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Ranch soars at Heart of the West

Fundraiser: Annual event benefits therapeutic riding ranch in Agua Dulce

Posted: September 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Carousel Ranch founder Becky Graham, top, kisses Isabella Arrue after she received a ribbon for her riding demonstration at the 15th annual Heart of the West fundraiser to benefit Carousel Ranch on Saturday.

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There was applause, laughter, cheers and tears as the children of Carousel Therapeutic Riding Ranch took center stage Saturday at the 15th annual Heart of the West fundraiser held at Agua Dulce Airport.

Tyler Hartung, Darby Hendrickson, Sammy Sosa, Oceonna Lucero and Isabella Arrue demonstrated their skills on horseback to the appreciative crowd.

Lessons at Carousel Ranch are adapted to each child, said riding demonstration emcee Rick Delia, a Carousel Ranch parent. “You will see sessions that require up to four people — one riding behind a child who cannot sit up alone. You will see others maneuvering through vaulting — gymnastics on horseback exercises — assisted by three people and there will be children riding on their own — with no one leading their horse,” Delia said.

Denise Tomey, executive director of Carousel Ranch, said more than 400 people attended the event that featured the children’s riding demonstration, live and silent auctions, dancing and casino games.

“People really stepped up. Everyone is so generous when it comes to the ranch and to the kids,” Tomey said. “We are so grateful.”

Carousel Ranch currently serves more than 90 clients, with dozens more on the waiting list.

“The need is so great,” said Tomey. “We’ve found a way to expand our services by moving children on the waiting list to slots made available by cancellations.”

Tomey said sponsors are needed for horses and riders.

“We know how hard it is in this economy and people can sponsor a horse for a month, or a rider for a just a few lessons,” said Tomey. “The small donations add up and all are welcome. You don’t have to make a long-term commitment.”

The live auction featured nearly 30 items to benefit the ranch as were 300 silent auction items.

Among the unique items offered in the live auction were an exclusive Wizarding World of Harry Potter VIP Tour experience at Universal Orlando in Orlando, Fla. donated by donated by Shelley and G. Marshall Hann; a weekend rental of a $220,000 2011 Aston Martin Rapide, a 4-door coupe donated by Galpin Aston Martin and a carriage ride and evening under the stars with Becky Graham and Denise Tomey, the founders of Carousel Ranch.

Mark Drilling returned for his fifth year as auctioneer.

“I love this event,” he said.

Commanding top dollar was the Princess Cruises 14-day Hawaiian Islands Cruise.

Vina and Chris Barult paid $7,000 for the vacation.

“We’ve done this cruise before and it is fabulous,” said Vina Barult. “This time we’ll be able to take our daughter and granddaughter.”

Julie Benson, vice president public relations of Princess Cruises, represented the Princess Cruises Community Foundation, the presenting sponsor of the event.

“That money all goes directly to Carousel Ranch and their wonderful programs,” said Benson. “We have an entire table of employees here that support Carousel Ranch.”

To raise the bids Benson added a variety of extra incentives during the bidding to the cruise package including, dinner with the captain, limousine service from and to the ship, a mini suite and a personal visit with the captain on the bridge.

Among the highlights of the evening was Dana Sachs, 24, who normally performs during the riding demonstration. Sachs was born with no arms and only one full length leg. This year Sachs and dancing instructor Billy Parrish performed the dance they perfected for the Dancing With Our Stars fundraiser held in April.

At the conclusion of the dance the audience stood and gave Sachs and Parrish a standing ovation. Their inspiring performance earned a few tears, too.

For information about donations, sponsorships or volunteer opportunities visit or call (661) 268-8010.


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