not content with the status quo.

“My goal is to find somebody with a big heart and deep pockets who is willing to make a large donation so I can do this work full-time,” said Hampu, who spends 15 to 20 hours a week with Unified Dream. “My priority in life is my purpose. I don’t do this work for a pat on the back. I do it for the survival and betterment of my fellow veterans.”

Hampu knows that his work with Unified Dream is making a positive impact. “When we reintegrate a veteran back into regular society, they are your best citizens,” he said.

To learn more about Jake Hampu and Unified Dream, visit www.unifieddream.org or www.facebook.com/unifieddreamorg.

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GPL Tournament Gallops Back

GPL Tournament Gallops Back Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, Presented By Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Makes Its Return To Wellington This Month

While the excitement of the equestrian season in Wellington is always a joyful time in the community, the annual Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, (GPL) really ramps up the fun! This year will be no exception when the event returns to the International Polo Club Palm Beach from April 7 through April 10.

The multi-day event brings together an international slate of LGBTQ athletes and allies, along with some of the top luxury brands from around the world for festivities that celebrate inclusion and awareness.

Founder Chip McKenney, a passionate equestrian, desired to create a safe place and unique opportunity for LGBTQ+ athletes interested in the sport of polo. Unsure of how it would be received in the polo community, he took a leap of faith and created the Gay Polo League in 2006. In 2010, he established the International Gay Polo Tournament.

“It was nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time,” McKenney said. “It truly was unlike anything I had ever done, yet I knew I could not be the only gay person wanting a place to enjoy sports without feeling like I did not belong. Too often in the LGBTQ+ community, including myself, there is a fear of team sports and, therefore, we do not pursue them.”

McKenney’s vision for the league and the tournament has proven successful. Today, GPL has members in 14 countries. This year, the 16 polo players competing represent six countries — Argentina, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Peru and the United States.

McKenney believes it is the inclusiveness that makes this tournament not only stand out, but a success. “We are identified as a gay tournament, yet we are inclusive of others who wish to participate and support our events,” he said. “For us, diversity and inclusion are exciting and important. The tournament is for all to participate. We are one human race, and that should matter more than anything.”

He believes that part of the wide acceptance of the GPL is the well-traveled audience and participants who care more about a desire to play than anything else. It is what participants are most looking forward to.

Beginning with the GPL Stick & Ball practice and VIP Sponsor Reception sponsored by RBC Wealth Management, by invitation only, on Thursday, April 7, and the GPL Senator Cup Preliminary Matches, the fun will really begin during the Baccarat presents the GPL Polotini Wigstock!, a charity fundraiser on the evening of Friday, April 8.

New this year, the charity beneficiary of Polotini is the onePULSE Foundation, which was born out of the tragic events at the Pulse nightclub in June 2016. The foundation’s mission is to create and support a national memorial that opens hearts, a museum that opens minds, educational programs that open eyes and scholarships that open doors.

“The events that happened that night should live forever in the minds and hearts of our country,” McKenney said. “In the conversations our team has had with onePULSE founder Barbara Poma, we relive the horror and pain of that fateful night. And, while our world is certainly moving forward, we must never forget and continue to push for equality and acceptance. We know the work that the foundation is doing directly aligns with the work we are doing. We have the highest of hopes that empathy and bravery will grow, while inspiring others to be accepting, inclusive and celebrate the strengths that diversity brings to every aspect of our life.”

Saturday, April 9 will be the main event during the GPL Senator Cup Finals, GPL Founder’s Cup Finals and GPL Tailgate Competition, sponsored by First Republic Bank. The polo field will be filled with sights of majestic ponies complemented by fierce competition and laughter from the participants on and off the fields. The fans will enjoy the culminating match, featuring elite athletes from around the globe.

“Who doesn’t love the sideline action in these wild tailgates?” McKenney said. “I cannot wait to see what everyone who has been stuck at home over the last two years dreams up for the big re-entry into the world!”

Festivities will end at Sunday, April 10’s GPL Brunch when McKenney will officially announce his biggest news yet, that the GPL received the Palm Beach County Champion of Equity & Diversity in Sports Award at the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame Awards Celebration.

The celebration will be held the week prior to the GPL event. The GPL was selected for inspiring and empowering individuals while promoting the sport of polo to provide equality, pride, inclusion and confidence for those who may face discrimination simply by identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“This award is a formal recognition of the work we are doing. We strive and support understanding and acceptance of all,” McKenney said. “We are proud to receive this award and continue moving forward with our event’s focus remaining on the desire to increase visible LGBTQ athletes in the sporting world.”

Tickets are available now for the 2022 International Gay Polo Tournament and can be purchased, along with sponsorship packages and additional information, by visiting www.gaypolo.com.

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Behind The Tournament

Behind The Tournament Many Sponsors Help Propel The Gay Polo League Event To The Next Level

While the organizers and participants are a key part of the International Gay Polo Tournament, it is the sponsors that help to elevate the event to what it is. When the battle cry “the slightest difference makes all the difference” was called, these allies stood up. They invested dollars to support the work that is creating an atmosphere of understanding. They join the organizers, players and fans in looking forward to the largest Gay Polo League tournament to date, with more than 3,000 players, attendees and enthusiasts expected from around the world.

This year’s sponsors include:

Lexus — One of the top ten luxury car brands in the world, Lexus epitomizes class, luxury and imaginative technology. Lexus vehicles have uncompromising style, unmatched potential, and marry intensity with elegance. A priority for Lexus is community equality, which is why the company enthusiastically returns each year to sponsor the tournament.

Douglas Elliman Real Estate — Known for its vast reach, a portfolio unmatched by any other company and one that aligns with the vision of the Gay Polo League, the cause-based brand of Douglas Elliman Real Estate has been a longtime sponsor of the event. The company proudly supports diversity and equality in a meaningful way with an impact that is recognized around the world.

Baccarat — Known for its luxury goods, Baccarat has undergone an exciting rejuvenation over the last few years and bridged the gap between “look don’t touch” philosophies and creating new ways to use the coveted crystal. The company will serve as the GPL Polotini sponsor during the 2022 tournament, which will benefit the onePULSE Foundation. The foundation’s defining mission and healing initiative aligns perfectly with the GPL, including the mutual wish of preventing targeted tragedies and hate from occurring again.

Cherry Knoll Farm — Recognized for excellence in the sport of international show jumping and dressage, CKF is a strong and valued ally to many causes. For years, CKF has sponsored the GPL VIP Pavilion, which creates a world-class experience to spectators attending the International Gay Polo Tournament. CKF’s philanthropy is widely known for supporting childhood education, para dressage athletes and more.

Additional sponsors who propel the event forward include First Republic Bank, Bethesda Hospital, the U.S. Polo Association, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, Passport, Discover the Palm Beaches, McKenney Media, the Tackeria, Woodford Reserve, Marshall & Sterling, Emerald Elite, G Racing, RBC Wealth Management and Palm City Polo.

These 18 new and returning sponsors have stepped up in supporting the Gay Polo League’s goal of creating a safe, connected community for LGBTQ athletes and fans.

“Our sponsors proudly share our vision to support and advance equality and diversity for LGBTQ+ athletes and allies. It is because of these sponsors, brands and supportive companies that we continue to create a community of individuals coming together for a fun, light-hearted yet impactful event that is changing the world as we know it,” said Chip McKenney, GPL’s founder and president.

Tickets are available now for the 2022 tournament and may be purchased by visiting www.gaypolo.com.

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Champions In Every Sense Of The Word


Champions In Every Sense Of The Word Gay Polo League Wins Prestigious Award From The Palm Beach County Sports Commission

A champion can be defined as a person who fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else. While many understand the definition of a champion in relation to “the big game,” this form of champion is someone who truly fights for what they believe in every way, every day. Fighting the fight for equality for more than a decade is the team behind the Gay Polo League. Recently, the community has taken notice.

On April 3, the Gay Polo League will receive the prestigious Palm Beach County Sports Commission “Champion of Equity & Diversity Award” for its work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes through the game of polo.

Since its inception, the league has worked tirelessly to create an atmosphere that affirms and supports the understanding and acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, sexual preference, sexual identity or gender. The Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, is the only LGBTQ+ sporting event in Palm Beach County and remains so even after more than a decade.

While the Gay Polo League proudly has teams that participate in other leagues and tournaments, there is still much growth on the horizon. The league will continue its work to promote goodwill and camaraderie that extends throughout the game of polo and transcends into other sports and aspects of life.

“We have come such a long way,” Gay Polo League founder Chip McKenney said. “This award speaks volumes to the work we are doing for our friends, neighbors and allies. This means that our sleepless nights and bravery are truly making a difference. We are creating safe spaces, ruffling feathers in the best way possible and inciting positive change!”

The award will officially be bestowed during the 45th annual Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame Awards Celebration at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. The Gay Polo League will be the second polo entity recognized by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and will proudly continue its work as change agents advocating understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people.

McKenney believes that “differences are teachers” and values embracing, celebrating and elevating the benefits of diversity. He encourages the community to continue serving as allies for LGBTQ+ communities and working together to advance equity. While the league’s work is “changing the sport of polo one chukker at a time,” there is still much work to be done.

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

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Rönner Is A Lifestyle Brand Inspired By Everything Equestrian

Rönner creates classic equestrian-style collections with a unique, feminine twist. One of the brand’s main focuses are timeless and whimsical prints, all created for passionate people who love horses.

Rönner is a family-owned business, founded by Ines Rönner and her two daughters, Jessica and Carin. It all started with Ines, who instilled a love for horses in Jessica and Carin. They grew up around horses, and this was the background for their initial inspiration.

“The idea was to create something fresh and innovative to everything we saw in the equestrian apparel market,” Ines said.

Horses and everything equestrian are the main inspirations behind the collections. From Sunday polo events, to classic dressage, to the noble-yet-powerful nature of a horse: these are all the canvases to the Rönner collections.

All the prints are hand-drawn, created by artists, blending feminine elements like florals and blooms with classic equestrian motifs.

The brand has three main lines: ride-leisure, lifestyle, and home and gifts.

Ride-leisure focuses on pieces for optimal performance, such as training tops, polo shirts and show shirts created for riding and sport activities, but also for casual outfits, barn to lunches, and leisurely weekends.

The lifestyle line showcases blouses, dresses, shoes and more for a unique and elegant equestrian style.

The home and gift line features a selection of thoughtful options that make perfect presents for the whole riding family and friends, such as tablecloths, stationery, pouches and more.

Rönner is a female-founded company, by women-for women, and it is very important for the company to have an ethical manufacturing process and a meaningful purpose. The craftmanship is socially and environmentally responsible. All the pieces are made with love, care and sensibility by women head of their homes in Colombia. Most of the textiles and materials used by Rönner are upcycled, and the packaging is eco-friendly.

“This is because we care about who makes our designs just as much as who we make them for,” Ines said.

The brand just launched a special collection in collaboration with noted equestrian Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. In unison, they created two main prints, one inspired by Meredith’s horse Shutterfly, and the other a classic equestrian icon with tack and florals. The pieces of the collection are classic and elegant silhouettes with unique prints.

“It was very inspiring to design a collection with such an inspiring and talented woman as Meredith,” Ines said. “Her career as a female rider was the perfect match to our philosophy and believes as a brand.”

Rönner hopes to continue growing the business and working to reach passionate people who love what they do and feel identified with a brand that matches their passion.

“With our pieces and prints, we want to make people feel unique and special, and connected with one common ground: the love for horses,” Ines said.

Discover the Rönner collections at www.ronnerdesign.com.

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