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.